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I guess I just like liking things

Some things that were introduced at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: the Ferris Wheel, Shredded Wheat, and Juicy Fruit gum

Some things that were introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair: the Ferris Wheel, Shredded Wheat, and Juicy Fruit gum

I read a book! I know it is surprising, since I mostly talk about watching movies and playing videogames. Hey, I was surprised myself!

What happened was the improv group I’m a member of got invited to be a part of our town’s One Great Read, a program that’s been going on for a few years here. The local libraries get together and pick out a book for the community to read, and then host various functions throughout the month that tie in with the book: discussions, movies, presentations, that kind of thing. Our group was asked to be part of the kickoff festivities, so we did games and scenes that were tied to events in the book.  Which could have been a little weird, considering what the book was about…

The book has two main stories presented in parallel: the planning, preparation, and production of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the exploits of H.H. Holmes, one of the earliest known serial killers in America. The stories don’t have much to do with each other, aside from Holmes renting out rooms in his “murder castle” to people who attended the fair, but it’s an interesting contrast.

Yes, I did use the phrase “murder castle” just then. There’s really not much else you can call a place designed by a serial killer for the main purpose of making it easy to kill people and dispose of their bodies. Considering so many architects worked to bring the World’s Fair to life, it’s a twisted other side of the coin.

The murdery story kept my attention much more than the World’s Fair stuff did, I must admit.  I mean, I knew the World’s Fair had taken place, so I knew all that would turn out okay. Who knew where the murder plot would end up?  (Well, I sorta did – as I read more I realized I’d heard about Holmes and his murder castle before. I don’t know exactly where I learned about it, but I had.)

So, yeah, I can recommend the book. It’s an interesting look at history, presented in a way that reads more like fiction than non-fiction. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

And for those of you wondering how you theme an improv show around a book made up of architects and murderers, well, you kind of go at it tangentially. We have a game called “Interrogation,” where two people try to get a third to guess what crime he has committed by asking him questions that give hints. The tie-in was that Holmes had been interrogated. Most games had a “they had this back then, so we have this thing that is sorta related now” vibe, but it worked okay. I went into it being the most worried about us using murders as a source of humor (one of the murdered girls was actually from our town!), and then I ended up being the only person the whole show to directly reference Holmes. Weird how that worked.

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