Dinner with a side of murder is on the menu at Cloak & Dagger. Located at 447 E. Livingston Ave. in German Village, the dinner theater delights audiences with a comedic murder-mystery complete with singing and dancing.
Cloak & Dagger started in 1992 and relocated to German Village in 2009 and moved into its current home at Shane’s Dinner Theater in 2010. That’s also around the time current artistic director and playwriter Steve Emerson would join the cast. He started as an actor interested in seeing the theater survive in the neighborhood, but Emerson saw that the shows were in need of a refresh.
“It really wasn’t breaking any new ground or doing anything exciting so that’s when I started to write for them,” he says. He’s since penned six plays for Cloak & Dagger.
The theater’s shows are an interactive murder-mystery that take a humorous spoof of a well-known entity. There’s a pre-text for why a guest is there, then the murder happens and the audience spends the rest of the show solving the case. Audience participation is very much encouraged.
Each show is carefully curated to a theme, from the food to the activities beforehand. Current show Spyballs: Death of a Secret Agent is a James Bond spoof that puts guests at international spy ball where tragedy occurs. Also on Cloak & Dagger’s current lineup is Titanic-themed Wreck of the Enormous: A Mystery of Titanic Proportion, western-inspired Mayhem at the 5 Aces Casino, time-travelling Sock Hop Homicide, and Glee meets horror meets summer camp gone wrong The Mystery of Camp Killapunk.
Cloak & Dagger runs six to seven shows at a time on two month rotations. The variety keeps audience members coming back for new experiences, solving the problem of long-running shows where patrons already know the mysterious culprit.
The mystery is only half the experience at Cloak & Dagger. A gourmet catered meal makes it a true dinner and a show outing.
“We treat the food differently and thematically,” Emerson says. Shane’s Gourmet Catering whips up the buffet-style menus in-house.
While most shows are for a more mature audience, “There’s something appropriate for everybody,” Emerson says. He’s seen everything from families, to a sweet 16 party and even a group of high-school aged Girl Scouts come through the doors.
“Our demographics are growing,” Emerson adds. In 2009, the average audience member was in their mid-50s. Today, the age range is skewing quite a bit younger, thanks in part to a partnership with Experience Columbus.
“They expose us to a wide variety of people that are looking on the internet and those people tend to be a bit younger,” Emerson says. Their membership and listing on the organization’s website has helped capture a new audience, from out-of-towners, to people who normally wouldn’t normally set foot in a theater. That wide-ranging audience is what Emerson wants for the company.
“Playing for the masses is much more interesting for me than people seeing theater all the time,” he says.
Being a member of Experience Columbus has helped Cloak & Dagger do more than just expand their audience.
“I think that we learn something all the time from them,” Emerson says. “So far it’s been a great experience for us.” He looks forward to the theater getting even more involved in the organization. He knows that as a small business (and one that’s really still almost in the startup stage since its move), it’s important to get your name out there any way you can. Emerson says Experience Columbus is a great way to do that.
For more information, visit cloakdagger.com.