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Guests Solve Mock Murder at Penn State Brandywine

Chris Brown and Sara Neville in character
11/12/2010 —

Among 1950s style doo-wop music, scattered clues and a fireside crime scene complete with caution tape and a body outline, guests gathered to celebrate Professor Emerita of History Priscilla Clement’s first published novel, Blood on the Path, by attempting to solve a mock murder mystery, “Death at the Dinner Table,” on Thursday, Nov. 11.

“After a life as an historian, trying to stick to the ‘truth’ as much as possible … I craved the freedom to create my own story and make up the facts myself!” Clement said of fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing a novel, which was published by Eagles Mere Museum.

She explained her longtime connection to the town in which the story is set—Eagles Mere, Pa., where she and her family have vacationed since the 1970s—and thanked those in the audience who helped her along the way.Before a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty, staff and community members, Clement introduced the cast of characters and set the scene of the crime, which took place in a fictional Pennsylvania town in the same time period as Blood on the Path—the 1950s—and featured five students as its cast of actors in the Commons Building Lion’s Den.

The dysfunctional “Johnson Family,” played by sophomore Chris Brown, senior Lauren Jerla, junior Sara Neville, and senior Cliff Welby, who also wrote the plot and created the characters, were under investigation for this Thanksgiving Day murder by an accusing sheriff, played by freshman Morgan McDonald. Their improvisation captivated guests who couldn’t hide their excitement and laughter.

Guests were questioned about their own alibies and interrogated the players on their whereabouts and motives to solve the crime, while enjoying complimentary murderous meatballs, cyanide sandwiches, sinister sesame chicken skewers and lemon-we won’t come to your-ade, among other deadly treats.

“The setting was perfect, the crime scene was very realistic, the food was delicious (even with its threatening titles) and the student actors did an excellent job portraying their various roles,” Clement raved after the event in her honor. “All my friends from ‘my life outside the campus’ truly enjoyed themselves. I was honored that PSU wanted to do this for me, and I loved the theme of mystery and the students acting out the parts in ‘Death at the Dinner Table.’”

Jerla, who played Jessica Johnson, the sister of the deceased, was thrilled to join the fun. “It was exciting to act as a character from the story and answer the guests' questions as they tried to solve the mystery. I thought we had a great turnout and everyone seemed eager to actively take part in the event.”

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