Get out your magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes hat, because Charleston’s Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre celebrates its fifth anniversary this month. Founded by Darryl and Sherry Wade, the theater produces comedy-mystery shows featuring volunteer audience participation.
Originally from Atlanta, the Wades moved to Charleston in 2012 after scouting locations and set up shop with one show: Inspector NoClue’s Murder Mystery
. They now have five shows starring 28 part-time actors. Charleston, Sherry says, was the perfect place for Black Fedora.
“When Darryl began researching areas to open a comedy mystery theater, he realized Charleston had all the right attributes,” says Sherry. “A destination for tourists with an interest in the arts, a thriving downtown, a strong support system particularly with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and no similar entertainment options available.”
Darryl writes and directs Black Fedora’s shows. Sherry manages everything from ticketing and bookkeeping to cooking many of the snacks available for purchase. Madison, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, also helps with writing and bussing.
The child of a World War II vet, Darryl draws much of his inspiration from classic movies and TV shows, Sherry says.
The Wades with their daughter, Madison.
“We have the complete set of Columbo
in front of our TV right now,” she says. “We probably have one of the few 10-year-olds who has seen It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
and Arsenic and Old Lace
. I see that clean humor, quick dialogue, and Agatha Christie plot twists in so much of what he does.”
Sherry says that she feels that the Charleston theater community is closer than Atlanta's.
“I see Sheri Grace Wenger's grandchildren on Facebook — that classy lady would do anything for another theater company in an emergency,” says Sherry. “I see PURE [Theatre’s] Rodney and Sharon with their kids at the movies, we have some stools on loan from Art Gillard, and our daughter just attended Storytree's summer camp — Teralyn wowed us with her creativity. These are good people, and I don't think we would have had this community if we'd opened in Atlanta.”
After five years, Black Fedora isn’t going anywhere. They just signed another five-year lease, and Darryl is currently writing a new show. The 60-seat theater is a little small, Sherry says, but expanding to a bigger location would require stylistic changes, something the couple wants to avoid.
“The close quarters at the Black Fedora mean that a guest can stand up and everyone can hear them deliver their lines,” says Sherry. “If we had a bigger space that could hold more people, microphones would be necessary, and that would be less spontaneous and fun.”
Current shows include Inspector NoClue’s Murder Mystery, Heist, Heist Baby, Church Street Daughters of the Late Unpleasantness: Garden, Gun and Gin Club
, and Sherlock’s Other Brother by a Southern Mother
. In addition, the holiday-themed Kris Kross
makes its final run this December. Adult tickets for all shows are $24, military $22, and children $15. Check the full schedule