John Rapson has been dreaming of staging some iteration of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” ever since he began his acting career.
He first became obsessed with Washington Irving’s scary story at age 7.
“My mother took me to see a puppet show of it, and I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I completely fell in love with the story, and it sort of cemented my aesthetic of loving all things spooky that go bump in the night, you know? And ever since I began a career, I wanted to do it on stage.”
If you go
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Date: Nov. 4
Location: The Back Room at Funky Picnic Brewery and Café
The Bearded Lady
Tickets: Must show performance ticket
Time: 8 p.m. Thurs-Sat; 2 p.m. Sun
Date: Nov. 3-6
Location: Amphibian Stage
120 S Main St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
Tickets: $25 general admission on Thursday; $40 Friday through Sunday
Inspired by his own isolation during quarantine, Rapson adapted the tale into a one-person show called “The Hollow” that is currently running at Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth’s Near Southside neighborhood.
But, Rapson, who also stars in the show, is quick to point out that even a one-person show requires many hands to produce.
When he was thinking about how to make his vision into a reality, Rapson called upon his friend and collaborator, Jeremy Landon Hays.
The pair, who have both worked on Broadway and on national touring productions, enlisted the help of producer Joel Ferrell to look for a venue that would be willing to experiment and hold a premiere. Amphibian Stage was an immediate fit, they said.
“One of the huge benefits of the pandemic, if there were any, is that the rules went away briefly,” Hays, the director of the production, said. “And I think we were able to see the opportunity for commercial theater outside of New York.”
“The Hollow” debuted at Spark Fest, Amphibian Stage’s annual workshop festival that gives audiences the opportunity to see shows that are in development and productions the chance to receive valuable feedback and refine their work.
Now “The Hollow” is closing out the theater’s season with a run of five consecutive sold-out shows and four performances remaining.
“I am consistently impressed by audiences in the DFW area. They lean forward. They listen. They’re cultured, smart and they care,” Rapson said. “If you’re going to try out something for the first time, you have to try it out at someplace with an engaged audience and Amphibian has that built in.”
For the Friday, Nov. 4, performance, they are adding another layer to the experiment: a pub crawl. Ticket holders will have the opportunity to gather with Hays before the performance at Funky Picnic Brewery and Café and The Bearded Lady, two neighborhood watering holes, and hear readings from the Fort Worth Poetry Society. After the show, they’ll have the chance to join Rapson at the Southside Cellar.
The duo wanted to make the experience an interactive one where the audience has the chance to have a communal experience together rather than driving in for the show, watching the performance and immediately going back home.
“I think sometimes, in our industry, we can get a little highbrow with the way they market things,” Hays said. “I hope this goes to show that, you know, theater is meant for the masses and it’s meant to have a good time.”
Rapson also hopes that people will embrace the opportunity to connect with their fellow audience members and potentially create a new tradition for the Halloween season with this retelling of a timeless and terrifying tale.
“It becomes intimate and communal, and at the end of it, we all gather in a place and listen to a ghost story together,” Rapson said. “And then we all go have a drink and remind ourselves that there’s probably no such thing as ghosts and that we can all go home and turn on the lights.”
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.