Computers, Christmas, chaos in Belfry opener

Bunny Watson (Sarah Baron), left, provides Ruthie (Katie Gipson) with some ideas on where she can learn more information for her reference work.. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Bunny Watson (Sarah Baron), left, provides Ruthie (Katie Gipson) with some ideas on where she can learn more information for her reference work.. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

For its 50th season, The Belfry Theatre in Noblesville will revive six of its rarer shows from its history including the opening production “The Desk Set.”

“It’s a little exciting and a little intimidating. Fifty years is a big deal. We’re been doing them for a long time. You want to do it right and do right by everyone so they are glad we are still here and glad they came,” director Christy Clinton said.

 “The Desk Set” was previously performed in 1983 and directed by Betty Lou Kyle.

“There’s not many people around that saw the first show. ‘The Desk Set’ was popular in its time,” Clinton said. “I kind of like that it’s old fashioned. It’s a three-act play instead of modern day two acts … There’s a lot of creativity going into this. Nobody’s holding anything back.”

The play is set in the ’50s.

“It brings that era home in ways that are fun and broad,” Clinton said. “The second act is a Christmas party full of alcohol and food. They’re off in other offices dancing and partying. I can’t remember the last time I heard of such a party in an office … It’s fun to see those old ways.”

Clinton said the crux of the story is about the first computer coming in and changing the workplace.

“The office life was very different from today, not only because of computers but also social norms. It is interesting to see all the things that would absolutely not happen today,” said actress Sarah Baron. “One of my favorite things about playing a ’50s era piece is the attire, the silhouettes and accessories are so much fun.”

Baron, who plays Bunny Watson, said the show contains many different characters that are very relatable and have aspects that remind her of her own past and present co-workers. 

“The other thing about this show that makes it a lot of fun to see is the difference between then and now where computers are involved. Today computers are so much a part of everyday life you forget they were not always warmly welcomed,” she said.

Actor John Parks Whitaker said the prophetic nature of the subject matter is fascinating. 

“The play wasn’t written recently about the past. It was written contemporaneously about computers taking over offices and the panic it caused,” he said. “William Marchant managed to find the lighter side and put together a great comedy about the process.”

Whitaker plays the male lead, Richard Sumner.

“My character is fun to play because he starts off on such a high horse and has a long way to fall when things start not going his way,” he said.

Clinton’s cast includes a number of seasoned actors and a few making their debut like Joe Mize as a reporter and Richard Sceniak as a photographer.

“Richard said he might want to try sometime. When he heard there was a part with no lines he said, ‘That’s right up my alley. I want to try that,’” Clinton said.

Other members of “The Desk Set” cast include: Debbie Underwood (Sadel Meyer), Dana Lesh (Peg Costello), Katie Gipson (Ruthie Saylor), Jeff Bick (Abe Cutler), Curtis Bittle (Mr. Bennett), Barb Weaver (The Lady in the Blue Suit), Michael Tooker (Kenny), Valerie Pearce (Elsa), Justin Hoggard (Elsa’s friend), Fran Knapp (Miss Warriner), Deb Coon and M.J. Bick (office workers) and hosts, Emily Stone, Susan Townsend and Michel Jenkins.

“The Desk Set” • The Belfry Theater, 16090 Greenfield Ave., Noblesville • Performances are 8 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27 and Oct. 3, 4, 10 and 11; and 2 p.m. Oct. 5 and 12 • Tickets are $15 and $12 for ages 12 and younger • • 773-1085

Robert Herrington

Managing editor of Current in Noblesville. A 1999 graduate of Noblesville High School, Herrington has been covering Noblesville and Hamilton County as a journalist since 2004. The military brat lived all over the east coast before calling Noblesville home since 1994. He and his wife, Maggie, live in the community with their baby daughter (and youngest Boston Red Sox fan), Caroline. From school board to common council meetings, First Friday events and summer concerts in the city parks, Herrington loves to attend and cover all that Noblesville has to offer.

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