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.

Theatre by Committee

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg and Katrina Forsythe, Henry 5 Collaborator

In a traditional theatre production, one of the first things that happens when a script is chosen is that the director will choose a theme for the production. This theme will influence almost every decision made from then on, like which parts of the script to cut and which to keep, costume and lighting decisions, and set design. Last week in a BYU theatre class, something very different happened.

King Henry V

Every year, BYU presents a Shakespeare production for children that will tour to local elementary schools. This year we’ll be performing Henry 5, the story of the English King Henry 5 who defeated the French at Agincourt. Since these pieces are performed for children, they always require a lot of creativity to make sure the children understand what is going on. This year, the Contemporary Performance Practices class, mostly made up of graduating seniors, is collaborating on that process. First, we all had to read the play from beginning to end. Then, the class was divided into five groups—one for each Act—and asked to decide what we thought the theme should be.

Some of the ideas included:

  • Listen to your inner voice; consequences for not listening to your own conscience.
  • The ends justify the means; sometimes you have to do bad things in order to achieve great things.
  • Different people have to come together to work for something good.
  • Stand by what you believe in even when other people don’t agree with you.

The class voted on what theme we thought would be the most effective for elementary schools. The theme has to be appropriate for children, and we all agreed that it should be a positive, inspirational message. What do you think it should be?

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)

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!