Mt. Juliet will be represented in Adams this month when local actors Ann and Brad Kavanaugh and director Joel Meriwether take part in the annual Bell Witch Fall Festival.
The festival, which takes place in October each year, will feature a play called “Spirit,” which is based on accounts by John Bell. The play opens Oct. 17 and runs Thursday through Saturday, ending Oct. 26.
Each fall since 2002, David Alford’s play, “Spirit: The Authentic History of the Bell Witch of Tennessee,” has been produced on the grounds of the Bell School in Adams. The school is located on land settled by John Bell where the hauntings took place.
Brad, 12, plays young Joel Bell in the professional production of "Spirit”. He has been acting on stage since he was 3, he said when he debuted in a play called, “Scattered, Smothered and Covered” (the Waffle House story), at Nashville Dinner Theatre. Hollywood actress Joyce Dewitt starred in the show.
He’s also increased his resume over the years, performing in “The Wind in the Willows” with Mt. Juliet’s Encore Theatre Company,
Brad said he has also performed in a number of shows at Stoner Creek Elementary. In addition to acting, he also sings in various shows.
In the play, Brad’s character is 5 years old. However, because Brad is 12, Meriwether increased the age to 9 years of age, Ann said.
“I like how it’s about the history back then,” Brad said. “I like how there are all these different theories about (the Bell Witch). Was it a hoax? Was it real? No one truly knows except (for the Bell family that was impacted by the witch).”
Ann plays Lucy Bell, the wife of John Bell, in the show. Brad is playing her son, “which is kind of cool,” she said.
Ann, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, has performed across the country as a professional actress before re-settling in Middle Tennessee.
“I did regional theatre, dinner theatre, whatever kind of theatre would pay,” she said. “I was in Los Angeles, in Kansas, all over. I would do voice overs, (films for industries), commercials and just a little bit of everything.”
Meriwether is the artistic director for Rogue Stage Ensemble. In 1988 he was among a group of theatre artists who founded the first live theatre venue in Mt. Juliet and was also part of the ensemble that started Encore Theatre Company in Mt. Juliet 12 years ago.
He has acted in more than 100 theatre productions at the community theatre and professional levels.
His first directing project was with the now-defunct Chapel Playhouse in Lebanon, where he directed “Arsenic and Old Lace” in 1987. He has recently directed three plays for Encore and three plays for his Rogue Stage Ensemble in Nashville.
“I have always been drawn to the dark side theatrically and really prefer to direct dramas and plays that involve suspense and the supernatural,” Meriwether said. “I’m a life-long fan of the Bell Witch legend, having read every book I can get my hands on about the great Tennessee ghost story.”
Ann said that the actors had what could be an experience with the witch during a photo shoot. The photographer went to move a table during the shoot and when she did, the lights went out.
“(The play) will be a fun thing to do in October, gearing up to Halloween,” Ann said. “I think it is definitely worth the drive. It’s about an hour from here to there. It’s going to be really cool. It’s outdoors in a pavilion at the Bell School. (The play) is going to be a little eerie.”