‘Close Encounters’ opens Sept. 27

“Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind,” an interactive campfire mystery, will be presented Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27-28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church.

The production is a collaboration of Ridge Writers and Master Mystery Productions, and is written and directed by Monica Lorenz Dwyer.

“You’ve never heard a campfire story like this before,” said a spokesperson. “Under dazzling starlight and lit with the flickering glow of a fire, a group has gathered to tell their tales about several close encounters of the hairy kind.

“Invited to the campfire conference are those that have had Bigfoot sightings. They come from all walks of life. Some are local. Some are visitors. All the host of this midnight meeting wishes is to garner enough positive publicity in an attempt to make the area a Bigfoot sanctuary.

“But a safe haven for Bigfoot is the last thing on someone’s list. While stories are shared and mountains are scoured, a treacherous traitor to the cause will be on a very different kind of hunt. Who could it be? Where is Bigfoot? Is there any way to save him?”

The production coincides with Weird Weekend, the annual celebration of strange and unusual (and sometimes fictional) aspects of our region.

“You are especially invited to our campfire to track both the legend and the defector and make the mountains safe for Bigfeet everywhere,” said the spokesperson. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have a close encounter of your very own!”

The production stars Daniel Stallings, Janis Kunz, Jonathan Blair, Matthew Zanardo, Nicole Johnson, Heather McGaha, Olivia Holm, Sebastian Lorenz and Faith Thoms.

The show will feature camp meals for all guests and an unforgettable experience in a “lights out” production — lit only by lanterns, flashlights and simulated campfire.

“One of the hardest things anyone can do is to go against the grain and admit that they’re a believer in something such as Bigfoot,” said Dwyer.

“Luckily for me, I made up my mind long ago to believe — back when I was a kid and had no idea what ‘the grain’ even was.”

She said that belief came in handy when Stallings, her friend and veteran director of MMP shows, invited her to write and direct a mystery featuring Bigfoot.

She praised the cast and crew of the upcoming production.

“Since the onset of rehearsals, I’ve had my nose glued to my script, focused mainly on line memorization and blocking,” said Dwyer. At the prompting of Stallings, she set the script aside to immerse herself in the show.

“With my eyes and ears fully on the actors, I saw the nuances of their blocking and amusing facial expressions that I hadn’t picked up before … they had me laughing from the beginning all the way to the finale!

“I could not be more proud of everyone in this production for helping to breathe life into ‘Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind!’”

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets for the meal and the show are $20 each, available now at Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2019-09-20