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Mixing wine and murder at Fort Totten castle

Chuck Schub as Ralph Rottengrape (l.–r.), Kathy Titone as Tiny Bubbles and Lee Titone as Papa Vito rehearse their roles for the upcoming Bayside Historical Society performance, "A Taste for Wine and Murder." Photo courtesy Bayside Historical Society
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Bayside will be serving up some wine with a side of murder.

This month, the Bayside Historical Society will present “A Taste for Wine and Murder,” an interactive murder-mystery event, with hopes of raising money to make up for deep cuts in funding throughout recent years.

“Our state funding has been slashed 100 percent and we’re going wherever we can to save money,” said Eileen Cotoggio, executive director of the Bayside Historical Society and head producer of the event. “We’re trying in this economy to have something that’s a little different that people can also enjoy because it’s local, secure and inside a great location.”

The show, scheduled for April 28 at 7 p.m. inside the group’s historical Bayside fortress, the former Officers Club of Fort Totten built in 1870, will include about 10 actors who will play the roles of potential murder suspects in a mysterious scandal at a 1950s-style winery.

The theme, Cotoggio said, fits Bayside’s historical past in which wine owners were more prevalent. All of the actors’ stage names will relate in some way to the winery theme.

While the actors play out their roles, the audience will be asked to participate in helping solve the mystery. In between acts, audience members will be treated to dinner and dessert before ultimately seeing who the murderer is.

The actors will play the parts of Tiny Bubbles, Otto Von Schnapps, Marilyn Merlot, Ralph Rottengrape, Hedy Shablee and Papa Vito.

“It should be fun. Expect to be entertained,” said Paul Di Benedetto, new president of the Bayside Historical Society. “We always have good catering, good wine and the room we’re hosting the event in is beautiful.”

Di Benedetto will work behind the scenes helping to arrange music and staging preparations.

“We’re always trying to provide new and exciting programming for the public and to help preserve some cultural beauty in Bayside,” he said.

The story takes place in 1952 Bayside, when one of the descendants of a historic winery disappears. Five years later, the body is rediscovered because of an earthquake and all the characters present on the night of the victim’s disappearance are brought together for questioning.

Cotoggio, who will be playing the part of Marilyn Merlot, said the Bayside Historical Society has continuously adopted new and innovative programming ideas to draw in more residents as funding has continued to decline. She said the group lost all of its state funding in 2007 and now looks to private donors and local authorities to help raise money.

“We try things like this to offer different things to the community,” she said. “If I’m in charge, I want it to be fun. I want people to say, ‘Wow, I’d love to come back here.’”

After the group lost funding, Cotoggio said the Bayside Historical Society started getting more creative in its approach to programming. Past events, she said, included a celebrated “Dancing with the Stars of Bayside” event, which even included U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) as a judge.

“I think that’s the way people should try to make events,” Cotoggio said. “They have to have a little imagination and have to be a little brave.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

If You Go

Bayside Historical Society

208 Totten Ave.

Fort Totten

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