Actress. Stage Manager. Artisan Prop Master. Set Dresser.
Janis Kunz first stepped into an audition for Mutiny on the Sea Witch in 2018, and thus launched a theatrical career that has become one of the most decorated in our history. She started in the role of actor and puppeteer for Polly the Parrot in Mutiny on the Sea Witch, a role which stole the show night after night and received a special shoutout from the press on their social media. She won her first Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in performance for the role and the Blood, Sweat, and Tears Award from the Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe for her exemplary work behind the scenes.
2019 was a milestone season for Janis. She worked as a dedicated crew member for Eat Cake where she won the Skeleton Key Award from Service Above and Beyond, worked backstage throughout and acted as a Maid for closing night of Foul Play, acted the part of Captain Wallis in Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind which earned her her second Diamond Mask Award, and worked backstage at Lenore Nevermore both in Ridgecrest and at Amargosa Opera House. Working the entire year of shows with dedication, love, light, and wide open arms earned her a much-deserved Founder’s Award for a Year of Outstanding Service for the 2019 season. She remains the swiftest winner of that award, having earned it only working one year at Master Mystery Productions.
In 2020, she worked as crew for Woman in the Walls. She delivered a gorgeous, heartbreaking portrayal of the user ThinBlueLine for our upcoming digital mystery #MurderoftheMonth and took on the lead role of Emma Emerson, a paranormal investigator who mysterious disappeared, in our YouTube series Regions Beyond, to critical acclaim. For Regions Beyond, she also worked as a specialty prop and foley artist. For the 2021 season, she continued acting in the roles of Althea Drummond in Mum’s the Word and Georgina Georgson in Who’s Who?. Given the amazing work she did during the difficult years of 2020 and 2021 to further the creative excellence of Master Mystery Productions, we inducted Janis into the MMP Hall of Fame
2022 brought Janis new and exciting challenges and responsibilities. Her passion for the 1980’s made her a clear choice to be both the Assistant Director and the Costume Designer for our 80’s mystery Closer to Heaven, where her neon scheme became one of the best and most iconic costume schemes we have ever seen. Her acting as Stella Spencer in the show added to her list of amazing credits of beautiful and sensitive portrayals.
She continued the season by performing as Witness the First in our 30th show, Unlucky Seven, in July 2022 in Mammoth, reprising her award-winning role of Captain Wallis in the 2022 revival of Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind for Ridge Writers’ Weird Weekend, and playing the part of Mademoiselle Michelle in Tête-à-Tête in the fall in Lone Pine.
In addition to her stage roles, her artistry and creativity truly shines when designing specialty props and set dressing for many Master Mystery Productions. She has served as co-Puppet Designer for both Polly the Parrot in Mutiny on the Sea Witch and the Raven in Lenore Nevermore. She designed life-sized game pieces and squares for Foul Play’s set. She created from scratch a Victorian hypodermic syringe out of a potato peeler for Woman in the Walls and safecracking tools galore for Who’s Who?. Her imagination knows no boundaries.
Additional theatrical honors include winning the CLOTA Gypsy Robe for her work on technical crews and as Stage Manager for CLOTA’s production of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution in 2022, directed by Daniel Stallings. She serves on the Board of Directors for CLOTA and is Vice-President of the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. In 2023, the East Sierra Branch awarded Janis the Jack London Award for outstanding service to the California Writers Club, the highest honor a branch can bestow.
Janis Kunz has been a beacon of love, light, and support throughout her entire career at Master Mystery Productions. In a short span of time, she became a truly beloved member in the company, always ready and willing to lend a hand or give a great hug to someone in need. Her heart and spirit of generosity are aspirational to so many of us at MMP. Her trajectory as a performer and artist has been astronomic, and she has become one of the brightest stars in our Master Mystery Productions constellation.