A headless horseman invaded the Cathedral Home for Children chapel last weekend, reviving a mystery that’s been brewing for almost 200 years.
Student actors at the home were part of a production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” under the direction of Amy Hollon, founder of the Queen’s Players Theatre Troupe.
They performed the play Friday and Saturday at the chapel before their fellow students and other invited audience members.
This was the fourth play at the home directed by Hollon, with help from local actor Gordon Moon.
The play was adapted from a short story written by Washington Irving that was published in 1820 and set in an early settlement in New York called Sleepy Hollow.
The story follows a schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane who competes for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a local wealthy farmer.
The actor who played Crane described him as a “ladies man.”
“He’s always being messed with by his enemy Brom Bones,” said the actor, 16, a student at the home.
One night, Crane attends a party at the Van Tassel farm, where Brom and other townspeople tell tales of local hauntings. As Crane travels home later that evening, he encounters on the road a mysterious figure without a head, just like in the tale he heard at the farm.
In the Cathedral Home chapel, the figure carried a menacing sword as it approached Crane, who stood terrified, a smoke machine hissing from off stage, music cresting, lights dim.
The next day, the only thing left of Crane was his hat, as he had mysteriously vanished, leaving Brom to marry Katrina. No one saw Crane again.
The cast of 11 students took on the task of singing, dancing and acting in the production, which they had worked on for about six weeks.
Hollon said most of the cast is new each time she leads a production, and each time they climb a steep learning curve as they navigate the steps involved in taking a play from the script to the stage.
“Most of these kids have never been through a process,” she said. “It’s amazing to see them afterwards.”
The Cathedral Home for Children is a residential treatment center for traumatized youth. Hollon said that although the young actors are new to the stage, they’re able to use their life experiences to inform their characters.
“We see a lot of growth,” she said.
Recreation coordinator Andy Spicer said the opportunity for students to participate in theater gives them a chance for a new experience while allowing them to work on personal goals such as learning a new skill, having a positive interaction with a peer, building confidence or starting and finishing something.
“They all have different goals,” he said.
As well, Hollon brings professional-level direction to the home, which gives students a glimpse into theater life in other settings, should they choose to follow that path, he said.
“If they choose to pursue acting, they would have a grasp of what it really looks like,” he said.