The theater is alive with chatter before the play starts; there’s something apprehensive in the air, the majority of audience members having already seen a PHS production. Many hold a program in their hand, reading the often witty descriptions of every actor and actress who will make an appearance that night. After the clock strikes 7:00 (or 2:00, if one chose to attend the matinée) the red curtains separate, revealing a twisted tree and fantastic costumes, immersing the audience until the cast takes their final bows.
Every actor filling a main role in the play also had another, less primary, role, alternating with their counterpart between the two. Senior Rachel Willis and junior Keva Shull alternated between the so-called “coquettish” Katrina Van Tassel and the eerie Woman in White, who traversed the crowd during the telling of a spooky story, often succeeding in making an audience member jump.
Willis and Shull, while both performing outstandingly, brought different elements to Katrina Van Tassel, Willis giving her a sly and manipulative air, while Shull chose to bring a sassier side to this well-loved character. Being such a central role, this difference in behavior had an effect on the production as a whole, the rest of the cast adapting and responding. This slight difference in interpretations of Katrina made watching the play twice exciting and intriguing, rather than repetitive and dull.
Willis and Shull’s counterparts, juniors Collin Nelson and Shay Carnahan, respectively, fell into their roles with ease. They played the central character of Ichabod Crane, the opportunistic schoolmaster who only had eyes for Katrina, and frequently fell privy to the manipulation of the townspeople and their ghosts. Both outstanding actors in their primary and secondary roles (the Headless Horseman), they added quirks to their characters that, created a dynamic and interesting personality for the audience to love and hate, all at once. Brom Bones (played by junior Hunter Clark at the time) had shaken Ichabod’s hand vigorously, in an attempt to assume the dominance of the relationship, Carnahan pulling away slowly before wiping the sweat of Brom on the fabric of his shirt, an action unscripted, but one that added humor and character to the scene nonetheless.
The PHS drama department has proved time and time again that they can put on quality performances with mere months of preparation, using innovative techniques to bring their play to the next level. This production did not disappoint, despite it carrying a macabre tone that is not typically seen in the often lighthearted plays chosen by the group. Their next performance will cross over into more fantastic, brighter territory: The Wizard of Oz. Auditions will be December 9th, 10th, and 11th (bring a short monologue and song!) , the final product premiering sometime this Spring. It’s sure to captivate an audience just as well as its predecessor, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.