Murder on menu at New Perry Hotel

chwright@macon.comFebruary 20, 2013 

PERRY -- Brandy Flynn, an Elko resident, loved the New Perry Hotel so much she found a way to spend even more time there.

“I was sitting there one day after eating ... and thought, ‘You know what would be so cool? Murder mystery,’ ” Flynn said.

With the blessing of hotel co-owner Patty Johnson, Flynn leaped into action to found a production company dedicated to drafting locals for a murder mystery dinner theater experience there twice a month.

“She’s been a godsend,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to open up and try something different.”

Dinner guests are asked to be at the hotel at 6:30 p.m., so everyone is seated for the 7 p.m. curtain call. The $37.50 ticket price pays for a three-course meal during which someone will be killed and a full investigation will ensue. The next show is Friday.

Flynn isn’t a screenwriter. She’s not an actress. And she’s not really a business owner. But the full-time Middle Georgia State College public service major took on all of those roles to create Buried Hatchet Company.

She put on her first show in December. The audience participated in a wedding reception that suddenly goes awry when a character is killed. It was just a test show for the holiday season, Flynn said.

“It was just going to be a small, fun hobby, but we’ve had such a demand for it now,” she said.

After seeing the success of the holiday dinner theater, Johnson and Flynn decided to make it a regular show.

Johnson said it now draws guests from across Middle Georgia as a quirky Friday evening outing.

“We want to have this routine, and you know the second and fourth Friday, you can make plans to come down here,” she said.

Flynn said she intends to maintain the same scenario for six shows with alternate endings. The February show, “Death, Democracy and Distrust,” is set at a campaign dinner.

“I kind of think to myself, ‘Why would a group of people be in one place eating, that don’t know each other?’’’ Flynn said. “And I put it on paper, and then I’ll grab a friend” to test out the screenplay.

Actors, mostly local residents, intermingle with the dinner guests.

“You’re not just sitting back and watching a play going on. You’re actually a part of it,” Johnson said.

The dinner theater is one of several new initiatives the New Perry Hotel owners have started since buying the property in 2011.

Johnson’s family took over the hotel after reading that a former co-op of owners were looking to unload the struggling historic site. None had ever owned or managed a hotel, but Johnson said they have worked to find their footing.

“The hotel business is starting to pick up,” she said. “We have a lot of things planned.”

The hotel will be a headquarters location for Peaches to Beaches, an annual summer garage sale that extends across the state; hold a Dock Dogs event during the Dogwood Festival; hosts bridal parties and offers pool passes during the summer.

By partnering with other businesses in Perry and participating in the city’s major events, Johnson said the family is showing the community and region where the New Perry Hotel fits into their lives.

Even the wedding reception-themed dinner theater was a sales point.

“It actually allowed people to see we would handle 50 people for a wedding reception,” Johnson said.

The co-owner added that success for the hotel is success for the city.

“It would help the local economy,” Johnson said. “It would be bringing people into downtown Perry.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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