By Katherine Duke '05


Students arrived at the “Presidential Candidates’ Dinner” on a mid-December evening eager to meet those hoping to succeed Tony Marx as the next leader of Amherst, to enjoy a free meal and to witness a homicide.

Yes, that’s right. The annual Murder Mystery show from the student improv troupe Mr. Gad’s House of Improv was ripped from the headlines this year—specifically, from the real-life news that Marx will leave the college in June to take over the presidency of the New York Public Library.

Inside Keefe Campus Center, the audience settled around dining tables and the show began. A bespectacled young woman clad in Amherst purple (Bessie Young ’11) showed a video with introductions from the “candidates,” including, among others, German physician Klaus von Richtoffen (played by Dylan Herts ’13), TV reporter Keith Radford (Will Savino ’14) and Margaret Beavers (Ali Rich ’13), an innkeeper wearing a moose’s head as a hat. Beavers said that, if elected, “I would rule this college with the same strength and perseverance that it took for me to kill this moose with my bare hands.”

Next, none other than President Marx (played by himself) approached the podium. After brief remarks, he sipped water from a glass, began to look ill, staggered to a chair and flopped over.

“President Marx has been murdered!” the TV reporter shouted—before catching himself: “I mean, he’s dead!”
Well, not quite. The German doctor revived Marx enough to lead him out of the room, to try to cure him (or so he said). But the doctor returned with an announcement: “Ze president is dead!”

Audience members had to vote on the likely killer. Bessie was a natural suspect: she had access to the podium and the glass of water. But the doctor could easily have finished Marx off outside the room. Or maybe Keith orchestrated the murder just so he could report on it.

Ultimately, the doctor held up a DVD recording of Marx’s last will and testament. “My last request,” Marx said, “is that my remains be stored together with the dinosaur bones in the geology museum.” And then the president revealed… that Bessie had been plotting to kill him.

Bessie stood up. “I’d rather he be here in Amherst in the ground than at the New York City Public Library!” she confessed. “I killed him to keep him here in our hearts forever!”

Out of the many students who correctly solved the crime, one lucky winner received a round-trip bus ticket to New York City for Valentine’s Day weekend.

And before heading to jail, the assassin had one more task: slicing a cake on which was written, in frosting, “goodbye Tony.”

Later, Marx e-mailed all involved, to thank them for “the most enjoyable murder I have yet gone through.”

Read Duke’s extended account of her experiences at the Murder Mystery on Campus Buzz.

Photo by Jessica Mestre '10