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Ensemble brings ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to Blowing Rock

By Frank Ruggiero (

Article Published: Oct. 24, 2013 | Modified: Oct. 27, 2013
Ensemble brings ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to Blowing Rock

Actor Joseph Watson, left, rehearses his role as Ichabod Crane for Ensemble Stage’s upcoming staged radio drama production of ‘The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow,’ presented this Saturday in Blowing Rock.

Photo by Jeff Eason

With Halloween on its way, Ensemble Stage is looking to get ahead of the holiday with “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.”

But this adaptation of Washington Irving’s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” rides to town on a different format. Per Halloween tradition, Ensemble Stage is presenting a classic tale staged as a radio drama, in which the actors read their lines into microphones and create sound effects right on stage.

“We’re still following the old 1940s concept of doing all the sound effects live,” artistic director Gary Smith said. “And we’ve got 17 people in the cast, so it’s pretty big.”

Smith said the story follows Irving’s tale closely, but that it’s more of an amalgamation of subsequent adaptations.

“It stays really true and close to the original version, but there’s a few scenes added in there from other versions that I wanted to incorporate,” he said, “like a scene with some witches, which I thought would be cool.”

The tale takes place in the New England hamlet of Sleepy Hollow in the late 18th century, the site of a horrific Revolutionary War battle in which a Hessian horseman was famously decapitated by a cannonball.

“Ever since then, it’s been rumored that people have seen him late at night in the woods, that he rises from the grave in search of his head,” Smith said.

Enter Ichabod Crane, freshly arrived to assume the position of schoolmaster at the schoolhouse.

“Suddenly, for some reason, he becomes the focus of the Headless Horseman’s pursuits, and he starts having these very vivid dreams about the horseman chasing him,” Smith said. “And then, of course, we have a love interest with Katrina Van Tassel.”

Van Tassel’s affections, though, are also sought by the jealous Brom van Brunt, who’s determined to get Crane out of the picture.

“For an hour-long play, it’s a fun, neat, little story,” Smith said.

And it’s rife with sound effects, the making of which is a highlight of Ensemble radio dramas.

“If, perchance, the Headless Horseman happened to, say, decapitate somebody, there would be the proverbial cabbage being dropped and rolled across the floor,” Smith said. “There are coconuts for horses (galloping), and there’s a Revolutionary War battle, so we’ve got guns and muskets. Balloons are the muskets, and big, metal kitchen utensils will be clanked together for the swords. It’s going to sound pretty cool and look fun, too. To see someone up there doing battle with a big kitchen ladle and spatula, it’ll look fun but sound perfect."

“The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow” will run for one night only Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium, located on Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

Tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for kids, although both children and adults are encouraged to dress in costume, as the cast will be doing the same, Smith said.

For tickets, call (828) 414-1844 or visit Pending availability, a limited number of tickets will be for sale at the door.

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