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Ivy Tech Stage is Set for Belfry’s Whodunit

(Photo courtesy of Rob Slaven & Indy Ghost Light Photography)
A gun smokes after being fired on stage by actor Kelly Keller of Fishers during The Belfry Theatre’s “Rehearsal for Murder,” opening Friday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.  

Before and after the show, a gun is locked in a weapons safe.

There is only one actor who touches the gun during the show.

And as a precaution, the actor’s finger is never on the trigger until it is ready to be fired.

Blanks are used, and the gun is never fired directly at the audience.

The gun is a small part of the overall play, not the focus,” said Belfry Theatre actor Kelly Keller of Fishers, who portrays playwright Alex Dennison in The Belfry’s “Rehearsal for Murder,” a murder-mystery whodunit that opens Friday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville and directed by Diane Wilson of Carmel. The first show of Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s 58th season runs through Oct. 2. Tickets are still available.

The play takes place in the 1980s on a Broadway stage. One year following the untimely death of a famous on-screen actress and rising Broadway star, a well-known playwright (and former fiancé of the star) assembles all those who last interacted with the actress in an effort to discover who killed his fiancée. Does he trap the killer, or not?

Wilson, because of her love for murder-mysteries, wanted to direct one, sooner or later. Last year, quite by chance, she happened upon this “Rehearsal for Murder” script. “Since it did incorporate a murder, along with actors and a theater, I felt that I’d hit the jackpot,” she said. “Therefore, I ordered it, and I read it. Immediately, I knew I wanted to direct it; however, I also knew I needed the appropriate venue for the performance. When I learned we’d be here at Ivy Tech, I was very excited, as I knew I had found my ‘empty Broadway theater.’”

(Photo courtesy of Rob Slaven & Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Noblesville’s Eric Bowman, as actors Leo Gibbs and Olivia Carrier, rehearse a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Rehearsal for Murder,” opening Friday.

When Wilson got the chance to direct the whodunit, she didn’t want simulated gunshots, she wanted to use a real gun, which smokes after being fired. Monday night, she seemed pleased as she watched Keller on stage with the gun, giving him instructions to spend a little more time looking at the gun for the benefit of the audience.

While it’s Keller’s first show handling a gun, he said, “I’m completely comfortable with it.”

Fellow cast member and .38 gun owner Eric Bowman of Noblesville, who portrays Broadway actor Leo Gibbs in the play, made certain that the entire cast — made up of 16 including himself all hailing from in and around Hamilton County — would be comfortable using a gun in the play. He owns several firearms and used to shoot competitively when he was younger.

“Only Kelly or myself are ever to touch it, and only he and I have the key to the gun safe,” Bowman said this week as he talked about the logistics of having a gun on stage. The gun leaves the premises each night and is brought back for the show.

Bowman has been involved with three other plays with blanks used on stage. His gun will also be used for the upcoming Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” which he’s directing for Duck Creek Players in October at Elwood Opera House.

The gun they’re using on stage, he said, “has never had anything other than a blank fired through it and there is no ammunition for it on the premises. I actually purchased it solely to be used for instances like this.”

The gun is seen in the beginning of Act I, then comes out again in Act 2 and is not seen again until the gun is “pulled” on “someone” and it is fired. “It will look like it is pointed at someone but in reality it’s pointed toward a wall,” Bowman said.

I don’t remember the last time that The Belfry Theatre presented a murder-mystery whodunit. Or the last time that the audience received a Content Warning for gunshots to be fired during a show. But this will be the first time for The Belfry at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville.

Patrons attending the show need not worry, Bowman said. The gun is not fired until the final 10 minutes of the play. The actor fires the gun once “as a sort of warning shot” then fires again in an onstage “struggle.”

But one thing for sure, Bowman said, “It is very loud.”

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

Want TO GO?

What: Hamilton County Theatre Guild presents The Belfry Theatre’s first show of the 58th season, “Rehearsal for Murder,” a murder-mystery whodunut play, directed by Diane Wilson of Carmel.

When: Opens at 8 p.m. Friday and continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Oct. 2.

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

How much: $20, adults; $15, youth/students and ages 65 and older and military.

Info: 317-773-1085, www.thebelfrytheatre.com

Meet THE CAST

Anna E Blower, Eric Bowman, Olivia Carrier, Alex Dantin, Cindy Duncan, Mason Cordell Hardimon, Kelly Keller, Tanya Keller, Molly Kraus, Kim O’Mara,  Diane Reed, Gideon Roark, Chris Taylor, Ameetha Widdershins and Richard Wilson.

Meet THE CREW

Director, Diane Wilson; Assistant Director, Richard Wilson; Stage Manager, Fran Knapp; Assistant Stage Manager, Anne Auwaerter; Costume Mistress, Tanya Keller; Property Mistress & Assistant Costume Mistress, Molly Kraus; Lighting Designer, Eric Matters; Sound Designer, Geoff Lynch; Microphone & Sound Board Operator, Jaron Hilger; Light Board Operator, Clay Howard; Spotlight Operator, Owen Hilger; Assistant Sound Operator, Benjamin Hilger; Prompter, Diane Reed; Set Design, Diane & Richard Wilson; Set Construction, Richard Wilson; Production Crew Member, Violet Krupa; The Backstage Hands: The Entire Cast; Photographer, Rob Slaven of Indy Ghost Light Photography; and House Manager, Teresa Peil.