Mixing murder and mystery with a meal has made for ideal ingredients in the primary annual fundraiser for the Horry County Literacy Council.
At “Hulas and Homicide,” the Myrtle Beach agency’s seventh annual murder mystery dinner, everyone’s invited to help find out who was responsible for taking Winnie Waheli’s life before the annual hula contest on Kikiwai Beach.
The event, at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort Conference Center in Myrtle Beach, brings together various personalities from the community, including a crew from WPDE-TV 15’s news division.
Joel Allen, a reporter for NewsChannel 15 since May 2002, enjoys shifting from being on camera to another stage for this night every year. This time around, he’ll play the lead investigator in the plot. The author of an Amazon Createspace electronic book, “Ripoff and Run,” released this past autumn on paperback, Allen called that novel, which he wrote a few years ago, “inspired by a true event.”
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Question | How big a stretch is playing an investigator in this murder mystery production from your nonstop daily work on the newsbeat, reporting and occasionally anchoring a newscast?
Answer | It’s absolutely nothing at all. It’s just a lot of fun. I can’t relate to it being a reporter, but I suppose there is something that could be said to investigating a murder mystery vs. if it’s in real life.
Q. | Is this a nice break and diversion from the everyday mission in gathering and reporting news?
A. | It’s a lot of fun. It’s a chance for all of us who are participating [to] let our hair down and be a little silly. Everybody who works in television is a ham at heart. We try to call ourselves serious journalists, and we are, but on the rare occasion, we need to have a little fun and be hams.
Q. | How many years have you taken part in this cause?
A. | This is going to be my fourth year doing it. I have had a different part every time we’ve done a story, and a different mystery. This is my first time being a detective, so I get to wear my trench coat and fedora. ... I got involved a few years ago when Tim McGinnis got approached for the murder mystery dinners, and they needed another mature male.
Q. | What aspects about acting and performing do you glean from such roles that help in any unplanned, unintended way in your daily life?
A. | Mostly it’s just a chance to have fun and be able to perform a little bit in a different kind of venue. We’re reporting on accidents and shootings and robberies and those kinds of things on a daily basis. This is a chance with something that happens theatrically.
Q. | What newfound attributes do you pick up from colleagues that you might not otherwise see if you hadn’t engaged in such a play?
A. | It brings all together as a team, and we all enjoy being with one another anyway. This gives us a chance to do something different, away from work and more lighthearted.
Q. | Is this kind of production possibly more entertaining for you than the audience?
A. | It is a lot of fun, but it’s also for a good cause. ... It’s something we all believe in, because reading and literacy are something that’s obviously important to somebody who has worked in news. My wife, Deanna, will attest to the fact that I’m a voracious reader and a news and information junkie. Literacy and reading are a real important cause for me ... and for all of us.
Q. | Reading: Just how a valuable cog – so taken for granted – is it every day?
A. | Certainly, we couldn’t do what we do without excellent reading and writing skills. And the literacy council does a great job of trying to spread the love of reading around. I’m not trying to get philosophical, but I think if we could get more kids hooked on reading, instead of bullying and fighting, this would be a better world.