Jason Steele

A passion for murder

For a woman who was once “strangled” with a string of Christmas lights, Erna Soderberg has an endless appetite for murder mysteries.

For a woman who was once “strangled” with a string of Christmas lights, Erna Soderberg has an endless appetite for murder mysteries.

As a Red Deer cast member with the Terry Shane Murder Mysteries company, Soderberg has played various made-up characters that mingle with guests at corporate functions, private parties and receptions.

Sometimes she’s the murder “victim” who stages over-the-top death scenes for laughs.

“I stagger around and eventually fall down dead. Absolutely, I (milk it) as much as possible,” said Soderberg, with a chuckle.

Other times she mills around a crowd in the guise of a colourful suspect, such as fortune teller Karma Mystikka or travel agency owner Mary Holiday.

Throughout the evening, she drops hints or red herrings so real party guests can try to solve the “murder.”

“You say things like, ‘I hate my husband or daughter,” or “I’m having an affair with the chef,’” said Soderberg, a retired government worker and Central Alberta Theatre member. “It’s a blast …

“At the beginning, some people will be backing away from you because they think it’s stupid, or they’d rather visit with a friend,” she added, “but they all warm up pretty soon.”

Red Deer has certainly warmed up to the concept of murder mysteries as an entertaining ice-breaker at parties.

The 24-year-old Calgary-based Terry Shane company, which also runs murder mystery nights in Edmonton and Vancouver, recently opened a Red Deer division because there was so much business in Central Alberta.

“Red Deer beats all of our cities,” said company owner Janet St. Germain of Calgary, who noted in the peak October to December period, there were eight murder mystery bookings for Red Deer, and more in communities such as Innisfail, Olds and Lacombe.

She can’t explain the local popularity, except to surmise there might be less competition for party novelties here.

Opening a Red Deer division made sense because it reduces travel costs, said St. Germain.

And, since Calgary and Edmonton actors won’t have to be brought in, it’s freed up the larger city divisions to focus on their own audiences.

“The talent pool in Red Deer has been wonderful and the feedback has been very favourable,” she added.

Shortly after being hired last fall as Red Deer’s murder mystery producer, Jason Steele assembled a list of about 20 local actors he knows through Central Alberta Theatre and the former Ignition Theatre.

He draws from this talent pool to line up the five to eight actors each murder mystery requires.

Customers can pick from about 20 story lines, including crimes of the heart, mafia murders, a high school reunion and hillbilly wedding.

“There’s even one script where … everybody is dead by the end of it,” said Steele, with a chuckle. Improvising actors have to stay on their toes.

For instance, when stage guns don’t fire, Steele recalled once having to pretend “I was clubbed to death with a gun.”

There’s always a detective called Terry Shane, who’s usually undercover.

But when a supposed murder happens, he reveals himself and starts investigating, added Steele, who started acting with the company a couple years ago to inject fun into his life, and relieve stress from his job as a police dispatcher.

While most party business crops up around Christmas, Steele said there are some jobs at wedding receptions, workshops and corporate team-building functions.

The local Terry Shane Murder Mystery players have also been asked to entertain on the Alberta Prairie Railway steam train tours in Stettler on Sept. 7, 19 and Oct. 12.

More information is available from www.terryshanemurdermysteries.ca.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Red Deer church donates to Safe Harbour

It was all about helping those in need at Safe Harbour in… Continue reading

Former firefighter with PTSD sues Syncrude over suspended benefits, dismissal

CALGARY — A lawsuit filed by a former firefighter and paramedic against… Continue reading

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

HALIFAX — Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi may have hoped to quietly disappear from… Continue reading

Democrats aren’t buying Trump’s shutdown-ending ‘compromise’

WASHINGTON — In a bid to break the shutdown stalemate, President Donald… Continue reading

Updated: Red Deer welcomes 2019 Canada Winter Games Team Alberta

About 250 Alberta athletes are participating in the Games

Students seen mocking Native Americans could face expulsion

One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

At 30-day mark, shutdown logjam remains over border funding

WASHINGTON — Thirty days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans… Continue reading

Holocaust victims buried after remains found in UK museum

LONDON — The remains of six unidentified Holocaust victims were buried in… Continue reading

Giuliani: ‘So what’ if Trump and Cohen discussed testimony

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani left open Sunday the… Continue reading

Photos: Rocks fly at 37th Annual Oilmen’s Bonspiel

Twenty-nine teams gathered at the Pidherney Curling Centre in Red Deer for… Continue reading

Death toll reaches 79 in Mexico fuel pipeline fire horror

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico — People in the town where a gasoline explosion killed… Continue reading

With Trump out, Davos chief eyes fixing world architecture

DAVOS, Switzerland — The founder of the World Economic Forum says U.S.… Continue reading

Mexican pipeline explosion kills 71, leaves nightmare of ash

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico — Gerardo Perez returned Saturday to the scorched field in… Continue reading

Most Read