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Morristown-Hamblen Library murder mystery a hit

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 1:39 pm

A recent fundraiser at the Morristown-Hamblen Library not only raised funds for new reading materials; it provided a capacity crowd the opportunity to mingle with suspected criminals.

“The Murder of the Loaded Librarian,” held in the main reading room of the library, raised $2,000 for new electronic books and programming.

The idea to collaborate with local government representatives, including the city and county mayor, proved to be a theatrical boon. All the actors involved were dedicated to their characters, and their showmanship raised the entertainment bar for the evening.

“They were magnificent,” show director Penny Cowan said.

Cowan is the publicity and outreach coordinator for the library and thought the return of a murder mystery fundraiser would be a good way to bring the community into the reading room. The library had put on a similar show several years ago. Library director Shelley Shropshire offered Cowan the role after the play was purchased by Friends of the Library, the library’s volunteer fundraising and support organization.

“First of all, Friends of the Library was gracious enough to give me the money to purchase the play from Penny and Tom Warner,” Cowan said. “After receiving the play, Shelly let me run with it. Staff talked about which community leaders and luminaries would fit as cast members. I then prepared request letters asking them to participate. After all had agreed, I started planning the evening.”

The first hint that the murder mystery would not be a quiet evening spent among the bookshelves was the entrance of the characters, each taking their turn in the spotlight to introduce themselves. Over-acting was permitted and several on-stage participants took full advantage.

All 150 tickets that had been prepared were sold, a number of which were purchased 48 hours prior to the show.

“I’m so sorry we had to turn people away at the door,” Cowan said. “We were packed. We plan to do this again next year, so get your tickets as soon as we start selling them.”

To say intermission snacks were provided would be a massive understatement – there were tables filled with sandwiches and other savory treats, fruit and a generous dessert bar.

The library’s community room took on a party atmosphere; characters mingled with ticket holders and did their best to convey their innocence with impassioned speeches, pleas and a few flirtatious maneuvers. Some table mates discussed their theories on the character displaying the most guilt, while others took selfies.

To some attendees, intermission provided a reunion of friendships; thus, the conversations were varied, and lengthy in some cases, and contributed to the intermission stretching into an hour or more.

The evening was a unique and pleasant experience, resulting from a concerted effort, according to Cowan.

“Each staff member here at the library has a talent to bring to the table so I asked them to do certain tasks,” she said. “Nancy made the tickets and programs, Tanna was able to borrow sound equipment; chairs were donated by the city and a stage was paid for by board member Debra Williams. We’re all team players here. I love that about our staff and want to thank them for their hard work. I think we did a pretty darn good job.

“All of our volunteers were staff members and a couple of their spouses. Staff members prepared their favorite appetizers and desserts along with Sharon Herman who made some goodies of her own. We did it all. If any organizations would like to donate food next year, the library would graciously accept,” Cowan said.

Cast members included Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain, Michele Smith, Marti Steffen, Tanna Purkey, Bill Zierer, Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Stephen Smith, Sherri Jacobs, Ryan Hinton, Ron Peterson, Jim Lumpkins and volunteers from Morristown EMS.

“I’m so proud of all the cast members and our Emcee, Mayor Gary Chesney,” Cowan said.