Having recently relocated to a new area of the country, and with the demise of winter, I have been out exploring. A lot. I found another local playhouse, The Belfry in Noblesville. Getting to The Belfry was a little bit of a trek for me. Combined with end of the week commuter traffic, I started to wonder if this outing was such a good idea.
It turns out it was. The parking for the venue is less than ideal. Basically a gravel lot and the lawn. But once I was inside, things changed.
The theatre is located in a former church. An old church. Back when the area was very uncongested. In other words, the building is a small, intimate venue. The audience is packed in eight rows of seating. “Perfect”, I thought, reminded of the intimate theatre experience I had several months ago in the historic home of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States.
The performance got off to a slightly rocky start, beginning before the appointed time. The actors came down the aisles from the top, performing scenes as they walked to the front. Some audience members were scrambling to get to their seats, which was a bit of a challenge in such a compact venue with actors acting in the aisles.
Then the play started on the stage. And I was delighted. I had read the book and watched the movie eons ago. I knew the storyline. Yet I sat enthralled by the actors’ performance and weaving of the story. And dismayed by the courtroom result.
While all the actors were outstanding (and it was a large cast), a few really stood out. Jack Hittle was captivating as Atticus Finch, the lawyer father. He weaved a spell inside the courtroom and out. Gloria Merrell commanded the stage throughout the play. She was perfect as Scout, the daughter to Atticus, an outspoken tomboy. Tina Humphrey as Calpurnia the cook cajoled and regaled Scout with barrages of reprimands, which left the audience laughing. Katelyn Maudlin shone, giving an emotional performance as Mayella Ewell, the abused daughter in the awkward position of having to take the stand to condemn a black man for attacking her rather than admit to her making advances on him and the subsequent beating by her father.
While The Belfry’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird has run its course, the theatre stages productions year-round. If To Kill a Mockingbird is indicative of the level of performance that The Belfry stages, then I can recommend that you take in a production or two of theirs. Only perhaps carpool, if possible.