Gavin Rulon, myself and Mark Tumey as Alfred, Jules and Joseph in “My Three Angels” at The Belfry

It’s been 19 months since I have had the opportunity to be in a play, as opposed to directing one. The last time was in Fools by Neil Simon – at The  Belfry. This time it’s My Three Angels, again at The Belfry in Noblesville, directed by Jeff Bick, who also acted in Fools.

There is always something a bit special about doing a show at The Belfry -also known as Hamilton County Theatre Guild. Founded over 45 years ago, they foster a real feeling of family there. They have a core group of actors, directors, producers and stagecrafters who always seem to either have just done a show, be doing a show, or are getting the next show ready for production. A lot of talent puts a lot of energy into all the projects there and when I have had the good fortune to work on a show at The Belfry – it has always been a very good experience. My Three Angels will be my 6th appearance on stage there. I play one of the three ‘angels’ – Jules.

The production, which opens on the day after Thanksgiving – Nov 23rd – is in the final two weeks of rehearsal. Putting a show together is always a challenge, whether as a director or an actor. Obviously, an actor has a different set of responsibilities – memorizing lines and blocking being the stiffest challenge. But one must also work on characterization and on being part of the ensemble, which is such a big part of a successful show. Luckily I am working closely with two friends who are playing the other two ‘angels’, Mark Tumey and Gavin Rulon. I had the pleasure of directing Gavin in “Almost, Maine” last season at CCP and although I have never worked on any shows with Mark, I have known him for a number of years. This familiarity makes a huge difference in putting our part of the show together.

The three of us play convicts who are incarcerated in 1910 French Guiana, and who have been working fixing the roof on the home/shop of Felix and Emilie Ducotel, failing merchants whose daughter, Marie Louise, also lives there. Our position on the roof allows us to hear some of the troubles this family faces and from the onset we work together trying to preserve the family’s small successes and helping give them hope for an even better life. A backdrop of the Christmas holidays provides an additional sense of hopefulness as we go head to head with Felix’s hard-nosed cousin Henri and his nephew, Paul, whom Marie Louise loves. The comedy was popular in the mid-40’s and was the basis for the movie “We’re Not Angels” in the mid-50’s.

As we move toward not having the scripts in our hands, the show’s magical quality is really starting to take shape. Jeff Bick seems to have a well organized plan to guide us to his goal. It is obvious that he has fully studied the play and he brings a firm understanding of what he wants to the rehearsal sessions. As an actor, I really appreciate that and the finished production should be that much better for it.

Belfry mainstays Ryan Shelton and Fran Knapp play the Ducolets. Their daughter, Marie Louise is played by Becca Wenning who appeared in last season’s production of Titanic. Veteran actor Paul Haskins plays the hard-nosed cousin Henri Trochard and Belfry newcomer John Whitaker plays his nephew Paul. Linda Goeke and Cameron Clark round out the cast as Madame Parole and the Lieutenant.

People always ask me which I enjoy more, acting or directing. I always have to say how lucky I feel to have opportunities to do both. The two sides are such differing practices of theatre art. When I am directing I am so glad to have the control and the chance to put my vision onstage. (And I don’t have to memorize any lines!) Conversely, when I am acting, I get the chance to be someone else within a director’s vision and I am happy not to have all the control and the responsibilities that go with it. And once the work of learning lines is accomplished – it is really fun to play onstage. So it’s a tie!

I encourage all of you to make a visit to Noblesville and the Belfry Theatre be part of your holiday season. This show is funny, heart-warming and is really well cast and well-crafted. We open November 23rd and play on Nov 24, 30 and Dec 1,2,7,8 & 9. To make reservations call the theatre at 317-773-1085. Reservations have been rolling in, so be sure to make your plans soon. See you there!