What started out as an experiment of sorts has now grown into one of the top five Halloween plays in the country. Openly gay Serenbe Playhouse founder and artistic director Brian Clowdus’ “The Sleepy Hollow Experience,” the spooky tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, is back for the fourth year for another fall run. This time the show has been tweaked a bit. We caught up with Clowdus recently to give us the lowdown on the 2016 version.
Hello Brian. Tell us about the idea to stage “Sleepy Hollow” at Serenbe.
It came on the heels of “Hair.” For the first four years we were just a summer theater. After the success of “Hair,” we asked how we could keep the momentum going. We thought a fall production would be a fun addition. I tried to think of something cool to do at Serenbe. I looked at the stables here. The Headless Horseman came to mind and that is how “Sleepy Hollow” was birthed. We thought we’d do it and see how it went. It literally sold out before we even opened. We knew we had to make it good. We included live horses and all the actors playing instruments. It felt old world meets modern world.
What’s new this season?
The stables are great but there are only so many people you can fit in a stable. Last year, we moved it into an open field venue. Adam Koch designed a set in a field and came up with a skeleton version of the town.
This year I am using a new script which I have adapted. The script uses new music and it becomes our version. I have the rights to the script. Now I can tweak it in any way. I am also going to be doing it in Massachusetts, but every version will be unique.
Why has the story held up?
People ask that all the time. There is something about the legend that transcends all ages. It really is the most iconic Halloween story of all time. For visuals, the visual of a Headless Horseman looking for a head is pretty terrifying and iconic. There are so many versions, films and cartoons, a TV show. It’s scary but not gory scary. Everyone has their own version. It’s become part of Halloween.
What are your crowds like?
Very diverse. Our audiences do skew younger for shows where you are on your feet. This is a mix of theatergoers, people who go to haunted houses and the typical Serenbe audience coming for the experience. People become immersed in the environment and they tend to come every year because it’s now part of their tradition. We are seeing new people come as well.
Are most people familiar with the story?
I think people have an understanding of what it is. What’s interesting here is that you get some background story. Like, where did Ichabod come from? How did the town get its name? I think people enjoy that.
What is the gay appeal?
I feel like Halloween has almost become a gay holiday. The holidays the gays have embraced. We see so many LGBT audience members, especially for these immersive shows. This show celebrates the fall, and Halloween. There is plenty of great eye candy in the show too. That should get people in the door.
“The Sleepy Hollow Experience” Serenbe Playhouse 10950 Hutchesons Ferry Road Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268 Through November 6 www.serenbeplayhouse.com