Give the people what they want, and an entire theater company might emerge.
That was the reasoning behind A Taste of Murder Productions, founded by Laura W. Andruski, who is now its producing artistic director. There is a local desire for mystery drama productions.
“I didn’t see anything like it happening here, though it was in other places,” she said of the company, which presents murder mysteries exclusively.
There was a personal reason for the production company’s founding as well: Andruski is a great lover of mysteries and murder mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew to “Murder, She Wrote” and “Columbo.”
The theater’s next production goes back even further in time: It is called “Calamity in Camelot,” referring to the realm of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, who happen to be among the many suspects in the murder of Old King Pellinore.
The play was written by Stan Levin, though A Taste of Murder often works with Dean Fiala, another playwright.
Audience members can volunteer to be part of the interactive productions. They also are invited to dress up in medieval attire for a chance to win a prize.
Starting with two performances annually, A Taste of Murder Productions has increased that number by one this year, Andruski said.
A very different production is also taking place this month, as another component of Arts on the Green, Gaithersburg’s performing and visual arts center. Arts Barn, in partnership with Wildwood Summer Theatre, is offering the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy that ran on Broadway in 2005.
Music and lyrics are by William Finn, and Rachel Sheinkin wrote the book. It contains no violence, only spirited competition.
The show centers on a fictional spelling bee at the fictional Putnam Valley Middle School. Not ambiguous is the fact that the six student contestants are quirky, as are the grownups running the competition.
There is an interactive component in the musical as well. Four real audience members are invited on stage to compete alongside the six students.
“Putnam County Spelling Bee” has enjoyed international productions, and the original Broadway production has spawned others in its nature, such as “the adult night at the Bee,” a version of the performance that’s adults-only. However, said Director Abigail Olshin, the Wildwood production will follow traditional lines.
Taylor Litofsky is playing Logainne “Schwarzy,” the youngest and most politically aware speller, who often interjects comments about current political figures. Schwarzy’s home situation is a little unusual for the time: she has two gay fathers, who push her to win at any cost.
The other contestants consider her odd, Litofsky said, but it is not as if the rest of the contestants do not have trouble adjusting.
This is the second production for Litofsky, a Rockville native who is a rising sophomore at Ohio State University, is participating in at Wildwood. Last year, she performed in “Little Women.”
“Putnam County is a great show,” she said. “All the characters are so full of life and energy. I look young, so I often get cast in kids’ roles. And I have enough energy to channel into the character.”
What may be the most difficult task about playing Schwarzy is that she has attention deficit disorder, with a thousand things going in her head. At the same time, she is “put together.”
“It’s fun to do a comedic role, and it’s lucky the show is written so well,” said Litofsky.
“Calamity in Camelot” runs one weekend, July 26-28. It is recommended for ages 15 and up.
“The Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs July 26-Aug. 3. It is recommended for ages 14 and older.
Kentlands Mansion Dessert Theater is located at 320 Kent Square Road. The Arts Barn is at 311 Kent Square Road. www.gaithersburgmd.gov/recreation/arts-on-the-green.