The Dainty Dames | Murder Mysteries For Everyone

Forensics and comedy collide like never before

Written by

Gabriella Madden

Photographed by

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Photographed by Lauren Desberg.

Murder mysteries are having their moment. With the rise of movies and shows like Knives Out and Poker Face, the genre has never been more in demand like it is now. Enter the Dainty Dames, a woman owned business that hosts interactive murdery mystery parties with a variety of different themes. Founded by Renee Dorian and Jillian Burgos, the company is composed of over 15 actors who all participate in the various murder mystery themes, including Old Hollywood and an ‘80s themed mystery. 

Burgos and Dorian both have extensive resumes both in and out of the acting worlds, with Dorian having a handful of roles on Nickelodeon and other popular shows, and Burgos launching a political career in Los Angeles running for City Council District 2. The company also features other interactive experiences such as: children's mysteries (no murder involved), improv, on the move scavenger hunt/show, custom shows, photography, photobooth services, and event planning.

Normally, two degrees in theatre and forensic anthropology don’t go together, but in this case, they absolutely do. Burgos graduated from The Ohio State University with degrees in Theatre and Forensic Anthropology, and with Dorian’s background in production, they came up with the idea for the Dainty Dames in 2014. Clients can choose between a theme on their website, or the team can write a custom show based on location, guests, event, etc. It’s an immersive experience with games, puzzles, and other crime-solving activities that keep guests laughing and engaged throughout the night. 

They’ve become the one-stop shop for party entertainment. With the resurgence of who-dunnits in popular media, people want to be challenged with the task of stopping a killer dead in their tracks, with a handful of laughs along the way. Think of your favorite Rian Johnson movie, multiply it with a comedy show, then add your friends, family and coworkers. The result is Dainty Dames. Flaunt sat down with Burgos and Dorian to discuss what goes on behind the scenes, and inspirations for the company.

How did you get into the murder mystery business?  

Jillian: I moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to get away from the winters of the midwest.  Shortly after I auditioned for Renee, who was managing another murder mystery company at the time. To be honest, I thought I blew my audition, but Renee hired me! Within a year or so I became assistant director. We left that company to start our own after being commissioned to write a custom show. Our vision was to create a higher caliber of customizable murder mystery shows with strong women characters that uplift all genders and people of color all while sprinkling in some improv. With my degree in theatre and forensic anthropology and Renee's background as an actor/writer, it just felt like a natural progression. 

Renee: In 2009, a good friend of mine who used to work for another Murder Mystery Company in Chicago told me they wanted to franchise. They were looking for someone to run the LA branch, so she referred me to them. I ran that Company as the West Coast Director for 5 years. Then in 2014 Jillian and I embarked on our own endeavor where we started Dainty Dames Events. There are so many limitations and just not as much creative freedom when running someone else's business. Now, Jillian and I get to do everything in our Company, and we are seeing amazing results. Not only do we run the business side; working with all of our clients to ensure each event is unique and catered to their liking, but we are also the Creative Team; writing, directing, and acting (sometimes still) lol.

What makes the perfect murder mystery?

Jillian: The perfect murder mystery comes from experience (wink). In all seriousness, I think that our murder mystery shows captivate people because we create tightly woven relationships. You have to have characters that pull at your heartstrings and characters who could drive you to ...kill. Also, I love entwining bits of reality, especially current events into our shows! Sometimes, it gets political in unexpected ways, but we also remember to add comedy to our fabric. Murder isn't inherently funny, but often laughter is what helps us get through the most horrific times of our lives. Our shows grow and change over time, just like people. 

Renee: Well you have to have fun characters! If your characters aren't unique or specific, then you're going to have a pretty boring show. Also, the setting. What is the time period? Where are we? Why is this night so special? These are usually all the questions we ask each other before we even begin writing. Then once we have created the characters or should I say "suspects" then our answers sort of begin to answer themselves. Why would this person do it? What did they have to gain? Then the clues will begin to reveal themselves in our minds because now we see why this suspect is suspicious and why this one isn't. 

Renee: The best murder mysteries are not the ones where you automatically know who the killer is, and it is also not the least likely person either. There has to be a sweet balance where you think you know the answer but then you doubt yourself. Those are always my favorite moments, going "ohhh I know who it is", then saying "shoot, maybe it's not them, it's maybe this person!" In our Company, we always say if we have at least 1 - 3 tables out of 10 to get it correct, then we know we are doing this right. 

What are your top 5 murder mystery movies/TV shows, and why?

Jillian: This question is tough! 

Renee: It is tough!

Jillian: The writer, director and detective in me always unravels the murderer before the reveal so most times I have to watch just for enjoyment. 

Renee: I feel like I go back and forth on it, but then I always call it out. My husband has asked me to stop doing that because I ruin it for him. One moment I'll never forget is seeing the movie The Gift with him, I called out the ending not even half way through the movie saying it as more of a joke, and I was exactly right. He will never let me live that down now when we watch mystery TV or movies. 

Jillian: My top 5 could change on any given day. But as of right now, I would have to say (not in any particular order):

  1. Memento: It's terrifying to think of having to solve a murder that you are accused of, all while having amnesia.  It raises the stakes. 
  2. True Detective (Season 1): Super dark and the plot twists were a fun treat.
  3.  Clue: How could this not be on anyone's list?! This is classic textbook murder mystery. I love that they originally wrote alternate endings and released it in different theaters. 
  4. The Shining Girls: Time traveling multiverse murder mystery? Yes, please.
  5. Bodies Bodies Bodies: It's a fun, campy good time!

Renee: Oh my god I loved Bodies, Bodies, Bodies... crap! And CLUE of course! There's just too many!  Ok first I have to say, as a kid I began my Murder Mystery obsession with the board game CLUE. LOL I STILL LOVE that board game and always vote for it on Game Night. I'm definitely more into the darker Murder Mysteries. I like the ones that feel more like True Crime than your fun, campy ones. But of course Clue is a classic. 

So here's my list:

  1. True Detective (1st Season) is hands down one of my all time favorites. This show felt so raw and it was unique when it came out. Also, the Director made such a gritty crime drama look so beautiful. 
  2. Se7en -  I remember the first time seeing this film and just being so captivated by it. It really stuck with me.
  3. Unbelievable - Not a MURDER mystery but still a crime mystery that I thought was absolutely brilliant and had to binge. Love that this centers around 3 Female leads. Also, let's just praise how many women worked on this show. Creators, Writers, Directors, Producers and more. When TV/Film have shows that center around women's stories/issues, it's so imperative that we are given the chance to be part of the narrative.
  4. Black Bird - (SPOILERS AHEAD) Ohhhh this was another binge show! I LOVED the back and forth on whether Larry Hall did it or didn't! 
  5. Serial - Absolutely was obsessed with the 1st season of the Podcast when it came out. It was so unique and the first of its kind in the narrative podcast realm. I couldn't stop listening.

Photographed by Lauren Desberg

Make-up: Kseniya Bernkhardt

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The Dainty Dames, Renee Dorian, Jillian Burgos