‘Sleepy Hollow’ will gallop into the Egyptian Theatre
Washington Irving published the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" in 1820. It is known for the trademark appearance of the Headless Horseman as he terrorized schoolmaster Ichabod Crane.
The story has been read countless times in schools all around the world and has been adapted into animated and live-action films and plays.
One of the more recent adaptations was an original musical by lyricist Jim Christian and composer Tom Edward Clark that premiered at Weber State University in 2009, and was presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival later that year.
Park City will have the opportunity to see "Sleepy Hollow" presented by the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program on Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8.
Kirstie Rosenfield who directs the musical, which was chosen by YouTheatre director Jamie Wilcox, said the production takes some liberties with the original Irving story.
"It actually takes off in the middle of the play and the story become a little extrapolated," Rosenfield explained to The Park Record. "Since the legend itself has been around for a very long time and has been adapted in various incarnations various times. This particular story tries to think about why there was a legend of the Headless Horseman, which is not part of the original tale."
The challenge of presenting "Sleepy Hollow" at the Egyptian stems from the fact that the story has been told and retold throughout the generations, so audience expectations do run high.
"Many people know the story and have seen the cartoon or the movie that are based on it, and theatre can’t reproduce the movie in terms of shock or magic, although the production we’re doing does involve quite a bit of magic and illusion," Rosenfield said. "We are working with Paul Draper, who is a Utah-based magician, on some of those scenes and he is helping us with some magical moments that some of the actors engage in that are very cool.
"Those concepts have introduced the kids to some areas of acting that they may not have otherwise thought about as acting," she said. "In a way illusionists are actors, and it was very exciting for the kids to work with Paul."
While those methods do solve some of the production challenges, they don’t address the other limitations that the actors and actresses need to overcome.
"You can’t have people appear as spirits and such, but that’s part of the fun of seeing how much you can do in a musical like ‘Sleepy Hollow,’" Rosenfield said.
For example, in one part of the show, the Headless Horseman chases Crane and fights with him.
"But all isn’t what it seems to be and a moment later the music changes dramatically and another Headless Horseman shows up," Rosenfield said. "So, we had to have two actors playing the headless horseman in different ways and that was one of the things my brain had to wrap around before I started directing."
Another challenge is working with 29 youth of all ages who at one time and another all appear on stage.
"The stage is not a really big stage to accommodate all these kids moving really fast, and there is not a lot of backstage area for prop storage as well," Rosenfield said. "However, the set designer and lighting designer worked with me to come up with ideas with lighting to lose as little space as possible of the set."
Adding to the stress level is the music.
"This play is also musically demanding, so that’s been a real learning experience for the kids," Rosenfield said. "But they are working with a good music director, Nic Maughan, to help them achieve the best singing they can."
All these little elements have proven rewarding for Rosenfield, who has taught theatre at Utah State University and the University of Utah.
"The thrilling or ‘Aha’ moments come when the actors begin to understand a technique or what their characters are really trying to say, and it’s astounding to see a relatively shy person open their mouth to sing and they are transformed," she said. "It’s wonderful to see several of the kids who are developing their acting skills come to rehearsals and incorporate the characterizations that we have worked on into their mouths and bodies," she said. "The cherry on top is when they learn to put some of themselves into their roles."
The Egyptian Theatre will present the YouTheatre production of "Sleepy Hollow," an original musical on Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets range from $9 to $14 and are available at http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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