Students end the semester with Gatsby-era Murder Mystery Party

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

On Monday, May 6th, The Frank & Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center was transformed into a Jazz Age speakeasy, as students from Language and Literature attended a Gatsby-Era Murder Mystery Party to end the semester.

The party began as the finale to Dr. Sarah Rude's ENGL 2251 "Introduction to Literary Study" class which reviewed various critical approaches to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

"The party had literary merit and was a great opportunity for fellowship," said Dr. Rude.  "I think we accomplished both of those things."

Students and faculty were assigned roles from the time period, such as flapper, fashion designer, aspiring actress, race track owner, tennis pro, musician, waiter and bartender at the club. They then mingled to share information from their pre-set character  biographies.  

"Having a role to play really helped break the ice," said Dakota Spielvogel, Sophomore English Major from Wheeling, WV.   

Sarah Young, of the Vintage Theatre Company, gave 20's era dance instruction in period dances such as the Charleston, the Foxtrot and the Lindy Hop.  Students enjoyed jumping and jiving to period music, many dressed in period costumes. 

"My favorite thing was the dancing," said Bob Tate, Junior English major from Gypsy, WV.  " The dance instructor made it seem easy. Even though it was finals week, everybody was so happy and enjoyed themselves. You felt good just being there."

Halfway through the festivities, club owner Felix Fontano (played by Dakota Spielvogel) was found "murdered" and the rest of the evening consisted of searching for clues and listening to witness testimony.  Those assemble then voted on who was most likely to have committed the crime.

Hannah Seaman won the People's Choice Award for best costume, while Dakota Spielvogel won for best character portrayal.

"These kinds of special events for students are really a retention effort," said Dr. Jim Matthews, professor of English, who appeared at the event as Duke Carillo, Race Track Owner.  "The students got to demonstrate skills in social interaction and problem solving while doing the Charleston. What could be better?"