Manhattanville College Puts on Live Production of Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow

 Manhatanville students rehearse the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Manhattanville College students, faculty, and staff have teamed up to put on a lyrical interpretation of “Sleepy Hollow” in the Little Theatre on the college’s picturesque campus.

The play runs from October 21 through 24.

This interpretation of the story was dreamed up by the show’s director, Manhattanville professor Jeff Kaplan, in collaboration with theatre students.

“On August 31, we all showed up for the first day of rehearsal with nothing at all,” said director, Kaplan. “We used Washington Irving’s short story as the basis and rehearsed seventeen hours a week. For the first full week, we did nothing but workshop style activities, develop an ensemble, and I gave students creative prompts to solve, which they did an excellent job with.”

The show is a mix of traditional acting, interpretive movement, and audience engagement where actors are just as likely to run down the platform you’re sitting on as they are to dance formally with each other on the large white stage below. The play begins with an opening monologue that directly connected the history of the area to the famously spectral story.

Emily Ownby, who plays Ichabod Crane, among others, spoke about the production and the creative collaboration between faculty and staff. “It’s a devised piece, so we’re not following a previously existing script or anything,” said Ownby. “We went back to the original Washington Irving short story, and as a group, we were able to break it down and create a world that pulled directly from the original story.”

Prior to this live production, the last show that the department put on was a remote version of ‘Twilight, Los Angeles,’ which consists of a series of monologues about the 1992 riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. Kaplan and the players knew they had to return with something just as unique and powerful. Some observers have noted that this production seems to be conjured from an alternate universe and that it is just as likely to make you laugh as fear the dark. With lights (and sometimes the lack of them), sound, interpretive movement, dance, and dialogue, the play truly immerses viewers in both the story of Sleepy Hollow, as well as the breakdown of Ichabod Crane.

As Kaplan explained it, “There’s a lot of dialogue, but also a lot of movement. If you’ve seen Broadway shows like ‘Come From Away,’ it’s a mixture of physical storytelling, even dance at times, and traditional acting techniques. The collaboration was exciting from not just an educational perspective, but an artistic one as well.”

The show, which features sophomores and up, also makes use of actors playing the shadow selves of the leads, which adds an extra dimension to the psychology of the characters, thanks to the creative freedom the cast had in putting the show together. Erica Lambert, who plays Katrina Van Tassel, among others, explained, “I really loved the collaboration used throughout this process. Jeff sometimes really let us take the lead and use our creativity to create what you see on stage.”

The play runs from October 21 through 24, and stars Chris Nigro, Olympia Prodafikas, Erica Lambert, Stephanie Suarez, Alexander Hannigan, Noely Jime’nez, Emily Ownby, Zariya Paige, Molly Sturgeon, Tara Healy, and Dylan Daly.

The show is open to the public. Tickets are $5, but free for students and seniors with ID. Email to reserve tickets or request additional information. The show is at 8pm on the 21 through 23, and 2pm on the 24.

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