By Pam Johnson
The Headless Horseman. Oh, the image that brings to mind: a black cloaked, horseback riding, headless figure holding a jack o’ lantern. Spooky, classic ghost story material. The perfect thing to see this Halloween season.
The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre will present Washington Irving’s well-known speculative fiction, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, for three weekends, October 21st-November 2nd.
Set in the 1790s in the fictional settlement of Tarry Town, the legend says that Major Andre, a Hessian soldier who was beheaded by a stray cannonball during the Revolutionary War, haunts the roads of the area in search of his head. As Irving puts it, “The ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head.”
But there’s a lot more to the story than a Headless Horseman. Meet Ichabod Crane, the nervous, superstitious new schoolmaster of Tarry Town; Katrina Van Tassel, Ichabod’s soon-to-be romantic interest; and the manly man Brom Bones, who is in love with Katrina. Put these three together and you have a hilarious, entertaining tale that will make you laugh, make you empathize, make you cringe, and make you shudder. And it will make you see something good, something bad, and something of yourself in each of these characters.
Ichabod becomes the unfortunate target of Brom Bones and his gang, and the unsuspecting target of the manipulative Katrina Van Tassel.
“Katrina is nasty,” said Heather Allen, who portrays the beautiful daughter of a wealthy farmer. “She wants to make Brom jealous.” This she does by showering her attentions on poor Ichabod. Or should we refer to him as “poor” Ichabod? He actually has his own devious motives. “For Ichabod, it’s not about Katrina’s heart, but about her wealth.” So they both are playing a game of hearts.
Then there’s Brom Bones. “He’s a bully,” said Derek Smithpeters who brings this character to life. “He likes to pick on Ichabod, especially when it becomes known that he believes in ghosts.” A perfect set-up of man versus the legend of the Headless Horseman.
We have three characters, each with their own agenda. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Or is it fair to really label them like that?
In talking about people in general, Derek said, “Everyone’s not all truly good or bad; both are in them. Kind of Jekyll and Hyde.” That’s why we can see some of ourselves in these characters. We can identify with their struggles, with their goals, and with their eccentricities. That’s what makes the story ring true.
And that’s also what makes us laugh: poking fun at these truths about human nature. “The playwright keeps it true to Irving’s story, but she focuses on the lightheartedness, the comedy,” said director Janette Gaines. “Yes, it’s intense because there is a Headless Horseman. But there are times in our lives when we just need to laugh, and that’s what this playwright focuses on.”
Janette and the actors stressed that this show is family friendly.
“It’s light entertainment, and appropriate for all ages.” Janette said. “It’s the kind of story to tell around a campfire.”
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is adapted for the stage by Kathryn Shultz Miller and is sponsored by People’s Community Bank. Rounding out the engaging cast are Adam Honeycutt, Kari Tuthill, Christopher Ward, and Tara White.
The JRT is located at 125½ West Main Street in Jonesborough. Shows will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $16, general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423.753.1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.