The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Ichabod Crane (Tim Storey) is the schoolteacher for the children of Sleepy Hollow, including Olga Wyckoff (Shakira Rodriguez), Lieselle van Brunt (Madison Conaway) and Cornelia van Tassel (Maria Keatney). "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" opens Friday, Oct. 4. (DreamWrights photo)

The superstitious townsfolk tread with care in Sleepy Hollow, and so too will the audience at DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

"We do have a bridge, and the whole audience goes through it to get into the theater," says director Diane Crews. "It looks like it's falling down, but it won't."

The covered bridge helps modern theater-goers make the transition to 1790, when Washington Irving's classic tale is set. Crews adapted the story for the stage, but with a twist -- DreamWrights' production will be done as theater in the round.

"The audience is right there on all four sides," she says, evoking the image of how "around campfires you used to tell spooky stories."

For laughs: The spookiness in this "Sleepy Hollow" isn't the grim, bloody affair portrayed in television and movie interpretations. The theater promises kid-friendly comedy.

"The ghost story is a way to set up these dramatic interactions with these characters," says Ichabod Crane actor Jerry Young, 45, of Spring Garden Township. "It's not going to be frightening to most audience members."

Though the production doesn't neglect the classic Headless Horseman elements, the story focuses on Crane as the cosmopolitan city man taking over as the schoolteacher for the sleepy backwoods community. The actors have fun in classroom and festival scenes showcasing the late 18th-century culture of the newborn United States.

"In my cast I have some families, and it's always cool to see the parents who are the first-timers with their kids," says Paige Hoke, who directs one of two complete casts for the production. "It's funny, there's a lot of humor in it. ... It's a great Halloween show without being scary for kids."

Hoke's Ichabod Crane is played by Tim Storey, 27, of Spring Garden Township, who pulls double duty as both a board member for DreamWrights and an actor who has appeared in more than 50 productions.

"I love the family atmosphere of community theater," says Storey, who started acting at 7 and says he enjoys the mix of uptight schoolteacher and superstitious scaredy-cat in Crane's behavior. "I like the dichotomy. It's a very diverse role."

Newcomers: The lead actors might have to worry about being upstaged by some special "performers" making their debut: an adorable goose and two nearly life-size horses.

"Her name in this show is Greta," Crews says of the goose being built by technical wizard Ray Olewiler, who is also known for his work at York Suburban and York Little Theatre. "It's her first appearance anywhere, and she's cute as a button."

The "goose man" is making the horses for an exciting chase scene in "Sleepy Hollow," including one horse that tops out around seven feet with its neck extended. Only time will tell if the horse can outrun its pursuer and carry its rider to safety in DreamWrights' fast-moving production.

See the show

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" opens Friday, Oct. 4, at DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, 100 Carlisle Ave., York, and runs for three weekends.

Shows start at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19, and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20. A special playlet and breakfast performance for young children will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. The show at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, will be audio described for audience members with visual impairments, and a touch tour to allow interaction with the set, props and costumes will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $12 for reserved seating. Playlet tickets are $10. Tickets must be purchased in advance for the playlet and the audio-described performance.

For more information, call (717) 848-8623 or visit www.dreamwrights.org.

-- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.