“But I’ve already been there once already. Why would I need to go again?”
Subverting this common visitor sentiment is one of the major challenges that cultural organizations like the Mark Twain House & Museum face everyday. Luckily, through frequent and unique programming, the Twain House expands the possibilities presented by Twain’s home and literature in exciting and engaging ways that mix entertainment and culture seamlessly. For instance, last Thursday (Mar 22), I attended the Get A Clue! Tour, where I had the opportunity to harness my inner detective in a live-action version of CLUE with Sea Tea Improv throughout the Twain House.
Brushing the cobwebs off my finest pipe, I grabbed my friend Amanda (with a surprise cameo by the fiery Susan Williams, the Arts Council’s Welcome Center Coordinator) and prepared to unravel the mystery of who killed “Pap” Finn in hilarious and glorious fashion. The Twain House, like the stately home in the game CLUE, has a Conservatory, a Dining Room, a Library and even a few secret passages. The tour, however, would deviate from characters like Colonel Mustard (my favorite) and Miss Scarlet and replace them with classic Twain characters like Huck Finn and the Connecticut Yankee – all brought to life by on-the-spot comedy extraordinaires from Sea Tea Improv.
As the tour began, the guide handed out sheets the resembled the standard CLUE check-off list, which included three separate categories to determine the murderer, the murder weapon and the murder room. At that point, he explained that by asking questions, each character would be able to eliminate two options from our check-off list, as well as provide a good sassing to guests. Suspicious of where his loyalties rested, I subtly etched the tour guide’s name at the top of my suspect’s list, although he assured me that wasn’t possible…exactly what the murderer would say.
Horrific shrieks of betrayal and death greeted us as we entered the dark and ominous Twain House as the tour began. Our tour guide first wisped us to the kitchen, where we were heartily greeted by the drunken Muff Potter. As he stumbled his way to support himself and to our questions, it soon became clear that the audience was a vital part of the show like any improv performance. As such, Amanda and I played along by mixing snarky one liners with real questions. For instance, after a long tirade about her purity and virtue, Amanda and I accused Becky Thatcher of committing “the dirty deed (the murder, obviously!) in the bedroom.” Her sharp return suggested she wasn’t very happy with our insinuations, but I think Mark Twain would have given us at least a head nod for slightly clever wordplay.
By the end of the evening, Amanda and I had more fun sassing than we did taking notes, so we ended up with the wrong murder weapon and murder room during the time of accusation. But, the true victor for the evening should be awarded to the Twain House for a clever and interactive event that anyone from a first time visitor to a Twain House frequenter could have enjoyed. Although I’m no Sherlock Holmes, I know an artsy night out’s been well spent when I can answer the question, “Would you do it again?” with the word