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Belfry ‘Lilies of the Field’ Actor Wanted to Do Poitier Role ‘Justice’

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
DéJon LéTray Marshall-Fisher as Homer Smith, the traveling handyman who stops in to help the nuns build a chapel, opposite Kim O’Mara, who plays her first lead role as the Mother Maria Marthe, during The Belfry Theatre’s production of “The Lilies of the Field” play, on stage Friday through Sunday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Actor Sidney Poitier died just three days before The Belfry Theatre’s cast members of “The Lilies of the Field” had their first read-through of the script that has been rehearsed for the past 10 weeks.

Poitier, 94, was the lead actor in the 1963 film of the same name, “Lilies of the Field,” about a handyman helping a group of German-speaking nuns build a chapel. That story is now being told in The Belfry Theatre’s upcoming production of the play, which opened last Friday and continues through this Sunday. It’s the third show in Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s 57th season, and the show is dedicated to Poitier, acknowledged in the show’s playbill.

A Gary, Ind.-born actor by the name of DéJon LéTray Marshall-Fisher plays Poitier’s lead role of Homer Smith, the handyman, in the eight performances of The Belfry play. “He’s such a wonderful character to play, and definitely one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played,” Marshall-Fisher, 32, said, calling it “an amazing experience.”

He said, “Going into the role, I’ve honestly never read the play, or seen the movie, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

The actor said, “It’s a story about faith that needs to be told over and over again, especially in our current climate in this world.”

Marshall-Fisher said, “After doing more research on my character … I found that he plays the guitar and sings, and after finally seeing the movie, knowing that the icon Sidney Poitier won an Oscar (the first African-American male to win an Oscar) playing the same character, Homer Smith, in the movie version, I knew that I had huge shoes to fill in order to live up to his iconic performance.”

I attended a performance of the play last Saturday afternoon and found Marshall-Fisher’s appearance quite enjoyable. My high school sophomore daughter reviewed the play for theater class thespian points. She praised the actor for his “great projection throughout the production and incredible facial expressions.”

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Homer Smith (standing, played by DéJon LéTray Marshall-Fisher) — a traveling handyman who stops in to help nuns build a chapel — gathers at the table with Sister Elizabeth (Jan Jamison, from left) Sister Gertrud (Judy McGroarty), Mother Maria Marthe (Kim O’Mara), Sister Agnes (Jan Borcherding) and Sister Albertine (Diane Reed) in a scene from the cast of Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s production of “The Lilies of the Field,” on stage through Sunday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Thinking back to Poitier’s death at the beginning of Belfry rehearsals in January, Marshall-Fisher said, “I knew that I was going to use every fiber of my being to do his role justice, and make him proud up there in heaven. Now, I’m not a singer nor am I a guitar player, so after landing the role, I found it challenging trying to learn how to play the guitar in a few weeks.”

He said, “As for the singing, I do that best when I’m in the shower, so knowing ahead of time that I’d be singing in front of a live crowd had me feeling a bit nervous, but after learning the lyrics and going through the song, I find that the singing scene is actually my favorite.” And he does seem quite comfortable singing on stage.

In 2020, Marshall-Fisher was cast in “A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Nancy Lafferty at Westfield Playhouse, playing the role of Walter Lee Younger, another Poitier role in a 1961 film of the same name. But three days before “A Raisin in the Sun” opened, the March 2020 show was postponed, then later canceled, due to the Covid pandemic.

He learned about the Belfry “Lilies” play after props mistress Susie Walden told him about the part. “I knew that I absolutely had to land this role,” Marshall-Fisher said. It’s his first role for The Belfry.

The Indiana State University graduate has a college major in Theatre for Acting and a minor in Communications.

“Now, I must say that, in this role, I’m not trying to be the next Sidney Poitier but definitely the first DéJon LéTray,” he said. “Our rendition of ‘The Lilies of the Field’ is definitely different than what most people are probably expecting, but that’s the joy of it. We’ve crafted a beautiful show, and I can’t wait ‘til to show everyone exactly what we’ve done with this amazing play.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.