For 40 years, the Possum Point Players have made an effort to contribute to the cultural diversity and vitality of Sussex County through its live theater experience.

For 40 years, the Possum Point Players have made an effort to contribute to the cultural diversity and vitality of Sussex County through its live theater experience.

Possum Point's longtime commitment to presenting high-quality theater paid off in a major way in its 2013 season, when the theater company sold out all 10 of its productions of the famed musical "Les Misérables," directed by Jim Hartzell, of Georgetown. That historic run marked a first in Possum Point's 40 years. Other highlights from last season included the murder mystery "Curtains" and the "Christmas Belles," a holiday comedy which concluded the season.

Looking to give the community another year of unforgettable performances, Possum has announced the lineup of its 2014 season, and it's one that will involve: mystery ("Laura"), music ("South Pacific"), mayhem ("See How They Run"), maternity ( "Baby") and merriment ("Hollywood Holiday": an original musical styled in a '60s Hollywood Christmas TV special hosted by Ed Sullivan with celebrity guests The Rat Pack, Sonny and Cher, Bing Crosby, and many more).

The first show of the 2014 season is "Laura," a murder mystery that opens at Possum Hall in Georgetown on Jan. 31. In "Laura," Detective Mark McPherson was supposed to reconstruct the life of Laura, a vicious murder victim, but not to the point where he falls in love with her. The show unveils the secret of Laura's death, and her life.

Hartzell − a co-founder of Possum Point, director, actor and set constructor who sits on Possum Point's Artistic Committee − spoke with the Sussex Countian about how he and his colleagues selected the 2014 season's lineup, what the Players will do to enhance patrons' experience, and more.

Q Possum Point kicked off its 2013 season with the murder mystery, "The Psychic." That season also featured two other mysteries. Now in 2014, Possum will begin its 2014 season with another murder mystery in "Laura." Why have murder mysteries been so popular with the Possum Point Players?

A We look for drama, comedy, a Christmas show, a musical and a dinner-theater production. When we look into drama, dramas have the least draw among our patrons. When we do a straight drama, we try to get one that is going to have heavy appeal. For example, we've done "The Glass Menagerie." With our murder mysteries, we classify them as dramas to satisfy those who want a drama since they have a better draw.

Q Why do you think it's been difficult attracting some of your patrons to dramas?

A I guess when people go out into the evening, they generally want to be entertained in a funny way – either they want to see someone singing, they want to watch someone dance or they want to laugh at them. A lot of dramas are heavy and you have to sit there and think about it, and they're difficult to understand. So a lot of times, if it's not a well-known drama, I think the drama is going to be more suitable to the person who's into theater.

Q What criteria do the Artistic, Executive and Reading committees evaluate when deciding the shows they'll select for each season?

A There are a number of things. Number one is the category. We perform shows in the categories of comedy, drama, musical, Christmas and a dinner theater. Number two is audience appeal, which is to say both financially and general audience appeal. We also consider the appropriateness of the performance for our venue. In other words, there are a number of shows, which I'm sure you could imagine, that are too big, too complicated and too complex for the physical space of our theater.

Q For the 2014 season, you're directing "South Pacific," a very popular Broadway show. What attracted you to this production?

A The first person to talk to me about it was Donna DeKuyper, chairwoman of the Artistic Committee. She was saying, "You know, Jim, we outta pay homage to the veterans in World War II, before it's too late." And some would say it's too late now, because you had to be 80 or 90 to have participated in World War II. Nonetheless, there's still enough memory about that, that we think it will have an appeal.

Q Entering the 2014 season, how do you feel you can enhance the experience of your patrons?

A I think that the Possum Point Players have developed an unwritten standard of quality. In doing that, we've attracted the attention of quality performers. So I think how good our shows are is because of the appeal, and the variety we present. With "Les Mis," one of the interesting things was we did 10 shows last fall and we sold all of them out. In my opinion, "Les Mis" was not just a production, it was a magical happening. I think so many things came together, plus the fact that "Les Mis," in my mind, is a show that needs to be intimate and you can't get more intimate than a 184-seat theater where you're practically on top of the actors. You're right there next to them, and you can see their expressions. You're not sitting 60, 70, 80 yards away where you can just barely see their face. The intimacy in our theater, plus the quality of our productions, is what enhances the experience of the audience.

WHAT Possum Point Players present 'Laura'
WHEN 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31; final show date is Sunday, Feb. 9
WHERE Possum Hall, 441 Old Laurel Road, Georgetown
COST $18 for adults; $17 for seniors and students
INFO Visit or call 856-3460