Last year's cast for Arbor Gallery's murder-mystery fundraiser.

An interview with Doc McCoy

By Reenie Marx

Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre is once again putting on a Murder Mystery Theatre fundraiser. Two performances are scheduled: Friday evening, March 31 and Sunday afternoon, April 2 and both are at the Anglican Church hall. Tickets are available at The Review and Scotiabank. Tickets are $40 for the supper show and $25 for the matinee, which includes coffee, tea and sweets. The organizers of the event interviewed Sandy Hatfield, aka Doc McCoy, who has written six murder mystery plays, directed nearly 165 shows, and entertained over 11,000 people since he began his career.

When did you first get involved with murder mysteries?

About thirty years ago I started working with a company in Montreal and I just felt that I could do it better. So, I wrote my first script, rented 30 seats in a restaurant in Hawkesbury, found 6 people who were willing to take parts in the play and we sold out the very first night. That inspired me to continue doing it as often as I could, given that I was also a full time teacher at Laurentian Regional High School.

Where did it go from there?

I started performing the plays fairly regularly at the Montreal restaurant, La Diligence, with mostly the same group of actors. I also began writing more shows. I feel a real debt of gratitude to those actors; they taught me what it takes to do a successful murder mystery play. As my part- time business/hobby grew I began doing shows in Ottawa as well as Montreal and Lachute. Around the same time I began doing the murder mysteries as fundraisers for all kinds of organizations, much like Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre.

How has it changed over the years?

For one thing, I’ve started using more volunteer actors from the various organizations who are doing these as fundraisers.

How has that worked out?

Great! The volunteers, like the 6 people from Vankleek Hill, are always keen and hardworking. The gang here in VKH is particularly fun to work with and actually a very talented group of people. They’ve even gone on the road with me to do shows in Ottawa.

What do you love about doing murder mystery theatre?

For one, I love meeting new people. I also enjoy working with the dedicated volunteer actors, and I especially enjoy that fact that even with the same play and the same actors, every show is slightly different. For example, we’re scheduled to do two shows here in Vankleek Hill, one on Friday evening, the other on Sunday. But because the plays are somewhat interactive, the audience plays a role and so it makes it more fun. There’s never a dull moment when you’re doing plays like this.

What do you see in the future for Doc McCoy Productions?

Well for one I’d like to write a few more shows. I’d also like to travel and perform in more places, like Nova Scotia, where I’ve begun doing shows this past year. I’m also thinking of offering a Tuesday evening murder mystery writing course. I think it would be a lot fun to get people writing and later performing their own plays.

Can you tell us anything about the play that you’ll be performing here in VKH in a few weeks?

Only that it will be slightly faster moving and a little more sophisticated than last year’s play, so the audience will have a bit more of a challenge deciding “whodunit.” I look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, and hopefully meeting many new people as well.

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