Department of Tourism
First International Mystery Writers' Festival Set for June in Owensboro
OWENSBORO, Ky. -- Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards, Sue Grafton, James W. Hall, John Jakes, Stuart Kaminsky, Angela Lansbury, super agent Samuel “Biff” Liff, and Ira Levin are faces you might see at the Tonys, Emmys, Oscars or Edgar Allen Poe awards. This coming June they plan to be in Owensboro, Ky., for the newest festival presenting live theater world premieres of 12 original mystery works.
The first International Mystery Writers’ Festival, “Discovering New Mysteries,” will be held at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky. June 12-17. Producers, directors, agents, publishers and critics representing national and international live theater, television and motion pictures all will be in attendance, along with many guest stars, to view the festival’s 12 new live stage works.
“This is the only new works festival in the English-speaking world specializing in fully staging the discovered new mysteries and presenting them to the general public to enjoy and select the winners,” said RiverPark President & CEO Zev Buffman, who produced 40 Broadway shows and 100 national tours. “We also are proud to introduce a new award, “The Angie,” named after Angela Lansbury, who will be honored as “The First Lady of Mystery” by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher at the televised awards gala.
“Major media coverage and recognition will come to the RiverPark center’s four stages for the unique blend of this stage, cinema and television event,” continued Buffman. “This is the Stratford, Shaw and Sundance of live mysteries.” The festival also is one of only a handful in the United States dedicated to producing and premiering new works.
The executive committee, which is being formed now, already includes top names in contemporary literature, theater and film. Members will help select the finalists, and most will hold master classes in Owensboro during the festival. Some of the founding members are:
• Blake Edwards – The genius who gave us nine “Pink Panther” mystery-comedies with Peter Sellers. The director of classics like “Victor/Victoria” starring his wife Julie Andrews. A recipient of many awards, including the Oscar, the Edgar, and a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
• Sue Grafton, Louisville’s great, best selling author. A Kentucky native and a prolific writer of chronological series of mystery novels known as the “Alphabet Series.” Grafton has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. She is published in more than 15 languages and 20 countries.
• James W. Hall, winner of this year’s Edgar for best short story and the 2003 Shamus Award for best novel “Blackwater Sounds”. Born in Kentucky, living in Key Largo, Fla., he writes primarily about Florida’s exciting locales such as in “Forests of the Night” and “Off the Chart”. A university teacher of writing mysteries turned author, he prides himself in his student’s achievements. Hall will be holding master classes at the festival.
• John Jakes, who holds the record of the first author to have three books on The New York Times’ best-seller list in a single year with “The Kent Family Chronicles.” He repeated that pattern with his Civil War trilogy: “North and South,” “Heaven and Hell,” and “Love and War.” All of those works were No. 1 best-sellers and were made into Emmy-winning network mini-series.
• Stuart M. Kaminsky, who is the current Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and a five-time nominee and winner of an Edgar Award for best mystery novel. His screenplays include “Once Upon a Time in America,” which starred Robert De Niro, “FM” with Catherine Deneuve, and “Hidden Fears.” Kaminsky will co-chair the festival’s executive committee with Buffman.
• Ira Levin, a two-time winner of the Edgar Award and past Grand Master of Mystery, songwriter and playwright best known for writing “Rosemary’s Baby,” “A Kiss Before Dying,” and “The Stepford Wives.” His Tony-winning Broadway/London masterpiece “Deathtrap” holds the record as the longest running comedy-thriller in Broadway’s history.
• Robert (Bob) Levinson – His novel “The Elvis and Marilyn Affair” received “Best Novel About Hollywood” recognition from the Hollywood Press Club. A winner of the Ellery Queen Readers Award for three consecutive years, his most recent novels “Ask a Dead Man” and “Where the Lies Begin” both were selected for The New York Times best seller list.
• Samuel “Biff” Liff, who has directed and worked on many hits, including “My Fair Lady,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “The Matchmaker” and “Call Me Mister.” For the last 25 years, he has been heading the Theatre Division of the William Morris Agency, the world’s largest and oldest entertainment agency. Liff represents a variety of clients in the theatrical field, including Julie Andrews, Julie Harris, Angela Lansbury, Jane Alexander and Chita Rivera.
• William Link – An astonishing creator of numerous television series classics: Peter Falk’s “Colombo”, Angela Lansbury’s “Murder She Wrote”, The Bill Cosby Mysteries, “Mannix,” Ellery Queen and others. Winner of two Emmy Awards, the Edgar Award, the Golden Globe Award, the Peabody award, the Christopher Award, the Hall of Fame of Television Arts and Sciences and a past president of the Mystery Writers of America.
The new festival received $555,000 from the state and $50,000 from Daviess County Fiscal Court to help launch this key economic development and cultural venture.
Now in its 15th year, RiverPark Center is a first-class regional entertainment complex. Six professional, international touring musical productions have been built here, making Owensboro one of the top five communities outside New York City for building and premiering these shows prior to their U.S. or Asian tours.
The nearly 100,000 square-foot facility includes a state-of-the-art 1,500-seat Cannon Hall, the 300-seat black-box Experimental Theatre, the 1,000 capacity outdoor riverfront BB&T Plaza and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
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The Kentucky Department of Tourism, an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, exists to promote The Commonwealth as a travel destination, generate revenue and create jobs for Kentucky’s economy.