Imagine this: we’ve stepped back in time, onto the streets of a small village on the banks of the Hudson River, sometime during the Revolutionary War. On a crisp fall evening, with a breeze blowing off the river and the stars overhead, we meet some of the local people and step directly into their story. Lushly dressed in the clothing of the times, they are funny, flirty, and immediately engaging. A few of these locals you may recognize- Brom Van Brunt, Katrina Van Tassel, and of course, Ichabod Crane.
Their story unfolds as we walk with them from place to place along the grounds of Sunnyside, an estate dating back, in part, to the 1600s. They lead us from the back porch of the cottage on the banks of the river, along lantern-lit paths to an old stone building – the schoolhouse – where sparks start to fly. Next, we are invited to join them at a party on the Van Tassel estate, complete with live music, dancing, and ultimately, ghost stories. Flirtations unfold, jealousies flare, and tensions build.
This is immersive theater at its best.
My family and I took this trip back in time last night, and we were all spellbound. Every detail of the evening was simply beautiful. The unique lighting on the grounds of Sunnyside added a surprising level of interest to the setting, with just the right touch of eeriness. The staging, particularly the party scene, was gorgeous. A stage in-the-round on a hillside beneath the trees made guests feel wholly immersed in a fantastical event. The cast was incredibly talented, striking the perfect balance between light comedy and spooky storytelling, while also smoothly and spontaneously interacting with guests throughout the evening. Spoiler alert: there was a big, scary ending!
The Sleepy Hollow Experience is my new favorite fall event.
The show was created by Brian Clowdus, who has produced the event in various venues for the past seven years. It was surreal to watch the story unfold on the grounds of Sunnyside, the very place author Washington Irving conceived the story while he called it home. Historic Hudson Valley brought the show to Sunnyside and, with any luck, the show will be back next year.
Historic Hudson Valley is a Westchester gem, bringing cultural events to our local community all year long. Keep up to date with all the events they offer at www.hudsonvalley.org.