A dog-gone mystery

Glencoe drama students turn to murder for fundraiser
by: Courtesy photo Glencoe High School thespians Bailey LuBean and Alana Birkeland are members of a cast of 20 debuting Friday in “Who Killed Toto?,” a live murder mystery in Hillsboro.

Toto is not in Kansas anymore. Nor is the little dog in a kennel.

Toto is dead.

The culprit is not the Wicked Witch of the West. Nor is it mean old Miss Gultch. The pooch was slain by a group of high school drama students. The motive, of course, was money.

And the only person who can solve the mystery and bring this killer to justice is an average theatergoer.

On Friday, theater students at Glencoe High School are presenting 'Who Killed Toto?,' a live murder mystery set at the funeral of Princess Fluffykins, the fictional Fido originally cast in 'The Wizard of Oz' who meets her maker at the hands of one of a handful of seedy characters on hand to pay their respects at her funeral, which is complete with a little pink coffin.

Set up like a dinner theater murder mystery, the cast interacts with the audience throughout the performance as spectators formulate their own hypotheses about who did the deed.

The project - which was written and produced in a collaborative effort by drama students - serves as a fundraiser for the school's upcoming production of 'The Wizard of Oz.'

'Some flying piece of meteorite hit a neuron in my brain and said 'Hey, let's do a murder mystery night,'' said Glencoe theater teacher Lori Daliposon, who has taught at the school for five years. 'I think (to organize a fundraiser), you have to be resourceful, and that comes in a number of forms. You can be resourceful in fundraising. You can be resourceful producing plays that can bring in a profit. Or you can think of resourceful ways to both educate and raise money for the program.

'These kids are not only raising money, but they're doing something they've never done before in testing their improvisational skills. Plus, they wrote it. Everybody wins.'

Dropping clues

In addition to the semi-scripted eulogies delivered by the cast of more than 20 student performers, the show relies heavily on improvisation to drop clues as to the villain's identity.

In preparation for their roles, Daliposon - affectionately known as 'Ms. D' - had her students attend class in character, and one day students were asked to spend an entire school day as their alter egos.

'It's really challenging. Improv is not my strongest suit. It takes practice. It's really challenging to get used to being the character and ignoring what you would do and focusing on what the character would do,' said junior Devon Roberts, who also attends classes at Portland Community College and intends to continue pursuing theater studies. 'Once you're in costume and have all your props, you get caught up. You're not yourself anymore.'

Creating characters

For the play, Roberts plays the shifty Earl Fances, the breeder who initially sold Mrs. Fluffykins to the producers of the 'Wizard of Oz.' Each student created his or own character.

Roberts said the experience of living and thinking in another person's skin has been a tremendous learning experience for him and his fellow students.

'It's a very freeing, fun and entertaining experience,' said Roberts. 'I've had moments where I'm caught up, where I'm not in control. It's like an out of body experience. It's really cool being able to let go and become someone else. I can do weird things and don't worry about being judged.'

That is, of course, unless the audiences judges him guilty of murder.