On the Trail with Sleepy Hollow

by Janine Sobeck, BYU Dramaturgy Specialist

Every semester the TYA production tours to schools in Utah, Salt Lake and Nebo counties.  The BYU students dedicate their Tuesdays and Thursdays to the show in order  to travel to the various schools, performing and offering different workshops.

In the middle of the semester, they add to their crazy touring schedule with a two week run on the BYU campus.  Traveling around Utah by day and in the BYU theatre at night, this is a time where the lives of the actors seem to be consumed by the show in an incredible and amazing way.  This period of immersion also gives a great testament as to how the production, which has been carefully crafted for the young, school-level audiences, has the ability to delight the families, college students and others who see it during the BYU run.

For The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, it is that special time of the semester.  The company has spent the last week and a half performing in BYU’s Margetts theatre, bringing this spooky tale to campus right in time for Halloween.  The audiences have been a great mix of young and old, with all groups getting pulled in by the interactive nature of the show.  When I personally saw the show, I saw everyone from little kids, to parents, to students, to our older generation stand up and dance, sing and ride the occasional “horse.”  I made a window with the little girl across the aisle, created a “river” with the the students sitting across the stage, and held a “baby” when the actors were called elsewhere. It was a great reminder of how much FUN theatre that is heavy on imagination can be.

There’s only a few days left in the BYU run, but The Legend of Sleepy Hollow will continue its traveling production through the beginning of December.

Sleepy Hollow: So just what is a TYA show?

by Megan Chase, dramaturg

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a TYA production. The term, TYA, stands for Theatre for Young Audiences. Brigham Young University annually produces two TYA shows—one that performs during the Fall Semester and the other during Winter Semester. Usually, one of the plays selected is adaptation of a Shakespearean work. Both shows, in addition to a two-week run at BYU, tour to local elementary and middle schools twice a week for the majority of the respective semester.

The notion of crafting theatrical performances specifically for children is actually a relatively new concept. Theatre is considered to have emerged around 400 B.C., yet plays were not developed for young audiences until the last century.

6th Grade English Class write and perform play in the style of Ancient Greece

Before this time, many children were not educated past the third grade and often worked in factories or on farms. With the 20th Century came the impetus for social change and a push for K-12 public education.  These social and economic changes also served as a catalyst for sparking the interest in parents to provide entertainment for their children.

In the beginning, most plays produced with children in mind were primarily family-oriented. These plays included what would still be familiar to modern audiences: Aladdin, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. Until J.M. Barrie, playwright of Peter Pan, most of these family-friendly performances were adaptations of folk or fairy-tales–not original works. In the mid-1900s many community theatres began to create plays for children not only to attend, but to perform in as well—recognizing theatre’s recreational and educational potential for children. Touring TYA companies also emerged during this time.

BYU’s 2010 TYA production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” performing at local elementary school

It was a result of the Federal Theatre Project, founded during the Great Depression, that an influx of original TYA works were written and produced by professional theatre practitioners.

In the latter half of the 20th Century, the standards for Theate for Young Audiences continued to rise as well as amount of available material. Today, nearly every major city in the U.S. includes a Children’s Theatre Company.

Why TYA?

The purposes of TYA extensive and far-reaching. It invites children to create, think, feel, analyze, critique, communicate, and understand. It teaches children about “about actions and consequences, about customs and beliefs, about others and themselves”. TYA has the power to shape more thoughtful and ethical citizens.

Child Audience enjoying a production at UW-EAU Theatre for Young Audiences

Experience for yourself how TYA continues to play a vital role in society when you see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!

More Children’s Theatre in Utah: The Children’s Theatre, YouTheate at the Egyptian
Theatre, Hale Center Theatre (West Valley City), Hale Center Theatre (Orem)

The Man Behind the Legend: Washington Irving

by Megan Chase, dramaturg

As mentioned in a previous post, our production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is based on a short story of the same name written by the late 18th Century American author, Washington Irving. (The short story is now in public domain and may be read online here.)

Born April 3, 1738 in the newly created United States of America, Irving was named after its first president, George Washington. His name proved to highly appropriate. Just as George Washington was a Founding Father of the country, Irving was a Founding Father of American literature.

Irving was the youngest of eleven children born to William Irving and Sarah Sanders. His father was successful merchant and his mother was the daughter of an English clergyman. Often ill as a child, Irving was encouraged by his parents to spend time outdoors, in the fresh air. In this pursuit, he developed an active imagination wandering the beautiful New England countryside. He “knew every spot where a . . . robbery had been committed, or a ghost seen”. His predilection for the strange and supernatural was further fomented by the rich folklore of the region passed down by early Dutch settlers.

However, Irving first gained predominance for his satirical and humorous writings. The History of New York (1809)written under the comical pseudonym Dietrich Knickerbocker—established Irving’s popularity in the both the U.S. and abroad. His warm, witty, conversational tone found wide appeal.

In addition, Irving also dabbled in nonfiction. During his time in Europe serving as a U.S. diplomat in Spain and England, he wrote several histories–including one about Christopher Columbus. Later, after he returned home to New York, the last book he completed was a biography of his namesake.

Ultimately, Washington Irving profoundly influenced the cultural landscape of the day and remains an important figure in American literary history. We are pleased to bring his famous tale to the BYU stage.

Sleepy Hollow Rehearsal Sneek Peak!

by Megan Chase, dramaturg

Our Sleepy Hollow cast and crew are hard at work gearing up for the first performance! Below are pictures from their early rehearsals.

Stage Manager Brittany Corbett with Actors Johnny Spelta and Lisa Moncur

Director Teresa Love giving advice to Actor Devin Wadsworth and Stage Manager Brittany Corbett

Making Ichabod Crane on his horse come to life

Sleepy Hollow – where surprises are continuously sneaking up on you

Welcome to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!

by Megan Chase, dramaturg

Brigham Young University’s production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is based on a short story of the same name written by the early-19th-century American author, Washington Irving.

I remember my first introduction to this famous tale as a kid. It was an episode of Wishbone on PBS. I remember being sucked in by the larger-than-life characters and all the spooky adventure.

Irving’s original story’s enduring appeal is demonstrated by its many other adaptations over the years. These included films, television shows, stage musicals, plays, and even an opera. Perhaps the most well-known versions are the 1949 Disney animated cartoon narrated by Bing Cosby, and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane in the 1999 film, Sleepy Hollow. Irving’s tale of superstition and the supernatural continues to pique the interest of all ages.

Our adaptation was crafted by Teresa Love—who also happens to be the show’s director. Love earned a B.A. in Theater and Cinema with an emphasis in Child Drama from Brigham Young University in 1991. She currently teaches at her Alma Mater and has decades of experience bringing the magic of theatre to young audiences in the capacities of director, producer, playwright, and teacher. Her adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was first produced at Imagination Company, a Los Angeles-based theatre company she also co-founded.

We are all very excited to bring Professor Love’s fun and family-friendly adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy of Hollow to the BYU stage!