Ferguson and Heimbuch revisit The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ferguson and Heimbuch revisit The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Photo courtesy Walking Shadow Theatre Company
Over the past several years, creators Jon Ferguson and John Heimbuch have created a series of intriguing shows together, including an adaptation of Moby Dick (On the White Whale) and a collection of Santa Claus stories (S. Gunter Klaus and the Story Before). 

In 2010, they traveled down to Plainview's Jon Hassler Theater to present The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Starting this weekend, local audiences will get their chance to see the show. For the pair, it's an opportunity to revisit and improve an old work.

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"Plays are never done. You have to sort of abandon them. You get to a point where you say, 'Here we go,'" Ferguson says. 

The pair has distinctly different methods of working. Heimbuch's shows are built script up, while Ferguson collaborates with the company to produce his work. In this case, the show started with Washington Irving's tale.

"The story is quite short. We showed up on the first day and went through the original story paragraph by paragraph, and saw what we glommed onto," Heimbuch says.

Those elements were mixed with the inventive force of the original company. Using all of that work as a foundation, Heimbuch was able to craft a script for the piece. 

"It was a nice balance," Ferguson says. "It is firmly rooted in the time and the period, but it feels like a modern take on it. It is still in that world, but it has a playfulness that is immediate."

Part of the exploration is not just the tale of Ichabod Crane, Katarina Van Tassel, and the dastardly Brom Bones. It is also an examination of a tight-knit community, and what can happen within its borders. "These are people who have been scared so much in their lives, it is their default emotion," Ferguson says.

"It's not necessarily that the town is full of ghosts. They may have been scaring themselves with the ghost stories," Heimbuch says.

Both believe that performing in Plainview had an impact on the piece. Nestled in southern Minnesota, the town is a 90-minute drive from the cities. Locals to the Twin Cities who wanted to take in the play had to travel over the dark countryside on a winding road.

That atmosphere "is in the tone and design and style of the show. We can't recreate that experience exactly, but there is a certain element of that spookiness," Heimbuch says.

And the appeal? It's pretty simple. "I love ghost stories. I love the idea that there is something in this world just beyond our ability to perceive it or understand it, but we can almost interact with it," Heimbuch says.

Ghost stories "are so much in the mind of the listener. It is so much more active than just watching horror. It is more about the imagination," Ferguson says.


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Saturday through March 2
Red Eye Theatre
15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis
For information, visit online

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