Frank Marquette, actor, re-enactor and re-creator of local history, might wear more costumes in a week than an entire preschool does on Halloween. It also could be argued that Marquette has made a place for himself in the community by stabbing people in the back. Is that a compliment? Read on …
Where are you from?
I was born in New York City, in Midtown Manhattan in Hell’s Kitchen, as was my father, grandfather and great-grandfather and we’re all Frank Marquettes!
Where did you live?
I grew up in Midtown Kingston.
What’s your sign?
Libra, and I know enough about it to admit to being a classic Libra.
I am married and Kristen and I have three wonderful daughters.
Where do you live now?
Rosendale, on the Rondout Creek with lots of wildlife.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Dutchess Community College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City for graphic design.
Why are you sometimes seen Uptown in a waistcoat, tri-corn hat and breeches, carrying a lantern?
It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it. Actually during the month of October I’m out and about promoting our “Haunted History” cemetery tours that we do at Old Dutch Church every Friday and Saturday night. Actors portray historic notables of those buried in the Old Dutch cemetery and tell their story.
What the heck is Murder Café?
I’ve had bank tellers ask me that for years. It’s a company devoted to producing and performing comedy murder mysteries. I launched it in Las Vegas in 1998 and we brought to the Hudson Valley in 2009. We produce 40-45 shows a year for the public and for private company parties at a variety of venues, including Mohonk Mountain House and the Beekman Arms. Our shows are not Clue games. We produce well-written mysteries with the best actors available.
What is Theatre on the Road?
It’s a company name we use when people ask, “What the heck is Murder Café?” Actually, it’s a traveling theater company dedicated to producing and performing living history and literature in local schools and historic sites.
How did you get into acting?
My stock answer is, “I was a vaudevillian in another life.” I could actually make a case for that. Like most kids I acted and impersonated what I saw on the screen and stage. The difference is I never outgrew it. Like most actors, I was very shy but in high school I was encouraged to enter an oratorical contest and audition for the senior play. I’ve never looked back.
Tell me the best role you ever played and what made it so great.
Edgar Allan Poe! Through much research and trial and error in performance I was able to find a real person and express his pain, sorrow, motives and humor. During this process I discovered I could break the proverbial “fourth wall” and interact with the audience and create tension by taking long, thoughtful pauses while on stage. It took me decades to learn how to do that.
How do you write a murder mystery?
Quickly! I have written and produced over 12 original murder mystery plays over the past 20 years and at any given time I have ideas for six more floating in my head. I love strong characters and that’s where I begin. I’ll come up with a theme, for example I’m currently working on a “film noir” script that is set in the 1940s, a crime drama that evokes the Bogart and Bacall movies. Once I know who the characters are I create a setting, a series of conflicts, a victim and a murderer. All scripts are about who wants what and what are they willing to do to get it.
What did you do before theater was your fulltime endeavor?
I’ve worked as a graphic designer in the advertising and printing industries for many years and then got into sales and marketing in the newspaper business.
Where do your costumes come from?
My wife Kristen creates most of them, especially the period pieces, and she is so detail-oriented we’ve gotten much praise over the years for our costumes. They are as much a part of the show as the script and the acting. We also collect them from various sources; the local thrift stores and Salvation Army locations know us by name. I’m also a flea market and yard sale kind of guy.
Where do your actors come from? How many actors are with your company?
Our actors live and work in the Hudson Valley, and contrary to some opinion there are damn good actors in our area. The good ones are always in demand so getting commitments from them is crucial. I’m very fortunate to have a core group of 12-15 actors I can call on at any given time and a few of them have been with me for many years.
Tell me the worst performance you ever had, and what made it so awful.
One New Year’s Eve I opened for a band playing an old-school standup comic named Jerry Sax. He was a character I had created for a scripted show and he had always gotten laughs. This time out I misread the audience, they wanted music not Jerry and he bombed. It was an odd sensation but one I thought I deserved.
I’m not a fan of the word “hobby,” it conjures activity to fill the time. But, I’ll take a stab at it. I read mysteries and history, watch classic movies, take aimless walks and bike rides and collect books. My passion is painting but that is more than a hobby.
Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?
I was hospitalized for two years between the ages of three and five. I sometimes dream I will once again become that little boy in the hospital bed and the last five decades were nothing but a dream. Mr. Poe would be proud of that one.
Collect anything neat?
Postcards of Kingston, history and picture books of New York, theater books and programs, vinyl albums and classic movies on DVD.
Who writes your murder mystery scripts?
Mostly me, with the help of my wife Kristen, who is the best editor in the business. In addition, a number of people who are part of our troupe have stepped up and written scripts that I have produced, most notably Anika Krempl, Sharon Coughlan and Dana Page.
Hot chocolate, or hot apple cider? You can only pick one.
You were vocal against closing St. Joe’s Catholic school.
What made it so important to you? It was an institution that reinforced the values we were taught at home. The teachers were strict but they played to our strengths. I was lousy at math and science so art, English and history were encouraged. It’s also a place where I made lifelong friends. At this age I hate seeing the forces that made me who I am closing and crumbling.
How has the Kingston uptown community evolved or transitioned over the past 10 years? 10 years? I could go back 50 years to 39-cent banana splits at Woolworth’s, school shoes at Thom McAn’s and a list of the top 40 songs at Abram’s Music Store. To answer your question I’ve seen it transition from Ulster County’s main shopping center to an arts, music and fine dining district. It’s lost a lot of its Kingston identity and I could make a case for it transitioning to Brooklyn North but I’m fine with it. Most mornings I try to make it to outdated café before they run out of scones.
Tell me about a time you took a huge risk.
I moved my family to Las Vegas, Nevada seeking fame and fortune. Within two years I ended up the major accounts manager of the daily newspaper and the owner of Murder Café.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An actor and an artist. I’m almost there!
How would you describe your personality?
Curious, impatient and anxious, distracted, empathetic, energetic, unhappy unless I’m creating something, kind with a touch of cynicism and dash of sarcasm.
What’s your favorite cause to support?
I’ve been involved in a lot of charity work over the years. I would put the food insecure at the top of the list, followed by local historical societies.
What’s your personal motto?
Be afraid of being the same as everyone else.