The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 17, 2013

Whodunnit fundraiser turns local celebs into murder suspects

By Lisa Shrewsberry
Lifestyles Editor

— Whose character will get the candlestick, dagger, lead pipe or revolver they so deserve? No spoilers here. That’s an itch only the cast of local actress and playwright Karen Vuranch’s original murder mystery, “A Wedding to Die For,” can scratch.

The event happening March 15 at Tamarack Conference Center is set to entertain but, more importantly, to kick off Beckley ARH Hospital’s Capital Campaign, “A Miners’ Legacy; Our community’s healthy future.”

City National Bank’s

Charlie Houck, chair of the fundraising committee for the $8 million renovation and one of the show’s two executive producers, explained why mock murder, mystery and mayhem form the perfect foundation for raising interest and money.

“When you can have fun and get the job done, everyone wins. It’s the best of both worlds. Attendees are going to have a wonderful time.”

Houck speaks from experience, having played a past role in one of Vuranch’s murder mystery pieces for another area fundraiser. When ideas were being tossed around on what could really grab the community’s attention and Houck offered his suggestion, administrators and another executive producer, attorney Victor Flanagan, a partner in the law firm of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, heartily agreed.

To carry off the highest level of interest in the forthcoming facelift of what is regionally and historically regarded as the miner’s hospital is CEO Rocco Massey’s overarching goal for the evening.

The renovations will ultimately help the not-for-profit hospital better meet the needs of its patients with an updated appearance, increased space and state-of-the-art equipment. Plans include a new façade, insulated windows and a fourth-floor overhaul resulting in an additional 19 private rooms and full baths, with antimicrobial flooring, flat-screen televisions and dialysis hookups — and many additional upgrades on the blueprints.

“It wasn’t coincidence that we began the project on the year of the 60th anniversary of the hospital’s dedication by father of the miner’s union John L. Lewis and Eleanor Roosevelt,” explains Massey, indicating the building project is part of ARH’s continuing commitment to the heritage and the people of southern West Virginia.

“This will substantially improve the experience of our patients, providing a better environment for them and improved outcomes.”

Using her art to benefit locals has deep meaning to Vuranch as well. “This is not good theater, this is good community,” she offered.

At the first official meeting for the cast, she thanked them for their eager participation and for their bravery with the assurance there would be plenty of room for improvisation and for their larger-than-life personalities.

The reason each was chosen, explained Vuranch, was not for their commendable acting abilities, but for their status as “out there” people — highly visible, highly personable community members with a heart for the same.

And so, for the good of the people and the people’s hospital, Dr. Ayne Amjad will transform herself into Annie Moran, a no-name girl from a local orphanage, set to marry Preston Snobsworth III (played by restaurateur Brian Williams), much to the chagrin of parents Dr. Preston and  Celeste Snobsworth (Dr. Jim Kyle and United Way Executive Director Margaret O’Neal, respectively), both of whom have earned their surname … in spades.

O’Neal, so chosen because of her personal wardrobe, fellow organizers joked, was happy to sign up for potential homicide as long as it was to benefit a fellow nonprofit. She couldn’t imagine a better way to spend her actual birthday, just one of many storylines Vuranch used to modify her own script and personalize it for this cast.

Perhaps more so than any involved, O’Neal’s out-of-character understanding of the nonprofit world, both the challenges involved in raising money to address society’s issues and the pressing demands of the issues themselves, endeared her to the cause.

“So many people do favors and generous things for United Way. I felt very compelled to offer assistance to this group. We need our hospitals, and we certainly support what Beckley ARH is attempting for the community.”

Other murder mystery cast members include community volunteer Lesley Martin and nurse practitioner Angela Jones-Ball, along with an unnamed surprise guest star.

According to Houck, a limited number of tickets remain due to substantial — and early — interest in the event, but they are still available.

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“A Wedding to Die For”

When: Friday, March 15, 6 p.m. cocktails; 7 p.m. dinner; 8 p.m. play

Where: Tamarack Conference Center

Tickets: $100 per person, proceeds to benefit Beckley ARH Hospital’s Capital Campaign, “A Miners’ Legacy; Our community’s healthy future”

For more information or tickets, contact Christine Buckner at 304-255-3394.