The private, not-for-profit home health service provider is conducting its first mystery dinner and silent auction beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Guard Armory in Sikeston.
"People are so busy now days. They need something they can relax at, be entertained and be out of the ordinary without having to go out of town to have that moment," said director Terry Jones.
"I'm Getting Murdered in the Morning" is the mystery comedy that Hospice volunteers and staff have been rehearsing for the past couple months under Jones, who has directed two other murder mystery dinners in Sikeston and is a member of Sikeston Little Theater. Co-director Carrie Yanson is also of the Little Theater.
"Everyone has been to a wedding reception, but have you ever been to one where someone's been shot and the celebration goes on?" Jones asked.
It's going to be really interesting, said Helen Sander, a registered nurse and SEMO VNA Hospice coordinator.
"The program takes place at a wedding reception, and one of guests is killed on the dance floor. The mystery centers around who did it and why, and the bride is trying to save her wedding day," said Sander, adding Hospice staff and volunteers wanted to raise money for Hospice and came up with the idea to put on a murder mystery dinner.
The audience will be caught up in the search for a killer as they are given clues needed to identify and capture the him or her, Sander said.
"Everyone will get a chance to figure out who the killer is, but we won't put anybody on the spot," said registered nurse Diane Chappell, SEMO VNA Hospice director.
Jones said rehearsals with the cast of 12 to 15 -- comprised of mostly Hospice staff and volunteers -- are going well.
"We have a truly fresh cast," Jones said. "We have only one person who has any acting experience, which makes it interesting. It's always interesting to see someone stepping outside of their comfort zone."
Jones said the main difference in working with an inexperienced cast over an experienced one is having to explain some of the theatrical terminology. "But it's worked out very well," Jones said.
First-time actor Chappell agreed. "I'm having a ball," Chappell said. "... I've been telling people, 'I just know I'm going to be discovered.'"
For Chappell the decision to participate in the program as a first-time actor wasn't a hard one to make.
"Hospice is my passion," Chappell said. "If it means that we make more money to help other people, it wasn't a hard decision (to act). Anything to make people's end-of-life better, I will do."
It appears everyone is very talented, Chappell said of her acting peers. She's also noticed actors getting into their roles.
"At first, when we were reading our parts, we were more reserved about it. As time has gone on, we've gotten funnier and more free with it and how we interpret it," said Chappell, who plays the mother of the bride.
Chappell said Little Theater members are helping with the production, and without them, Hospice wouldn't be able to put on the fundraiser.
"It's nice to involve several groups to put this production on, and hopefully, we'll make a bunch of money for charity -- that's what we're there for," Jones said.
VNA Hospice serves 14 Southeast Missouri counties including Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard.
Hospice provides care for people who are in their last six months of an illness and supports the family. Then after the patient dies, the family receives support for the next year.
Throughout the year, Hospice stays in contact with family members to see if there are any unusual signs of grieving. Except for receiving partial pay from Medicare and Medicaid, Hospice isn't reimbursed for that care, Sander said. For years VNA has received donations from its patients' family and friends, Sander said.
"They've been very supportive. It's just that we are getting more patients and many don't have any insurance at all. This will give us the money we need, hopefully, to be able to say, 'Yes' when someone says, 'I need you,'" Sander said.
The dinner menu will include a choice of rib-eye steak, grilled chicken breast or vegetable lasagna provided by Zeigler's Catering. Cheers Bar and Grill will host a cash bar.
A program book will be available for each guest in the audience to keep track of the clues. Patrons, sponsors and ads are part of the book.
"Hopefully, the book will make it easier for everyone, and it also gives credit to our supporters," Sander said.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. for an opportunity to view and bid on silent auction items. Auction items include St. Louis Cardinals game tickets, tickets to "The Wedding Singer" at Fox Theatre in St. Louis, a charcoal grill and other smaller and larger items.
"We want it to be a fun evening but also something people will remember and want to come back to again and again in the future," Chappell said. "We want to make sure it's a good thing, and we think it will be."
Tickets are $50 each with $25 paying for dinner and the show with the remainder supporting VNA. Tickets are available now at the VNA office and at Collins Music in Sikeston or by calling (573) 471-0520. Last-minute ticket purchases may be made by calling 717-0631.