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Mysteries Come to Life: The Mystery & Adventure Agency (Ithaca Blog)

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The Mystery & Adventure Agency

Live, Interactive Mysteries and Whodunnits in Ithaca

The Mystery & Adventure Agency. Photo courtesy of David FeaveryearI’ve said it before. I think I’ve written it here before. I think it goes without saying: I am a reader. I’ve always been a reader and only partially resented the summer book reports my mother made my brother and I do as kids. This, it turns out, is the curse of the school teacher parent. It didn’t seem odd then and still doesn’t, mostly because I come from a family of readers, each with their own preferences.

I was, and still am, a consummate bookshelf peruser for this reason. I never knew what I’d discover looking on the shelves in my own home, or the home of extended family. It was my goal to read something from each person’s shelf, or pried from a box of college books they kept in the basement, and share a part of each person’s literary history. On one shelf I might find a mix of business, politics, sports and humor. On another history and cold war spy thrillers. Yet another held philosophy, religion, and a smattering of absurdist fiction. And on even another, nothing but travel and cookbooks. And then there was my grandmother. Nothing but mysteries. No matter how many times I looked, hoping to find some accidental fiction (which, personally sounds like it should be a sub-genre. I may suggest that to my writerly friends), it never happened.

So much of a mystery fan was she that for quite a few years my brother and I received nothing but Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries as gifts from her. My brother had quite the unread collection. Being slightly more outspoken at the time, I’m fairly certain I told her I didn’t enjoy them as I remember my collection being only two or three deep at which point she switched to The Bobbsey Twins, determined for some reason to get me into a series.  I didn’t particularly enjoy those either.

I think we finally found a happy medium (television, not books) when, sometime in the 80s, she discovered “The A-Team.” To this day it makes me laugh, as it seems so out of character for her to love this show, the guns and the violence, but she did. And Mr. T. She also loved Mr. T. This was, of course, counterbalanced by her love for Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote,” which we also watched when she visited. On Sundays she’d try to get me to watch “Colombo.” Tried. I’d rather read Nancy Drew, thanks. She also tried to get me into BBC mysteries shown on PBS, but a girl’s got to draw a line somewhere.

Capt Jack. Photo Courtesy of Cornell PhotographyThat’s not to say that all the mystery immersion didn’t have an effect on me. It did. Clearly. For my 15th birthday, I hosted a murder mystery party. We dressed up. We played the roles. We solved the mystery. It’s something my grandmother would have loved. It’s one of the reasons why I think she would have loved Ithaca as well. Ithaca is home to several Murder Mystery events a year, due mostly in part to one Holly Adams, who I’d like to bring back in time to watch “Colombo” with my grandmother.

“I eat mysteries like they were chips,” says Holly. “I am currently in the middle of Dickensian Whodunnits and The Flanders Panel, and watch every single mystery show ever. I am anticipating both the second season of the new BBC Sherlock Holmes episodes (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) AND two made-for-tv Columbo classics, starring the late great Peter Falk!”

Oh, Holly, you are the granddaughter my grandmother never had! Though Holly’s far too kind, humble, and perhaps smart to accept such a role. But that doesn’t mean she’d miss the opportunity for many others. Holly’s been seen on stage with Theatre Incognita, well as several other stage productions in addition to being a playwright as well. She’s a wearer of many hats. Or perhaps, many disguises.

As Artistic Director for the Mystery & Adventure Agency, Holly’s wearing these disguises and leaving lasting memories in Ithaca. While Mystery & Adventure Agency has several interactive live mysteries, they may be best known for the great stories unfolding at the annual Rhiners’ Festival for the past 3 years and at The History Center‘s Fundraising Gala last year. Their tools of the trade also include murder luncheons, adventure plans, MysteryGrams, and the At-Home Mystery packages.

The Mystery & Adventure Agency at the History Center's Annual Gala. Photo Courtesy of Thomas Hoebbel Video-PhotoIf you’ve never participated in a mystery event, they’re a mix of theatre/entertainment and participation. A story may involve you or it may simply revolve around you. The great thing about the Mystery & Adventure Agency is they’ll tailor the story to you, your home, your friends or your event. They’ll include you, or if you’d prefer, they’ll leave you out. Like Pirates? They can do that. Prefer Agatha Christie? They do that too. Straight-up adventure? Of Course.

Don’t have the time for a full event or just have a mystery fan in your family? Then try the Mystery-Gram, something my mystery Gram would’ve loved. Have characters deliver individual and unique messages to the recipient, embroiling him or her in a personal mystery he/she must solve.  I can’t help but imagine how excited my grandmother would have been to have Miss Marple show up at her door and engage her in a story. Why stop there? I could have sent Mr. T. (Holly’s pretty versatile, and I’d love to see her pull that off!)

If you’re a mystery fan, if this sounds intriguing at all, be sure to check out the Mystery & Adventure Agency website, a Shearwater Productions Company before you plan your next event.  Why use a mystery party out of a box when you can have one written for you?

Jennifer Brown is a contributor to The Free George

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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