By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

Serenbe Playhouse, which thrilled us this summer with their outdoor Woodstockian version of “Hair,” has come out of their customary fall hibernation with a delightful theatre piece called “The Sleepy Hollow Experience.”  It will run through October 31 at The Stables in Serenbe; it’s based, of course, on Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” published in 1820.

That’s the good news.  The not so good news, if you’d like to go, is that the theatregoing cognoscenti of Atlanta has made the show a complete sellout—even before the opening night. But there’s hope!  Four late night shows have been added:  October 18, 19, 25, 26 at 10:30pm.  The show runs just over an hour, so that’s not as late as it might seem.  Be sure to check the theatre website in case there are additional changes.

This unprecedented popularity and confidence in the Playhouse is a tribute to the excellence of their work and also to the vision and expertise of their founder and Artistic Director, Brian Clowdus.  To him and to the whole Serenbe group we offer our congratulations.

Now on with the show.  Have you heard of the nervous schoolteacher Ichabod Crane (Chris Mayers) and the Headless Horseman?  You’re about to meet them, if you go.  The story’s quite well known, but I  won’t supply the plot; don’t want to be a spoiler.  But there’s Katrina Van Tassel (Jessica Miesel), the 18-year-old daughter of a wealthy farmer, eminently marriageable.  And there’s the town bad boy, Brom Bones (Jacob Cooper), known to have a fondness for playing pranks on the superstitious Ichabod.  Two storytellers, Laura Floyd and Brandon Connor Patrick, not only keep the story moving but usher the audience from place to place.  All the actors look splendid, dressed in period costumes designed by Brittany Quigley.

The story is set in 1790 near the Dutch settlement of Tarrytown, New York, in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow.  It begins upstairs in the stables; heavy mist and fog set in; occasionally an apparition of a woman in white appears, usually accompanied by a shrill scream.

Are you beginning to perceive that “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” is, among other things, a perfect Halloween entertainment?  It is.  There’s also charming, original music composed by Jevares C. Myrick and Bobby Johnston and directed by Seth Davis. The show is adapted from Irving’s story by Kathryn Schultz Miller.  The entire production is directed by Brian Clowdus.

I haven’t emphasized that “Sleepy Hollow” is what we’ll call participatory theatre:  There is some audience interaction, but it’s not distracting or excessive.  I was quite thrilled to suddenly find myself in private conversation with Brom Bones; I forget what he asked me, but it was great fun.  The show “roams”; it’s “situational theatre”; but the whole piece flows smoothly and easily from place to place, from comedy to horror!

At the end the audience is safely corralled in the stables to allow the Headless Horseman (we’re talking real horses here) to fly by.  Is he really headless?  Is he as big as Ichabod’s imagination pictures him?  You’ll have to wait and see.  And talk about authentic ambience—the Serenbe Stables redefines the term.

I haven’t said enough about the cast; but they’re all superb—from Ms. Floyd’s lovely, powerful voice to the quite dashing Brom to the nervous Ichabod to the coquettish Katrina to Mr. Patrick’s easy charm.

As I mentioned, the problem is tickets.  If you already have them, rejoice.  If not, check the site.  This year Serenbe has, quite obviously, broken through to the other side, as Jim Morrison would say.

For tickets and information, visit serenbeplayhouse.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.