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The Haunting of Hill House auditions set

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Local veteran stage director Joel Meriwether is gearing up to "scare the wits out of his audience" with his production of Shirley Jackson's paranormal mystery "The Hunting of Hill House."

It will take place at Encore Theatre in October. Meriwether asks actors to audition for the classic on Aug. 21-22 at 6:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre Company, located at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet.

Meriwether said the play is one of his favorites, and he directed it in 2000 for a production house in Nashville. He said "The Haunting of Hill House" is about an anthropologist and a paranormal researcher, Dr. Montague, who brings a group of psychically-receptive individuals to investigate paranormal events at the famous New England haunted Hill House.

Meriwether said Alfred Hitchcock would have loved him.

"Hitchcock was a hero, of sorts, of mine because he fundamentally believed that, as a movie-goer, you have to use your imagination, and anything your brain could create was much scarier than anything he could show you on the big screen. So he chose his set-ups very wisely when he filmed; he made sure he did not give anything away and allowed your imagination to concoct the gruesome. That's one reason why he was so successful as a director."

Meriwether noted author Jackson's novel, published in 1959, was made into a film in 1963.

"It was Hitchcockian, leaving everything to the imagination. I hope to present the stage version in a similar vein and scare our audiences at the same time," said Meriwether. "The 1999 remake was just horrific because the intimacy of the story was lost in the special effects and overwrought production values, which was completely unnecessary. Hollywood producers must think they have to spoon feed modern audiences rather than allowing them to utilize their imagination."

There are seven roles available; three men and four women. Those who wish to audition will read from a script, and headshots and resumes are suggested but not required. After auditions, rehearsals will begin Sept. 6. The show will run Oct. 21-30 at the theatre.

"In 2000, when I directed this play we had a tiny, tiny stage but were sufficiently able to scare the wits out of our audience," Meriwether said. "I really hope to take it to the next level this time around. We'll have more staging area as well. I have more than a few tricks up my sleeves for this production."

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