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What’s So Funny About ‘Drinking Habits?’

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Jeff Haber, Barb Weaver, Cathie Morgan and Jennifer Poynter, dressed as nuns, enjoy some crazy antics in The Belfry Theatre’s “Drinking Habits,” opening Friday and continuing through July 3 at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Nancy Lafferty loves to laugh, and that’s why she likes “Drinking Habits.”

Even the play title is a conversation starter, said Lafferty, who helped design a purple “Drinking Habits” souvenir shirt, another conversation starter, for The Belfry Theatre’s final production, opening Friday, in the theater’s 2021-22 regular season.

Lafferty, who chose the comedy in 2019 before the pandemic, said, “I directed mostly comedies when I taught high school theater, because my students and their parents liked to laugh.”

She had not directed a farce like “Drinking Habits” for The Belfry. “And I felt like it was time that I did,” she said.

“As we all know, the pandemic came, and ‘Drinking Habits’ was canceled for the 2020 season, as well as the 2021 season. So I am thrilled that we are finally able to get this delightful show in front of an audience this season.”

“Drinking Habits” opens Friday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium, a 300-seat venue in Noblesville, and continues a total of eight performances, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through July 3. Tickets are still available.

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Jeff Haber and Sarah Powell , Jennifer Poynter and Cathie Morgan rehearse for The Belfry Theatre’s “Drinking Habits,” a zany comedy by Tom Smith, June 24-July 3 at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

“This show has been hilarious to me since I first read it in 2018. I laugh at rehearsal every single day,” Lafferty said. “There are certain lines in this play that cause me to laugh so hard I almost fall out of my seat. It took the actors a long time to endure my laughter without breaking character and laughing themselves.”

Having directed many comedies as a high school teacher, she knows good comedy.

“The key to a successful comedy onstage is to have actors with excellent comic timing, good stage movement and great facial expressions,” Lafferty said. During auditions for this show, she paid close attention to those three elements.

“I created an audition experience that would allow me to see who would be most expressive with their bodies and faces and which actors had excellent comic timing.”

Turnout for auditions was good for this show, which has a cast of eight. “I believe I selected the best of the group. Now, there were other actors who had comic timing or excellent facial expressions, or good stage movement, but these eight actors had all of those abilities.”

She said another important element that leads to successful comedy onstage is “to have actors who are willing to be silly and do whatever it takes to bring the comic movement to life.”

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Sarah Eberhardt and  Bryan Gallet have fun as they rehearse for The Belfry Theatre’s “Drinking Habits,” a zany comedy by Tom Smith, June 24-July 3 at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Lafferty said, “All of these actors in ‘Drinking Habits’ are willing to not only be silly but to look silly. That takes humility and a true understanding of what makes something funny.”

Of the eight, she’s directly only two members of this cast before, Barb Weaver of Noblesville and Cathie Morgan of Carmel. Weaver and Morgan appeared together in “Done to Death,” a Belfry play that Lafferty directed in 2017, along with an independent project they did together in 2020, when they performed “The Women of Lockerby” at an outdoor venue during the pandemic.

The other six actors are all new to Lafferty, although she had seen three of them — Chris Taylor, Jen Poynter and Sara Eberhardt — on stage prior to auditions.

“So, it’s true what they say: You never know who is in the audience when you are performing,” Lafferty said.

Directors often attend plays just to “scout out” the talent, said Lafferty, who had not seen the remaining actors, Jeff Haber, Sarah Powell and Bryan Gallet, until the first night of auditions.

Husband and wife, Mason Odle and Andrea Odle of Noblesville, have created a beautiful set, designed by Ian Marshall-Fisher of Indianapolis. The Odles constructed the set on The Belfry stage, then dismantled it, transported the set to Ivy Tech and reassembled it, with the help of cast and several other great friends of theater, she said.

Some of the costumes for the show, Lafferty said, designed by Cathie Morgan, were borrowed from Grace Church in Noblesville. Some of the costumes were borrowed from The Players club of nonprofessional actors known for doing skits and short plays. Some costumes were made by Morgan.

Eric Dixon of Indianapolis and Sloan Haywood of Fishers are handling sound with wireless mic management by Geoff Lynch of Noblesville. Eric Matters of New Palestine designed the lighting, being operated by Andrew Young of Fishers. Props are provided by Susie Walden of Noblesville.

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Barb Weaver (left) and Chris Taylor enjoy some crazy antics in The Belfry Theatre’s “Drinking Habits,” a zany comedy by Tom Smith, June 24-July 3 at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Lafferty loves directing.

“I see my job as director to do just a few simple things,” she said. “Help the actors to feel welcome to the project, valued, respected and prepared.  If I can do that, then they can do their job. My job is to help them look the best they can onstage, and so, of course, I have to correct them. And it’s how you correct them that often makes the difference. If I scream at them, they aren’t likely to respond well. If I let them do whatever they want, things might get out of control. If I respectfully address what needs to be adjusted, they seem to respond well.”

Lastly, Lafferty said she would be remiss if she did not speak “about the joy of working with Andrea Odle. Andrea has been a remarkably helpful assistant director/stage manager. “She sees a need and fills it. She makes my job infinitely easier, because she thinks like a director and knows the process.”

She loves theater and all of its facets. “I love what working on a project teaches us about people and about being part of a group. I love what happens to us as we pull together to create a piece of art that will help people when they watch it. I love watching the audience watch what we did. I love hearing the laughter of an audience. I love the feeling of accomplishment when the last light fades at the end of the show.”

Lafferty is ready for opening night and every night after that, as the cast and crew are prepared to share this hilarious story of “Drinking Habits” with Belfry audiences.

“This production of ‘Drinking Habits’ is quickly rising to the category of favorites for me, a catalog of hundreds of shows directed for 50 years. I like this production because, now, more than ever, we need to laugh. It’s that simple. And now, more than ever, we directors need reliable, dedicated actors to revive theater. And I have that special group of actors this time. They are humble, they are committed, and they are exceptionally good people and good actors.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Betsy Reason is co-producing this play with Diane Wilson of Carmel.

Want TO GO?

What: Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s Belfry Theatre presents “Drinking Habits,” a comedy by Tom Smith and directed by Nancy Lafferty.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, June 24-July 3.

Where: The Ivy Tech Auditorium, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville.

How much: $17 for adults, $14 for ages 12 and younger and ages 65 and older.

Reservations: 317-773-1085 or visit https://www.thebelfrytheatre.com/

Meet THE CAST

Sally — Sarah Powell, Indianapolis.

Paul — Jeff Haber, Indianapolis.

Sister Philamena — Cathie Morgan, Carmel.

Sister Augusta — Jennifer Poynter, Carmel.

Mother Superior — Barb Weaver, Noblesville.

Father Chenille — Chris Taylor, Frankfort.

George — Bryan Gallet, Indianapolis.

Sister Mary Catherine — Sarah Eberhardt, Fishers.

Meet THE CREW

Director — Nancy Lafferty, McCordsville.

Assistant Director/Stage Manager — Andrea Odle, Noblesville.

Co-Producers — Betsy Reason, Noblesville, and Diane Wilson, Carmel.

House manager — Teresa Peil, Noblesville.

Costumer — Cathie Morgan, Carmel.

Lighting Designer — Eric Matters, New Palestine.

Lighting Operator — Andrew Young, Fishers.

Sound Designer and Operator — Eric Dixon, Indianapolis.

Props Designer — Susie Walden, Noblesville.

Set Design — Ian Marshall-Fisher, Indianapolis.

Set Construction — Mason Odle, Noblesville.