Three professors and one student will perform Death in Dark Glasses during the Culp Professor Reading Thursday.
Death in Dark Glasses is a live murder mystery written by Dr. Chris Willerton, Culp professor of English. It will debut during the Culp Professor Reading from 7-8 p.m. in Mabee Library Auditorium. Admission is free, and refreshments will be provided along with live entertainment.
The event marks Willerton’s three-year project, Detection!, his Culp Professorship research focusing on detective fiction.
The Culp Professorship is an endowed professorship awarded competitively for three-year terms. Recipients have reduced teaching loads, a research budget and must pursue a major professional project. Willerton chose detective fiction as his project.
“I attended an international conference in England on detective fiction in which many countries were represented. It’s a booming field,” Willerton said. “Back in the twenties and thirties, reading and writing murder mysteries was considered ‘the recreation of the noble minds’ because so many aristocrats and government leaders went in for it.”
Willerton will give his Culp presentation on Thursday, accompanied by his murder mystery.
“At each Culp Professor Reading, I’ve summarized or read from my conference papers and then given a little entertainment,” Willerton said.
Willerton’s first Culp event featured an improv murder mystery in which the audience voted on who committed the crime. Last year, he decided to imitate radio murder mysteries from the 1940s, in which faculty members read from a script, crowding up to the same microphone.”
“That was a hoot,” Willerton said. “It was fun, and we got a very good recording out of it.”
This year’s event promises to be nothing short of entertaining. In between Willerton’s Culp research, his live murder mystery will be performed by Dr. Jeanine Varner, Dr. Joe Stephenson, Audrey Schaffner, senior English major from Vernon, and Willerton.
Schaffner is the only student who was asked to act in the Culp Professor Reading event.
“His offer was not only exciting and enticing, but I was incredibly honored that he would ask me to join the cast,” Schaffner said. “It was a no-brainer. I said yes immediately.”
Schaffner said she is an avid reader of any good murder mystery she can get her hands on. However, she said she is most looking forward to working with a few of her favorite professors.
“It’s my last year, and each of these highly respected scholars has contributed to my education,” Schaffner said. “It’s a ton of fun just to rehearse and practice with them.”
Death in Dark Glasses should put a new, innovative twist to a classic murder, said Schaffner, and she is hoping for a good turnout, as is Willerton.
“You can get dozens of hours of detective stuff on television and can stream anything, but how often do you see it live?” Willerton said.
Willerton expressed his interest to pursue writing murder mysteries after he retires. With his three-year Culp term nearing an end, he said Death in Dark Glasses is a fun way to wrap up his professorship.
“We are a gang of teachers and one student,”Willerton said. “We are doing it for the love of doing it.”
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