Friday, October 15, 2010

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" 1969.    Bain Boehlke as Ichabod Crane.

First presented in 1969 under the direction of John Clark Donahue, Frederick Gaines' adaptation of the Washington Irving early American classic became a beloved member of the Theatre's continuing repertoire, returning in 1973 (when the company was in residence at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, awaiting the opening of its new home the following autumn) and then again in 1978 and, finally, in 1984. A span of fifteen years -- with Bain Boehlke as Ichabod Crane and Wendy Lehr as the Widow Winetraub in each of its four incarnations. Music composed and orchestrated by resident composer Roberta Carlson, scenic design by Jack Barkla, original costume design by Barbara Tyirin (later adapted by Gene Davis Buck), lighting design by Karlis Ozols.

Audio clip: Opening.

Scene i.  Nonsense, Master Crane?

As the play opens, Ichabod is hurrying away from a sound he believes is following him.  He stops to address the audience.

As schoolmaster of this village. . . (A noise makes him jump; he listens for a moment and then continues.)  As schoolmaster, I deal in simple fact, and the simple fact is that there's no such things as ghosts. . . (His voice breaks on the word "ghosts" and goes upward in pitch; he brings it under control.) That is, ghosts. (He clears his throat and continues.) Ghosts are superstitious explanations for unexplainable phenomena, but I, as a dealer in simple fact, say to you that behind those phenomena. . . (He hears a melancholy moaning sound produced by someone blowing across the neck of an empty jug.  He stops and listens; the moaning ceases.)  Yes.  Behind the phenomena is a common, everyday occurrence. . . (The moaning begins again, accompanied by the sound of creaking boards.)  There are some who would hear in that melancholy sound the footsteps of a ghost, but I, of course, hear nothing. . . like. . . it.  (He turns fearfully to face the approaching sound.  A young man with a jug appears and strolls past Ichabod, who is greatly relieved.)  As I said before: an everyday occurrence.  Yet despite my attempts at education, the residents of this sleepy town persist in the belief in the supernatural.  The neighborhood abounds with tales, twilight superstitions, haunted spots.  Stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across their valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, makes it the favorite scene of her gambols.  There is even a legend about a Headless Horseman, but as with all the rest: it is nonsense.  (Widow Winetraub enters with a large picnic hamper on one arm and plump, blushing Hilda on the other.  She immediately determines where they are to picnic and begins to spread the cloth.)
Nonsense, Master Crane?  Nonsense?  What I could tell you!  But a man of your importance has other things to think of, I'm sure.  Nonsense?  If my poor departed husband were here, "Nonsense," he'd tell you, I'm sure!  Hmph!
Oh, but Widow Winetraub, could a legend have hurt him?  Oh, no, it seems unlikely.
Yes, yes, I told them that -- cider, Master Crane? -- but who would listen to me, a simple woman.  You've met my daughter, Master Crane? (Ichabod nods and doffs his hat in gentlemanly fashion.  Hilda giggles and blushes.)  Died of fright, they say -- cinnamon, Master Crane? -- Died of the sight of the Headless Horseman.
Died of the . . . ?
WIDOW (nodding emphatically).
Well, I laughed.  Laughed right out loud.  But there he lay, Master Crane, white as flour, Master Crane. . . (Ichabod mouths the question "White as flour?" and she nods once, sharply.) White as flour, Master.  Hilda made the cider, Master Crane.
ICHABOD (eating with desperate energy).  
Oh, did she?  Very good, very good indeed. . .
So what was I to say, Master Crane, with all of them against me, poor widow that I am and my only daughter still unmarried?  What was I to say, Master Crane?  Well, I don't know.  Master Crane says there's no such things as ghosts and that to you, I should have said, but could I think of that?  Pass the man some cakes, Hilda, don't be such a bump.
Well, Widow Winetraub . . .
That's all very well to say, Master Crane, but I've not your learning, your way with words and arguments.  My daughter admires you a great deal, Master Crane, don't you, daughter?
HILDA (blushing).
I know if I had the power of tongue I've heard you so often display, I should have disputed them in a minute, but I, speechless and defenseless, so to speak.  You do understand what I mean, Master Crane?
ICHABOD (his mouth full of cake).
I believe I do, Widow Winetraub.
I should have said what you've said to me, but with a poor, cold, stone-dead husband lying there who was hale and hearty an hour before. . .
Hale and hearty. . .
Hale, Master Crane. . .  (Ichabod, unable to speak the portentous word, mouths it.)  And hearty.  Well!  It would have sounded stupid as all get out, Master Crane.  Have a pipe, Master Crane.  (She hands him a clay pipe.)
Oh, I don't know. . .
Don't myself, but my poor husband, poor frightened-to-death man, always felt fondly toward the habit.  I like to put a man at ease, Master Crane; smoke.
Thank you very much Widow, but you see, my voice, the singing lessons, you understand.  (He sings a note or two to demonstrate for her.)
Doesn't seem likely it'll do great harm, Master Crane.
Well, a pipe's a fond pleasure after a fine meal. . . (The long-stemmed Dutch pipe is forced upon him.)
Good for the digestion, Master Crane, rheumatiz, melancholy, and sour stomach.  My husband's own blend.
The pipe's your . . . husband's?
WIDOW (forcing the pipe into Ichabod's mouth).
Last thing he did before he died; smoked it.
Thank you all the same, but it's a long ride.  Hardly enough time now.  Widow Winetraub . . . (He rises to leave.)
You forgot my daughter.  Smile at the man, Daughter. (She and Hilda rise and curtsy.  Two and three at a time, the townspeople begin to enter on the ramp.  They walk as if out for a stroll in the fall, pointing at leaves and birds.  They speak in a low murmur, ignoring Ichabod, the widow, and Hilda.)
Hilda, I can only say, I wish my appointed rounds were less strict.  Your cider, your pipe, your daughter all tempt me, but psalmody calls me.
I think you're some kind of a fool, Master Crane.  (All the townspeople are onstage and only a few steps away from chorus position by the time Ichabod says "their eyes following my baton.")
I thank you for the hospitality, the food, but could I disappoint them?  They await my instruction, their voices poised, their eyes following my baton. . . And music is born. (As Ichabod conducts from center stage, using the pipe as a baton, the chorus begins to sing.)

Audio clip: The Van Tassels' Halloween Frolic.

(The guests at the Van Tassels’ party burst onto the stage, dancing.  Brom whirls the Widow Winetraub into the dance.  Ichabod and Katrina dance together and then are separated.  Laughing, Ichabod tries to catch Katrina, but the other dancers keep them apart.  Finally, Ichabod catches Katrina’s hand and they dance slowly together.  Ichabod is in ecstasy.  He turns Katrina in a graceful pirouette.  The other dancers freeze.  Ichabod, completing an intricate step of his own invention, turns back to see what he hopes will be Katrina’s admiration, but instead he sees her lean toward Brom and gently kiss his cheek.

(The dance sweeps on.  The Sleepy Hollow Boys threaten the dancers with jack-o-lanterns on poles, playfully frightening them.  One of the Boys holds a large jack-o-lantern over Ichabod’s head and Ichabod is terrified.

(Finally, the dancers begin to swirl offstage and to drift homeward, waving their goodbyes.  Ichabod tries to pretend indifference, a game loser, as Katrina approaches him and they stand together at the center while Brom begins to leave but lingers, waiting for Katrina.  Ichabod, holding the giant jack-o-lantern in his arms, plays the fool a little in his disappointment.)

ICHABOD.  Alas, poor lantern, I know thee well, but one poor night to live, poor Halloween jack-o-lantern.  (He looks up and smiles at Katrina, but she averts her eyes.)

KATRINA.  I’m sorry, Ichabod.

ICHABOD.  Oh, the pumpkin won’t mind.  It’s the curse of his family to smile but one night….
(Katrina begins to cry.  She is happy to have Brom but sad to hurt Ichabod. Ichabod helps her to talk about it.)  I know, I know…

KATRINA.  I’m sorry, it’s Brom.

ICHABOD.  A singing master makes a poor husband.

KATRINA.  And a practical joker a worse one.  But he’ll change, Ichabod.  I know he will.  Brom’s still a boy.  He's impetuous and rough and … and honest.  Ichabod, I know he loves me.

ICHABOD.  And I love … to eat.  Well, Miss Katrina, I’ll dance at your wedding.

KATRINA.  Don’t forget me altogether, Ichabod?

ICHABOD.  I’ll never forget… your pies.

(Sobbing, Katrina runs to join Brom.  As they exit, Ichabod stands a moment wistfully watching them, then leaves into the murky night.)

Audio clip: Curtain Call.

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