Photographer. Graphic Designer. Blogger.
Michelle Stallings has been an integral part of Master Mystery Productions since it was founded in 2015. While you’ve never seen her onstage, her work behind the camera and the computer have solidified and propelled the brand into amazing heights of artistry and recognition. Her photographs have become some of the most recognizable imagery associated with Master Mystery Productions and has led press and critics to describe her work in conjunction with publicity design by Daniel Stallings to be “the best theatrical marketing ever.”
Michelle’s first foray into Master Mystery Productions came when she designed and photographed the Old Hollywood-themed photo shoot for cast photos of Goodbye Hollywood in Spring 2015, including the signature Goodbye Hollywood poster logo of Lila Schroeder (played by Lena Pokol) with her eyes crossed out. The image endures as one of the most striking and memorable photos in our history. But when Goodbye Hollywood: At the Rainbow’s End opened at CLOTA Center Stage in July that year, Michelle volunteered at the box office on top of her photography duties.
Michelle has also served as a client for the company when she hired us to perform two original shows for the Peer Mentor Club of CSU Sacramento. Those shows became Hero, a superhero mystery in October 2015, and Ex Luna, a lunar landing mystery in March 2016.
At the end of 2015, Michelle was the key web designer for our website, including designing original graphics for it. For her service across the entire 2015 season, Michelle became the inaugural Founder’s Award for a Year of Outstanding Service champion, the highest and most prestigious award offered by Master Mystery Productions.
In the 2016 season, Michelle made a brief foray into acting as a rehearsal stand-in for The Last Garden Party. But in October of that year, Michelle became a client yet again when her geek blogging Instagram hosted Game Over, our first fully online Instagram murder mystery we designed.
In 2017, she returned to her roots as the Master Mystery Productions show photographer, creating cast portraits and capturing the beautiful moments of each production in shows such as Murder at the Broken Heart Mine, Bury Me in Paris, Anonymous, The Silent City, and Femme Fatales. For Femme Fatales, a fashion-themed murder mystery, she went above and beyond in the design and execution of the numerous fashion shoots designed to tell the story of the murdered supermodel, Willow, played by actress Heather McGaha. Culminating in some of her best work for the company, Femme Fatales earned Michelle the Skeleton Key Award for her service to the production.
She returned in 2018 to photograph for the productions Exit Prima Donna, What Happens at Sundown, and Mutiny on the Sea Witch. The single match-lit cast photos of What Happens at Sundown, a triumph for the company, are some of Michelle’s favorite shots she has done for us.
The 2019 season gave Michelle more amazing accolades for her creativity and execution. The Eat Cake logo of the Versailles aristocrat swimming in pearls with cake smashed into her face, a concept by writer/director Daniel Stallings, was beautifully realized by Michelle’s photography and continues to be one of our most arresting images. She photographed at the June 2019 revival production of Murder at the Red Fez for Atria Seville in Las Vegas.
But it was Foul Play, our life-sized murder mystery board game performed in Summer 2019, where Michelle went the extra mile. With her experience as a geek blogger and an expert of tabletop and board games, Michelle was an integral consultant to the conception, design, writing, and execution of Foul Play. She even helped plot one of the two solutions to the crime and was a key player in creating the different characters and motives. Without her, the show would have never gotten off the ground. So Master Mystery Productions awarded her with the Partners in Crime Award for Service in Writing for Foul Play at closing night, the same day Michelle graduated with her Master’s degree, an enormous accomplishment. She became the first person to win the Partners in Crime Award in four years and the first woman to earn that title, more amazing honors.
Her 2019 season closed with more exquisite cast and production photos in Monica Dwyer’s production of Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind in September and the touring production of Lenore Nevermore in October. Her photography paired with the graphic publicity design on Daniel Stallings for the Lenore Nevermore poster was termed by one critic as the best theatre poster we have ever designed.
Michelle’s art endures as a testament to the genius talents we wish to foster at Master Mystery Productions. Her work both in marketing and archival of these ephemeral theatrical marvels prove just how important every stage and facet of design is in our business. Without her pictures, there would be no record of the shows. Her work has helped to define the brand and the style of our shows, turning them into instantly recognizable iconography still beloved even years later. Without her help, no one would see how amazing the people at Master Mystery Productions are. Thank you so much, Michelle, for your brilliant work.