For a theater company that is not used to producing outside of the summer, Serenbe Playhouse is offering a doozy of a fall time show. Gay artistic director Brian Crowdus has just opened his “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” at the company.
Normally Clowdus schedules a three show season in the summer but he felt there was buzz around his 2013 schedule. With that momentum, he talked to his board of directors and felt the timing was right for the company’s first fall production. (His goal ultimately, he admits, is to produce year-round.) He had always wanted to use the Serenbe Stables as part of a production and it all came together with “The Sleepy Hollow Experience,” with Clowdus directing.
Adpated by Kathryn Schultz Miller, this production is based on the folk tale by Washington Irving and tells the tale of Ichabod Crane (Chris Mayers,) a schoolteacher who comes to the town of Sleepy Hollow and becomes infatuated with Katrina Van Tassel, before he has a fateful encounter one evening with the Headless Horseman.
Clowdus calls his version a cross between a haunted house and a play, with a quirky aesthetic.
“It’s not a new version,” he says. “This is a re-telling with an old but modern feel.” As a director, he is employing both some live music and some pre-recorded music as well to give the piece atmosphere.
As always, his production will be an event. It will be a walking production, save for a middle sequence where patrons can dance and sing at a party, but the production allows a few opportunities to sit along the way.
Without even trying, the stables have become central characters. “The stables themselves are very creepy, and naturally scary,” he says.
The director will be using horses as part of the show – at least two – and will have a traditional Headless Horseman. Luckily, he is achieving that effect mostly through costuming – no actors will be decapitated.
Clowdus has been asked by parents if the new production is appropriate for kids and is leaving it up to them to decide. There is no blood and guts, nor any adult content, but there are chills aplenty.
“Kids who like spooky movies will like it – it’s not ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’,” he says.
After the Halloween night performance, a special Halloween Monster Mash party will take place and the 2014 Serenbe season will be announced.
Although there is no specific queer content, the director thinks LGBT audiences will like this. “There’s some eye candy, and queens like to scream and be scared,” he laughs.
Clowdus formed Serenbe back in 2009 but wasn’t living here fulltime. He was finishing up master’s work at The University of South Carolina for the first two years of the company. He later moved to the area and divides his time between an apartment in Atlanta and a place in Serenbe, which is known as an artist’s colony. He has noticed that a lot of gay people have moved to the area of late, especially couples.
Clowdus has had a dream year – Serenbe presented the acclaimed children’s play “Velveteen Rabbit,” the drama “A Walk in the Woods” and an excellent version of “Hair” this summer. He has also found time to freelance as a director, just finishing staging the comedy “Walter Cronkite is Dead” at Aurora Theatre.
Yet the fall season hasn’t been without some controversy – “Hair” was expected to contend for major awards at the annual Suzi Bass awards but it was largely ignored, as was another musical he starred in at Fabrefaction Theatre, “Assassins.”
He was stung a bit by the exclusions but has responded by quickly getting back to work. He’s been encouraged that ticket pre-sales for “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” have been higher than any other Serenbe production so far.
“The Sleepy Hollow Experience”
9110 Selborne Lane Suite 210, Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268
Through October 31
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