Murder Under The Big Top To Be Presented By St. Joseph School Students This Weekend

St. Joseph’s Catholic School fifth- through eighth-grade students prepare for a sold-out show of Murder Under the Big Top. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — For three nights, St. Joseph’s Catholic School students will rely on sold-out crowds to solve the murder in Murder Under the Big Top.

The only catch? There’s a different murderer each night of the murder-mystery play.

“During the play, the audience will receive food and the kids will be able to go out and talk to them and they’ll get to ask questions,” said director Marissa Minnick-Metcalf. “The kids can give them truths or feed little lies to steer them off course.”

The play relies heavily on improvisation, a skill that is new for many of the 49 students working on the production.

The fifth- through eighth-grade students have received help not only from the directors, Minnick-Metcalf and Maria Galati, but also from Elan Liebnau, a student at St. Francis de Sales.

“We’ve worked a lot on their improv skills. When the murderer is announced each might, the students won’t even know it, so they’ll need those skills,” Minnick-Metcalf said.

While it is a challenge for the students, Minnick-Metcalf hopes the experience fuels the students’ excitement and pride in the theater.

Some of the students are brand new to the stage, so Minnick-Metcalf is hopeful they will also learn from one another and find support from their fellow cast members.

“One of the most unexpected moments from rehearsal become the jokes within the cast and the unexpected relationships with other students,” she said. “They form a bond. Whenever someone has encountered a moment that’s really hard to overcome, the excitement they have for each other is very strong.”

In addition to the hard work of the students, Minnick-Metcalf noted the efforts of the parents and other volunteers in helping the murder-mystery play become successful.

“Dianna Johnson has been a huge assistance in regards to the catering for the evening,” she noted.

The play would also not be possible without Jane Williams, who wrote Murder Under the Big Top.

“The murder mystery could not have happened without the talent and love of Jane, who is not only a parishioner, but a former teacher who trusted my sister and I to direct this,” Minnick-Metcalf said.

With the script from Williams, the help of parents and other staff members and the efforts of the students, the production is ready for three sold-out shows this weekend.

“The most exciting part of the sold-out crowd is getting to tell the students and see their reactions,” Minnick-Metcalf said.

The show is sold out because the community believes in the students, she added, and they want to support them in this endeavor.

“The kids are so excited and shocked and proud of themselves,” Minnick-Metcalf said.

The murder-mystery play will debut on Thursday, February 29 with two more performances scheduled through the weekend.

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