By: Adriana Avila, Staff Reporter
Theater Performs ‘Haunting of Hill House’ as Fundraiser
A benefit performance of a play based on Shirley Jackson’s 1963 novel “The Haunting of Hill House” will be held at The Aux Dog Theater, said Liberal Arts graduate and play director Lori Stewart.
The money raised at the Halloween night performance will be donated to the theater for renovations and day-to-day expenses, said Stewart.
“Just the utility cost alone on a building that size is outrageous,” Stewart said.
This special performance will include a costume contest, she said.
She agreed to direct Hill House because she loves a good ghost story and Shirley Jackson’s writing, said Stewart. She read the novel before reading the script and had many ideas on how to produce the piece, she said.
“It seems like a really fun piece for Halloween,” Stewart said.
The play is not horror as many people think, but more of a thriller with lots of suspense, she said.
Chemical Engineering major Heather Donovan said she has been acting in theater since she was a kid. She was cast as the charismatic Theodora.
“She’s sassy, sarcastic and she’s very sure of herself,” said Donovan.
Some of her friends see her as Theodora but it is somewhat of a challenge because she wants to bring more than just her own personality to the role, said Donovan.
“I’ve got to bring certain aspects of myself to the role but not turn it into Heather on the stage when it should be Theo,” Donovan said, “It’s a really fun role to play. It’s a lot of work, but it’s not hard.”
The actors do their own makeup and Stewart designed the costumes, she said. Stewart took pieces from actors’ personal closets and looked for clothes from all around, said Donovan.
“She takes from secondhand stores, from places where she can find them for a reasonable price,” Donovan said.
The set is dark and gothic. There is no way to describe it well; people would have to go and see it to understand the turn of the century look and feel, said Donovan.
There are special effects built in to the set because the house is supposed to be haunted and there are certain things that happen in the play, she said.
“The doors close on their own, there are various sound effects that not only come through the speakers,” Donovan said, “There are actually sound effects coming from the house and pictures moving by themselves and things like that.”
Mrs. Montegue is played by Art major Ninette Mordaunt, who said she has been in theater pretty much all of her life as well as playing music.
Every once in a while she gets to do a musical which is fun and a good way to do both, she said.
Her character is the wife of the psychological researcher Dr. Montegue. She said she comes in before the end of the last scene of act one, she said.
“I provide the comic relief, I guess you could say,” Mordaunt said, “I come in and change things around a little bit.”
The play is more true to the book because in the film Mrs. Montegue does not appear, she said.
“The play is true to the story Shirley Jackson wrote at the core of the story,” Mordaunt said, “Obviously you can’t get everything into a play but the basic story is there and the most important characters are in the play.”
Mrs. Montegue’s character is domineering and self-righteous and she thinks she knows the proper way to do psychological research, she said.
“She wants to impose her views and her message on the rest of the group and she comes in and wants to take over everything,” Mordaunt said, “She’s a very controlling person.”
It is a fun role to play and while some like Donovan said their characters are extensions of themselves, Mordaunt said it is not true for her.
“She’s bigger than life and in a way it’s easier to play a character which is a little bit extreme than it is to play somebody that is really close to you on stage,” Mordaunt said, “This is just a fun role to get lost in and you get to be a little bit crazy and that’s okay.”
The physical experience of the show is great and fun to watch, she said.
“I hope people go and enjoy the play,” Mordaunt said, “The characters and special effects are worth it.”
Tickets for the one-night benefit performance of “The Haunting of Hill House” are $20 and can be purchased at auxdog.com. The show begins at 8 p.m.
“Ticket sales are usually not enough to make theater happen on a community level. We really rely on people who donate their money or products and services,” said Stewart.