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'Early ReDIErment' murder mystery aims to bring out detective in CG audiences
 mstaude  / 

CASA GRANDE — A group of coworkers gather for an early retirement party when all of a sudden, the guest of honor drops dead while standing at the podium delivering his farewell speech. So starts the new, original murder mystery presented by the Murder Mystery Players of Casa Grande.

With their original play, “Early ReDIErment,” the theater troupe debuts its first mystery dinner theater event on Nov. 8 and 9.

As attendees dine, they’ll use clues given in the opening scene to figure out who among the group of coworkers is guilty of murder.

“It’s a classic, interactive ‘whodunit,’” said Pam Karpelenia, founder of Murder Mystery Players of Casa Grande. “The audience will feel as though they’re at the Hawaii-theme retirement party. They’ll watch the first scene and then they’ll be served dinner. As they eat, they’ll have all the clues to try to figure out who the murderer is.”

The dinner theater is catered by Sauce Boss and served by cast members in the play.

Karpelenia has a role in “Early ReDIErment” and she also wrote the script.

She’s been acting and singing most of her life and has been in about 150 plays in her lifetime, including dozens in Casa Grande.

“I’ve always enjoyed singing and acting and have always wanted to write a script,” she said. “Soon after my twins were born (about a year ago), I had some insomnia and wrote three murder mystery scripts.”

Murder Mystery Players of Casa Grande have plans to perform the other two scripts at a future date.

“The writing was fun,” she said. “Once I began working on each script, the words just started to flow.”

Karpelenia created Murder Mystery Players of Casa Grande to perform the scripts but said she also wanted to create an acting group different from most other community theaters.

“This is community theater but our actors are compensated,” she said.

Ticket sales and roles in the show determine each actor’s compensation rate.

“I think it’s important to compensate the actors, even in community theater,” Karpelenia said. “I have done a lot of community theater and I know there are lots of talented people in the area. But in my experience, when actors are compensated, it tends to bring out better people who approach their role like an actual job. When people are getting paid, they tend to put in more effort.”

Some of the actors in the play have degrees in voice, acting or other theater or performance arts.

Karpelenia has a bachelor’s degree in theater education and works as a speech therapist. She also offers voice lessons.

Her husband, Keith Karpelenia, is a videographer and her teenage son, Sebestian Gardner, is an actor who also has an extensive community youth theater resume.

“I know I’m taking a big risk with this venture, but I wanted to try to put this together and bring a new type of entertainment to Casa Grande,” she said. “I’m excited to be doing this and I think everyone in the show is excited too.”

Actors in the show include Steven Braybrooks, Kennedy Anderson, James Villars Sr., Sebastian Gardner, Anna Maria Calvo, Randi Marie Villars, Elizabeth Wagner, Joshua Sears, Stacy Daugherty, Carol Williams Rasmussen and Karpelenia.

Admission to the “Early ReDIErment” dinner theater show is $30 per ticket or two for $50. A ticket includes dinner — a choice of whiskey chicken and mashed potatoes or chile verde con carne.

Additional concessions and snacks will be sold by the Salvation Army Casa Grande Corps.

The show is in the Red Shield Theater in the Salvation Army building, 1333 N. Center Ave.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9. The show starts at 6:30.

For more information about the acting troupe or for more information about buying tickets, visit the Murder Mystery Players of Casa Grande Facebook page or call 520-450-3472.

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Eloy wants to find out how satisfied residents are
 mvasquez  / 

ELOY — How satisfied are Eloy residents with their lives and city government?

City officials want to know.

Eloy has made a lot of big investments in the downtown area and staff believes that now it is time for a community survey project. On Monday the City Council approved an agreement with WestGroup Research to prepare a Citizen Satisfaction Survey for $20,000 with the option of additional services that should not exceed $5,000.

The purpose of the survey will be to get the perception of Eloy residents on the quality of life and issues in the city as well as gather their opinions about future priorities of city initiatives.

“It will provide you with data of what is working, potential improvements as well as provide you with the perspective of what the entire community cares about in regards to city facilities and services,” Management Assistant Jillian Childress told the council.

Childress added that the survey should be brief but it should also cover key topics and priorities. As of right now the idea is to have an eight-minute, multiple choice survey with 15 to 20 questions.

The format of the survey will include a range of “likely” or “unlikely” as responses to the questions.

“Our survey will combine mail, phone, web as well as email, all available in English as well as Spanish,” Childress said. “We are working with WestGroup Research just to ensure that how the questions are actually phrased will remove any built-in biases.”

A postcard will be sent out to households with instructions on how to complete the survey with an identification code, which is to ensure that only one survey is completed per address.

“Staff is aware that some of our citizens may not have access to participate in a survey via telephone or online,” Childress said. “Thus we are requesting a budget of $5,000 maximum for additional services to ensure underrepresented populations are reached if needed. The additional $5,000 is not a requirement, it’s just an opportunity to ensure that we are removing the barriers to ensure that all residents, all citizens have the opportunity to participate in this survey.”

The different options Childress has in mind include having the research group come out to a community event to engage with the community face to face. A second option is to have hard copies of the survey at certain locations throughout the city where people can go to complete it.

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Trooper from Casa Grande to be honored at Heroes Day
 mstaude  / 

CASA GRANDE — A Casa Grande resident has been named a 2019 honoree of Heroes Day by Southern Arizona First Responders.

David Rocha, a state trooper with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, was nominated for the honor due to the action he took when he encountered an overturned recreational vehicle on Interstate 8 near milepost 150 on July 12.

Rocha “risked his life to enter the unstable vehicle in an effort to free the occupants inside, including a young child,” the award website said.

“In spite of the dangerous conditions inside the crashed vehicle, Trooper Rocha remained inside and worked to free the boy and his grandmother from the vehicle as other responders worked from the outside. It took only nine minutes from when Trooper Rocha responded to the scene to remove the occupants from the vehicle,” the website says.

Rocha risked his life in an attempt to save the trapped occupants from the vehicle while the vehicle began to crumble, the nomination letter submitted to the organization said.

“Trooper Rocha was able to direct troopers at the scene to free the child from the wreckage and bring him to the ambulance,” the nomination said. “Trooper immediately began CPR on the child. The troopers and (emergency medics) worked on saving the child but tragically, he succumbed to his injuries.”

Soon after a towing company arrived on the scene to remove the wreckage, the vehicle caved in.

Rocha “knew the dangers of entering in the wreckage and even removed his duty gear in order to save the life of another knowing he could have easily lost his own,” the nomination letter said.

In a statement, Rocha said the honor would not be possible without the assistance of his fellow troopers who were on the scene that day including Sgt. Tyler O’Sick, Sgt. Joey Kretschmer, Trooper Jacob Germaine, Trooper Dale Lee, Trooper Patrick Cervantes and Trooper Devon Brandt.

Rocha graduated from Casa Grande Union High School in 2001. He was born and raised in Casa Grande.

The award honors “Southern Arizona first responders who have gone beyond the call of duty,” according the Heroes Day website.

Heroes Day is a recognition and celebration of the first responders of southern Arizona. Nominees can include law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Forest Service employees and other emergency professionals.

The awards ceremony for the nominees is on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

The nominees will also be honored at the University of Arizona homecoming football game on Saturday. Rocha’s daughter and niece are current students at the University of Arizona, according to a friend.

For more information about the organization, visit www.520hero.com.