Perched on an overhang above everyone’s heads, Boots the cat looked down on the scene unfolding below. The mustachioed cat peered at a person assuming the role of a musician, as she questioned the one playing a therapist. The latter gasped at the accusation: A murder! In the cat café!
The felines of the Crooked Tail Cat Café in Greensboro watched on as the venue transformed into a fictional crime scene on Saturday. Drag queens Roseanna Thorne and Regina Kelly assisted the café in hosting an interactive murder mystery. As each guest walked in the door, the duo and staff greeted the new cast members with envelopes. Inside, they found cat-punny aliases, and roles for the night. As time went on, more rounds of enveloped clues went out, and each guest had to mingle to piece together the scene.
The café hopes that events like this will keep their regulars interested and draw in new visitors. Owner Karen Stratman explains the programs add variety, but also help fundraise for the upkeep of their facilities, including the Greensboro location and the newer spot in Winston-Salem.
“It’s a nice break from what we normally do,” Stratman said.
One wall of the Greensboro location displays a collage of cats with their new families, surrounding a chalkboard with that venue’s number of adoptions. Over the two years, the business found homes for 157 cats. Stratman says between both locations, the number is higher.
“It’s 200 between the two stores,” Stratman said.
Stratman set the scene as a detective, in her own costumed persona. She revealed that her real self had been murdered, the body hidden under bags of kitty litter. As people wondered how to start their own investigations, Roseanna and Regina slipped into conversations, approaching people alone or sticking together to drop a name or point a finger. The two queens first volunteered for Crooked Tail around half a year ago and have since hosted several events. The Crooked Tail even served as the pair’s inspiration to step into the drag world.
“These have been our debut in drag,” Roseanna said.
A grey cat flicked his head back and forth, watching a woman sitting on a nearby couch reveal casually that her lawyer character represented Regina. The feline turned his head again as the remark earned a wag of Stratman’s magnifying glass. A defensive comment from Regina caused the cat’s ears to perk up as he followed the action.
The feline residents of the café motivate the drag queen duo. They aim to draw new visitors, and new potential adoptions. Regina and Roseanna recounted a routine event where a guest had clicked with a cat, and put in an application for adoption. With an approval, the guest provided a place for the feline days later. The pair credited that event with solidifying their roles at Crooked Tail, performing drag for a cause.
“That’s the biggest hope in this process: to find little homes for these guys,” Thorne said.
A ginger cat named George climbed up a small tower, tucking his legs under him, as the guests named suspects. Employees Spencer Kodadek and McLellan Corum found their involvement with the café turned into reasons for accusations, with both insisting their innocence. George the cat flicked his tail playfully, watching as a witness claimed seeing Kodadek’s reporter character coated in dust, some believing to be kitty litter. A new guest’s argument against Stratman came out during another round of clues, leaving even Stratman in the dark during the whodunit.
In the midst of cat-centric chaos, names flew around. A doctor visited the café early the day of the crime. A publicist felt scorned over unanswered emails and voice messages. Yet, as visitors left their final accusations, Kodadek found the attention shifted to his dust-covered character, seen at the scene of the crime. He grimaced as Stratman announced the verdict of guilty.
“I didn’t come here intending to be a murderer,” Kodadek said to the crowd, “—at all!”