"Working with these talented young actors has been a delight. Their enthusiasm and dedication are contagious, and together, we're crafting a Halloween spectacle that will leave audiences spellbound,” explains Travis Kendrick, director and Manager of Production Theatre and Theatre Education at Midland Center for the Arts. “This production is a testament to the power of imagination and the joy of theater, and I can't wait to share it with our community."
According to Castanho, the origin of this work dates back to 2017 when he was commissioned by a theatre company in Virginia to write and develop a theatrical version from Irving’s literary short story classic that could be incorporated into various programs in their season. “They wanted a new original adaptation, so I wrote this play specifically for that reason,” he explains. “It was written over a period of two to three months and Travis was also the director of that production as well, so it’s really cool to see it now come to Midland. Parts of the show have been rewritten, we’ve added new scenes, and worked on it for about a month now, because I wanted to bring more depth to some of the characters.”
“After the first production Christopher and I had a lot of discussions about development,” adds Travis. “Some of the things we learned or developed in the original presentation we wanted to adjust, so Christopher re-wrote from that. Plus, several of the young actors in this new production were originating new scenes, so Christopher gave us new pages the other day and adjusted some lines. In many ways this is a living, breathing thing in the sense it’s very rare for young people to be able to actually work with a playwright and pick each other’s brains about why or how characters say something, or do certain things.”
“When I was hired to write a theatrical adaptation for Sleepy Hollow, I was trying to figure how it could be different or special, and drew inspiration from growing up and cooking up stories with my siblings playing ‘Let’s Pretend’,” Christopher explains. “That served as the foundation for the narrative and is very alive in this production, as it involves eight kids who go up into the attic on Halloween Night and find the Legend of Sleepy Hollow in an old trunk and start to read it. As they read it, the characters come alive as they discuss their favorite ones and start to act them out with things they find in the attic, so the kids mirror the people they play in the story.”
“The original story by Washington Irving is pretty short because it’s supposed to expository,” he continues. “There’s not a lot of action and its basically this teacher telling these kids this old legend, so when asking myself how I could add to that, I started pulling ideas and characters into the play based from other Washington Irving stories and created this adaption based upon them. We get to do funny stuff that kids identify with.”
According to Travis, the cast consists of 8 characters in the show and 2 understudies, mostly middle and high school kids, with the 2 understudies studying 4 different characters. “They have a lot of learning and things to absorb taking on that many roles, so there’s lots of opportunity but only a couple weeks for each actor to tag them and go through with one of the characters.”
“There’s so much collaboration with this type of theatre,” he continues. “We’re doing Shadow Play and using flashlights, and we have all these different sized trunks and scenic pieces, so the understudies are watching and taking all this in and offering their opinions on what might work - engaging and asking them to think what we could put in each of the trunks.”
“Honestly, that’s the most challenging thing about bringing this production to the stage, but it’s also the most delightful and fun,” he continues. “From the first rehearsal we had all sorts of props and objects and boxes and big plants laying around, a porcelain head, picture frames, and a baby doll in a carriage, so Christopher and I thought let’s put all this stuff in the rehearsal room with all these kids and see what happens - which is what the play evolves from and makes it so organic. But it also makes it particularly challenging for the stage manager - keeping track of all these objects,” smiles Travis.
“Our Youth Theatre programs have really blossomed over the last two years, and we had 50 kids come out to audition, so it was difficult to find the 10 actors we feature, which consist of one 6th grader and the rest all high-schoolers; but this is most certainly an ensemble piece,” concludes Travis. The cast consists of Giovanni Bowman as Will & Ichabod Crane, Rebekah Poupard as Rachel / Katrina Van Tassel, Cade O'Neil, Connor Crimmins, Joy Miller, Annaliese Martinson, Danny Schulz, Violet Coonan, Niko Knizacky and Katie Bixler.
“Additionally, we are offering free books to all the young people who come and see our show for all four performances. We’ll have a book table or cart and young people can come in and take a book they’re excited about home to read, so we can connect reading and literacy to the magic of theatre and literature and get kids interested in reading.”
16th November, 2023