Plan-B Theater’s Radio Hour series set to premiere live on KUER-FM’s RadioWest with Matthew Ivan Bennett adaptation of Sleepy Hollow

Most of the young people of the last three generations have found out about Washington Irving The legend of Sleepy Hollow through Disney’s animated adaptation package, which includes Kenneth Graham’s The wind in the willows. The 1949 cinema The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad has long legs both in residue as a long-term movie library asset and in critical acclaim. Another popular but irreverent adaptation is the 1999 Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp.

The Headless Horseman is one of Halloween’s most famous icons but, of course, the October holidays are never mentioned in the story, which takes place in 1790 in a town in the Hudson Valley. . Halloween was not yet widely celebrated or recognized in the young nation. Nonetheless, in honor of Irving’s 200th anniversary last year, North Tarrytown was officially renamed Sleepy Hollow.

Yet it is also recognized as the first truly American ghost story. In honor of what is now its 201st anniversary, the Plan-B Theater’s Radio time The series returns this year with its 15th episode in a live broadcast of Matthew Ivan Bennett’s new play based on the Irving story. Directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff, the production will air live Friday, October 29 at 11 a.m. on KUER-FM’s RadioWest and replay at 7 p.m. that day.

Bennett, including Halloween Radio time In recent years’ episodes that were inspired by his original sci-fi stories, Plan-B asked him to adapt the Irving classic before the story’s 200th anniversary last year. In addition, the Sleeping Hollow The episode was scheduled to premiere last fall at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts as part of a live broadcast that would also have marked KUER-FM’s 50th anniversary, RadioWest’s 20th anniversary and the Radio time 15th anniversary of the series. But, the pandemic led to the plan being abandoned. Instead, there was a replay of the ninth episode, Grimm, based on the classic tales of the brothers, adapted by Bennett.

Rediscovering history as an adult reader leads to realizing that the story is less of a Halloween-themed superstition than a psychological thriller where the dynamics of fear, jealousy, romantic rivalry and isolation combine into a powerful visceral blend. Bennett’s adaptation is much more reverent than others, but there is also a major change that becomes significant in this live. Radio time version. In Irving’s original, Katrina Van Tassel is barely present except for a paragraph in the text, the act of throwing schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, and a few passing references. As Bennett put it in an interview with The Utah Review, Irving’s framing of Kat (as she is known in the Radio time script) is sexist – she is presented as little more than a pretty and rich young woman.

Bennett preserves the integrity of the language as would have been appropriate in Irving’s day, especially with The Chronicler setting the narrative stakes. The eerie and appealing vibe of the season is set in this production, as The Chronicler puts it: “Some say the place has been defiled by a German mage. Certain that he was cursed by the native elders. … The children had too many nightmares. Farmers heard songs at the edge of the forest. Ichabod wasn’t the only one who saw bad luck in a beetle. He wasn’t the only one to meet ghosts on the road.

Matthew Ivan Bennett

Meanwhile, Bennett significantly fleshed out Kat in the 48-minute script. One of the most significant scenes in Bennett’s tale takes place in the middle, during a rehearsal of psalms sung with Ichabod and Kat. Ichabod said, “Kat, in the last five weeks – between the Psalms you can already sing in perfect tone without my guidance – you have recited Phillis Wheatley’s poems from memory, performed entire speeches by As you like it, and asked for my opinion on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of human nature. Kat is confident. She is an independent and astute thinker who both intimidates and fearful Ichabod.

The allure of impropriety is subtle, but it also risks dangerous results, as the story unfolds. There are eight characters in the Radio time version, including, of course, Brom, the antagonist. It’s not hard to understand when reading the original of Irving, who is the real villain of the story, but Bennett’s version also translates the reading between the lines into an intriguing and enlightening dialogue, which does not exist. practically not in the Irving original.

“The Disney version was central to my childhood,” says Bennett. “I was tempted to make a simple adaptation but without dialogue in the original, I realized it wouldn’t be helpful to achieve the goal.”

There are some problematic elements to Irving’s original as well, including its references to black people, which do not correspond to a proper and respectful social conscience. As for Kat, who Bennett acknowledges as “barely appearing in the story as nothing more than an object of desire,” he adds that the sexist framing has become a “ripe peach for the pick” to make the adaptation work. .

Going further, Bennett says Irving’s tongue is overwhelmingly good. “It’s really a fascinating, almost supernatural story about thwarted love and jealousy, so I decided to embody the horror in jealousy and toxic masculinity,” he adds.

While Bennett wrote the drama to be ambiguous in terms of horror elements, it is up to Cliff’s sound design and Dave Evanoff’s musical score to set the appropriate tone for the production.

Dave Evanoff.

With Cluff’s instruction to avoid labeling the kind of spooky organ music one might associate with a story like The Phantom of the Opera, Evanoff explains in an interview how he worked and sang a Pentecostal hymn that Cluff shared with him. The hymn At the time of the test, written in 1834 by James Montgomery, who was born in Scotland and had Moravian heritage, was not only a favorite of Pentecostal and Apostolic preachers and congregations, but also featured in the official hymn of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Montgomery, moreover, was well known as an abolitionist, advocate of the temperance movement, and he championed various social causes, including advocating for the welfare of young chimney sweeps.

“What was even scarier was discovering 15 versions of the anthem and how crazy the original music was,” Evanoff said. He adds that he played with the keyboard effects to produce ghostly sounds such as punching the piano or strings as if they were strummed or grunt effects with a synthesized sound. He also composed the original music for the story chase scene and the key moments of suspense.

The casting for Sleeping Hollow includes Jay Perry, who starred in each Radio time episode, like Ichabod. RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio is Brom and Voice in the Night. Isabella Reader plays five roles: Kat, The Chronicler, Old Peg, Maggie and Hans. The production team is complemented by Joe Killian for eFoley and Brian Albers as sound engineer.

For more information on the Radio time production, check out the Plan-B website, which includes information on downloading a free app to stream audio from the first 14 episodes of the Radio time series.

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