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.

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!