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'Sleepy Hollow' opens new series at St. Vincent

| Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Storyteller Jonathan Kruk tells the tale of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
Todd Atteberry
Storyteller Jonathan Kruk tells the tale of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Ichabod Crane's spooky run-in with the Headless Horseman will be brought to life in vivid detail Sept. 25 when award-winning storyteller Jonathan Kruk presents “Legends of Sleepy Hollow” at St. Vincent College, near Latrobe.

The performance is the first in a new history dinner-theater series presented by the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery in the school's Fred M. Rogers Center.

The original “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was published by Washington Irving in 1819 and was the first American story to gain worldwide fame. It combines horror and gothic romance in the tale of a New England schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, who vies with the local hero, Brom Bones, to win the hand of farmer's daughter Katrina Van Tassel. After leaving a party at the Van Tassel farm, Crane is chased by the Headless Horseman.

“ ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' is iconic not just because of the Headless Horseman,” Kruk says. “It offered the world a look at who we are as Americans. It offered the loveable bully in Brom Bones, the nerd in Ichabod Crane and the coquette in Katrina Van Tassel.”

Kruk has spent nearly 20 years researching and perfecting his presentation, which he describes as “a unique combination of storytelling and theater.”

“It's a full-on theatrical one-person performance,” he says. “It's lively, animated, and even though people will get some jumps, there is some humor in it, too.”

The show is about 45 minutes long and will be followed by a question-and-answer session. It is best suited for those age 8 and older.

Lauren Churilla, curator of the McCarl gallery, is coordinator of the series. She conceived the idea after noting the popularity of mystery dinner theaters. “I wanted to do something a little bit different,” she says. “To bring in a variety of history storytellers to make learning fun.”

If the concept proves successful, it will carry on into the future. “This is definitely something we'd like to continue year after year here,” Churilla says.

The menu for “Legends of Sleepy Hollow” will offer a choice of either marinated flank steak or butternut squash ravioli, along with two side dishes, salad, dessert and dinner rolls. Future dinners will offer a choice of two entrees plus accompaniments. Each menu will also have a children's option.

“The food is going to be fantastic,” Churilla says. Meals are provided by Parkhurst, the school's food service.

The series continues in November with Oni Lasana presenting the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, followed in December by Bill and Cresha Foley as a Civil War soldier and his wife. Pat Jordan will appear as Louisa May Alcott in March 2016, and Maggie Roberts will offer a demonstration of colonial women's clothing in May 2016. All the programs are appropriate for a family audience. Season tickets for the series are $245. Reservations are required.

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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