CHARLESTOWN, N.H. – Seven years ago, River Theater Company of Charlestown, N.H. and the recreated 18th century Fort at No. 4 Museum teamed up to present a highly acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in the Fort Museum. This year, they are at it again with a production of John Heimbuch and Jon Ferguson’s adaptation of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Friday through Sunday, Oct. 12 to 14 and 19 to 21 at 7 p.m.
Fort No. 4 in Charlestown is a place where time seems suspended. It is a living history museum lit by candles and crackling fireplaces, surrounded by fields and woods, and the Connecticut River on its western edge. The Fort has brought the 18th century to life for its many visitors. After dark, however, the Fort has a more foreboding feel, isolated and shadowed by the stockade. During the production the Fort will become something else, something supernatural, strange noises, distant hoof beats, fleeting visions of light along the water, and even a ghostly figure or two. Is it supernatural? Maybe it’s… actors?
Since “The Crucible” was produced Fort, patrons and theatergoers alike have been asking, “Will you ever do another show there?”
Director Heidi Fagan says, “‘Sleepy Hollow’ fits within the Fort’s environs, and people love the legend. As soon as we discussed doing it, everyone’s eyes lit up.”
Wendalyn Baker, director of the Fort, says, “We are truly pleased at having theater back at the Fort. Staging ‘Sleepy Hollow’ on the museum grounds is a wonderful meshing of theme and site and of course time. This will be theater for the senses.”
This production is unique to other events theater patrons may have experienced. Instead of sitting in one location in front of a stage, “Sleepy Hollow” requires the audience to move from location to location and be surrounded at times by the action. Fagan says, “It should feel as if you are one of the villagers of Sleepy Hollow watching things unfold in front of you, beside you, and even behind you. It is solely lit by candle lights, and the audience will be guided by actors with lanterns.” Good walking shoes and a willingness to move around quite a bit are a must.
The play tells the classic tale of the skeptical out-of-town school teacher Ichabod Crane, his love for the beautiful Katrina Van Tassell, while telling the legend behind the Headless Horseman and other eerie tales that are all too real to the good people of Sleepy Hollow. The cast of 25-plus are not only working to rehearse the written script, which includes a bit of singing and even country dancing, but are sharpening their improve skills to interact with 21st century visitors to their village. Fagan says, “The actors will speak directly to the audience, sit next to them, and treat them as part of their world. We want the audience to feel they are actually in Sleepy Hollow, which is a very spooky place.”
The cast and crew are made up of River Theater Company regulars and some new participants as well. Included are Tucker Bettez playing Ichabod Crane and Brandon Norman as Brom Bones, both of whom compete for the attentions of Katrina Van tassel played by Laura Carboneau. Robert Wellington plays the fiery Parson Van Houten, and Gregory Higgins, Chad Preston, Chuck Lessard, Mike Delaney, and Elais Boyington playing important men of the town. Many of the cast members play more than one role. The women include Leslie Peabody, Maria Genia, Laurie Ryan, Katie Walsh, Gina Richardson, Ruth Pratt, Sarah Carboneau, Heather Smith, and more. There are school children, singers, and a fiddler, Armando Stettner.