Laura Andruski’s predilection for murder mysteries is no mystery. As a child, the founder and artistic director of A Taste For Murder Productions, which will present “A Wedding to Die For” April 8-10 at Kentlands Mansion, was fond of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. As her tastes matured, the tales of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle became her reading material of choice.
“Don’t we all like a good mystery?” asked Andruski, a Rockville resident who also works as the Theatre Program Coordinator for the City of Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green at the Arts Barn. “It’s human nature to be curious. We all love solving problems and bringing closure to situations.” She explained her affinity for mystery as “one of the few genres of literature that invites the reader into the story to find the culprit. You are an active reader looking for and analyzing clues. And if there are a few twists and turns plus a surprise ending, all the better!”
Andruski deemed it “a natural fit” to combine her passions for theater and mystery into A Taste For Murder in 2015. “The fact that several of Doyle’s and Christie’s novels have been made into plays thrills me to no end,” she said, offering a clue as to how she came up with the concept.
All of the group’s productions, Andruski said, may be described as “murder mystery comedies. There’s foreshadowing, hidden clues, and a murder, but how we get there is often quite comical.” And, she noted, “the resolution to ‘A Wedding to Die For’ is particularly “quirky.” The cast invites audience members to join in, and “everyone has an opportunity to guess the murderer and win a prize.”
The company was a long-term dream for the suburban Milwaukee native who has been a theater professional for more than 30 years. She began performing in fourth grade, and took part in her first community theatre production at age 14. “It was just the ensemble, but I was totally hooked,” she recalled.
After starting off as a performance major at Rider University, Andruski “quickly fell into the production side where I found I had a real affinity for stage management, and the natural progression from stage management was to direct.” Her training includes the University of Wisconsin-Professional Training Program and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre Equity Training. Only her thesis remains toward a master’s in arts administration from Goucher College.
Andruski is equally comfortable onstage as off, and loves to do it all, from directing Equity, regional, educational and community theater to stage managing, acting and writing. “My education and background gave me a great foundation that has allowed me to explore and flex my own creative wings,” she said.
A “test of the waters” last year with a fundraiser for Rockville Little Theatre (RLT), on whose board she sits, confirmed “there was an audience for this form of entertainment,” she said. She proceeded to reach out to groups and organizations that had potential for partnerships in presenting dessert and dinner theater. Kentlands Mansion/Arts on the Green accepted her proposal, and they co-produced their inaugural show, “Polter-Heist,” in October.
Andruski has seen “a lot of local theatre” in her capacity as a judge for Washington Area Theatre Community Honors (WATCH), which “adjudicates and presents annual awards that recognize artistic and technical excellence in community theatre throughout the Washington metropolitan area.” That has enabled her “to recruit some of the best local talent to be a part of my company of players–which is currently 15 members and growing.” Also supporting her productions are “vast connections within the local theatre community,” she said, noting that her fellow RLT board member, playwright Dean Fiala, wrote “A Wedding to Die For.”
Within the next six months, A Taste For Murder has two private bookings–a wine-themed event and a holiday-themed murder mystery. The company also will take part in RLT’s annual fundraiser with “Murder on the Oriental Rug,” a spoof of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, on May 22 at the Arts Barn, and a new Halloween show is being planned for Kentlands’ Murder at the Mansion series in October.
Andruski is happy “to be able to provide quality entertainment for audiences to enjoy, as well as provide work for fellow actors, designers and playwrights. (It) allows me to give back to my community. Arts and culture are an important part of the quality of life in any community, and I am so grateful to be a part of that.” And as for that “very young company,” she said, “I see a bright future where I anticipate partnering with multiple venues … to produce four to six productions each year, accompanied by just as many private clients.”
Arts on the Green and Murder at the Mansion Dessert Theater present “A Wedding to Die For” at 8 p.m. Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10 at the Kentlands Mansion. Tickets–$35 per person, $60 per couple–include a dessert buffet and non-alcoholic beverages. This event is appropriate for ages 18 and older. Call 301-258-6425 or visit visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov.