Into the Hollow

Ninety Seconds of Chaos

By Mike Van Dorpe

For most guests who wander through A Night in Sleepy Hollow, they start their show at 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm and so on, then about an hour later you end up back at the starting gate to head back to village talking about with their friends about the revamped Hollow scene. For most of the cast, they masterfully perform the same scene eight to ten times per night. For me, the logistics coordinator, I’m tracking the movement of every group and every part of the story constantly, all night long.

Throughout most of the night, the various cues that I’m tracking happen every couple of minutes without much interference. 8:05 pm, Show 2 is getting dropped off at the gate. 8:07 pm, Show 4 is at the campfire. 8:12 pm, Show 3 is starting to hear ghost stories at the Van Tassel Barn.

This all comes to a head every thirty minutes when six guides are moving 120 people in three locations within a ninety second span. A show is starting at the gate, another show is wrapping up at the White Horse Tavern, and a third show is entering the Hollow. Things are moving so rapidly, I  wear two radios. One for my deputy logistician and wife, Jillian, who helps me track every group, and the other for listening to cues for all other parts of the show.

The exact timing of shows is always different. Show 5 may be forty-five seconds ahead, Show 6 is two minutes slow, etc. But it’s up to me to work with Jillian, the Guides, and other cast members to slow down and speed up groups as best we can so that every guests’ trip through Sleepy Hollow runs smoothly. The ninety seconds of chaos each half hour is an adrenaline filed test communication and number crunching to make sure that we all deliver a night for guests to remember.

Here are some statistics from our shows on Friday the 13th!

Average Total Show Time:                        1 hour, 4 minutes, 5 seconds

Average Campfire Storytelling:                8 minutes, 20 seconds

Average White Horse Tavern Stop:         9 minutes, 5 seconds

Average Van Tassel Barn Dance:             19 minutes, 45 seconds

Average Journey through the Hollow:   10 minutes, 5 seconds

See you in the Hollow!

Into the Hollow

An “Anything but Sleepy” Hollow Experience

By Michael Keigher

 What does the weather, sleepy hollow ticket sales, and our progress this year all have in common? They’re all going strong and hot! The changes made throughout the experience will delight veteran viewers and first timers alike. From character changes, additions to the experience, and a whole new hollow, one is guaranteed an “anything but sleepy” hollow experience.


One of the most exciting things about co-directing a show for the second time would have to be the learning experience. We are able to take things that went really well last year, and apply it again in better form. Things that we felt like we could improve on, can actually be worked out! In typical Theatre experiences, you don’t get that chance.


Sleepy hollow is an ever changing, evolving beast. It has been a pleasure working with such committed and talented people to bring this experience to life. I am so excited to share this show with all of you. 


However, like I stated before, ticket sales are going fast! If you want to be a part of this tradition, you will need to get your tickets quicker than the horseman himself!  

Tickets HERE!

Into the Hollow

Not Your Typical Walk in the Park

By Shauntia Mettlin

Sleepy Hollow is my favorite time of year! Time to start drinking Pumpkin Coffee from Dunkin Donuts and watch the leaves turn at Perry Farm. I love the sunsets, the smells, and the colors of fall! I can vividly recall my first memory of the Headless Horseman. My birthday falls a few days before Halloween, so for my 10th birthday, we took a mini hayride around our small town with my friends. My uncle Paul dressed up as a headless horseman type character (with a pumpkin for a head) and chased us around town, cackling and smashing his pumpkin head alongside of the road. Screams of fear and excitement came from that hayride! This also gave Uncle Paul the nickname of “Pumpkin Head Man”,  which I’m sure he still loathes hearing to this day.  But every year, when we head to Perry Farm for Sleepy Hollow, I get those same exciting chills I did as a kid!  This year is no different!

I have been working with Acting Out Theatre Co and Sleepy Hollow since the first year. We set up at the old “Into the Woods” stage and I ran the sound for the barn scene from behind a tree. The next year, we turned it up a notch and headed for the old barn by the farmhouse. Somehow, Sharon and Julie convinced me the best way to run sound was from the loft, behind a bunch of hay bales. I sat up there alone, except for the little mice friends I made each show. After a few years up in the rafters, I started running sound for the tractor ride. It was so much fun to see all the guests reacting to the hauntings and workings in the hollow! I guess you can say I’ve seen many sides of Sleepy Hollow. It’s crazy to think how much this production has changed over the years, but each year, these wonderful people behind the scenes have the drive to make each year better than the last!

This year is a completely new adventure for me. I’ve relocated to the Hollow and get to hang out with some of the cadaverous people you’ll ever meet! Thank you Sharon & AOTC for allowing me to step into this new role! Without giving too much away, all I can say is be ready. This isn’t your typical “walk in the park”. You will experience Sleepy Hollow up close and personal more than ever before. Enjoy the adventure, and don’t lose your head.

Into the Hollow

Some Sleepy Stuff

As we ready ourselves for our yearly journey into the hollow, we often revisit some old favorite videos and such!

Mojo’s “Top 10 Notes”

A bit trivia from Mental Floss – Sleepy Hollow (and its Legend)

Of course the 1949 Disney version with Bing as narrator is a must!

Some fun Headless Horseman commercials from over the years

Classic Snickers! Watch to the end!

Maybe the Headless Horseman just needed a beer?

Great tourism piece!

Tickets for A Night in Sleepy Hollow are on sale HERE!

Into the Hollow

Fresh Blood

By Sharon Richardson
Here we are at year 7 performing the reenactment portion of BTPD’s A Night in Sleepy Hollow.  It has evolved throughout the years by moving to the historic barns and adding new segments to the story that updates and keeps it fresh and exciting while maintaining the authenticity of the story.  As it grows and spreads out all over the park, we have had to enlist more leaders and boy do we have some great ones!  Allison Beasley and Bill Yohnka have been instrumental in helping kick off the show with a historical flare.  They are the directors of all the period guides, orchard, & tavern scenes.  Their dedication to detail and love of this event shows with how much passion and excitement they possess while improving it each year.  The new horse barn that was added last year was such a well-received addition with the live fiddler and historic setting that we can’t wait to grow this scene even more!

The reenactment barn has a fantastic cast of characters this year!  A great blend of veterans and new blood that is always exciting to watch the chemistry develop!  Michael Keigher is in his second year of directing this scene with me and his passion and understanding of the story always elevates the actor’s interpretation.

But WOW are there some incredible changes in the hollow this year!  SO much so that we needed a “Hollow” director.  And stepping up to that challenge is none other than Shauntia Mettlin!  She has been integral to the show each year in some capacity.  She has a passion and enthusiasm for this event that is inspiring and exhilarating!  We have more Revolutionary War Soldier Zombies and ghostly sightings of the Lady in White than ever!  But the headless horseman and Ichabod Crane’s mighty horse chase takes center stage more than ever this year.  Hold onto your heads cause it is going to be astounding

As always, we are performing a walking play but we will be covering more ground than ever.  Special accommodations will need to call – but trust me – you do not want to miss it!  There could be actual blood in the hollow along with all the new blood of our fantastic leaders!  Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Sept. 23rd online at and at the Perry Farmhouse during the Scarecrow Hollow Festival from 9 AM to 11 AM.  Buy early to get the best selection!  What a kick off to fall this is going to be!  It is Perry Farm’s time to shine!

Tale as Old as Time

A Moment to Never Forget








By: AE Sarver

It was a weekend full of “Once Upon a Time’s” and “Happily Ever After’s.”

Looking back on Acting Out’s Beauty and the Beast reminded me of the importance of experience. I had the opportunity to be the Lady-in-Waiting to three beautiful little girls that we named “Princess of the Day.” Princess Megan, Princess Melanie, and Princess Grace, each had a day where their dreams of being a princess came true.

Each night of the performance, one little princess would arrive at Perry Farm Park and get the princess beauty treatment. We pampered them by doing their hair and giving them a full make-over. They received gifts, jewelry, food and of course, a tiara. Then they walked around being announced as the Princess of the Day, having their photos taken and finally a grand entrance and announcement at the beginning of the show to their front row throne.


It was quite an experience for our lovely princesses. But what tied it all together was seeing their faces as they watched their favorite story come to life. When the show was over and the cast bowed, Belle immediately came up to the Princess of the Day. The joy on these little girls’ faces when their role model came to them!!

It is a moment I hope they will never forget.

There’s something special about these experiences we create. They are long-lasting and can impact a deeper part of our hearts. From a business perspective, we see the financial and marketing benefits. But more importantly, from a heart perspective, we feel the joy and love that outweigh any financial benefits.

I am always excited to see what Acting Out does next. True to their desire to immerse audiences in an outdoor theatrical experience, they bring the community A Night in Sleepy Hollow. This is another experience that brings joy and excitement to the community; so much so that people come back every year to experience it all over again.

From princesses, to a headless horseman, to a classic musical with a tragic love story, the experiences have been created. It’s our turn to share them with others and fully enjoy them. It is important to remember to fully realize the beauty around us as we’re living it. When we see it and feel it, it will be a moment we will never forget

Tale as Old as Time

Princess for a day…or two!

By Amy Tibbetts
I find in life that experiences with my children are far more memorable than any tangible item I can get them. The Acting Out Theater Company made that happen on three different days this summer.  The first was Belle’s Enchanted Tea Party.  From the minute we arrived and were greeted by actors using French accents I knew we were in for a treat. Megan, my four-year-old, was treated like royalty the whole time.  She enjoyed getting her hair and makeup done by teenagers.  She also enjoyed making a doll and playing games.

She loved meeting Belle, the Beast, Cogsworth, and Gaston who repeatedly asked her to put in a good word with Belle.  We also enjoyed fancy treats and a preview of the show.  When I saw there was a raffle for “Princess for a night” I knew I had to buy some tickets.  It ended up being the most magical prize.

When we arrived on opening night we were greeted by Ashley, otherwise known as lady-in-waiting Elizabeth. She showed us to the gazebo where it was set up just for Princess Megan.  There were signs with her name on it, lights strung, and flowers on a beautifully decorated table. Other patrons didn’t even know if they could enter the gazebo because of all of the decorations.

Lady Elizabeth then fixed Megan’s hair and did her makeup.  It was very hot and humid that evening so Lady Elizabeth had her assistant make a fan out of paper and fan Megan for at least the next hour if not longer.  After her beauty treatment she was escorted around the different food vendors and announced by Lady Elizabeth. Lady Elizabeth didn’t just announce her she made the food vendors and customers clap for Princess Megan. She then was allowed to pick what she wanted to eat.  Of course, like any four-year-old princess she chose mac and cheese, strawberry lemonade, Cheetos, and an ice cream bar. Megan then had a photo shoot and time to color. We then began the wait to see if the show would happen or not.  Lady Elizabeth continued to meet every need for the next couple hours including moving her throne into the gazebo so it wouldn’t get rained on.  The show eventually was cancelled for the night, but even without a show Megan had a very special night.

On Monday when we returned for the rain date Megan once again got her hair and makeup fixed.  She practiced her princess wave for the grand entrance.

She was shown the aisle she’d walk down before the show.  When the time came I could tell she was a little nervous, but she had fully taken on her princess role by this point and bravely took her place.  Describing the joy on her face as she walked down the aisle is impossible to do in words.  She had to adjust to having a spotlight on her while remembering to wave.  When she got to the front of the crowd she was asked to bow. She couldn’t see because of the lights, but once she realized what had been asked of her she executed the perfect princess bow.  She held both arms out to her sides and bowed her head.  It was perfection. She had a look of pride and joy I had never seen before. She then took her place on her throne.  Many people seated around us greeted her as Princess Megan which made her feel very special. During intermission, little girls approached her and wanted their picture with her. She had so much fun being Princess Megan for a night.  Not only did she enjoy the experience of being a princess she enjoyed every second of the play. My favorite part was when Belle and the Beast were in the library.  It was obvious to even a four-year-old that they were falling in love, because during that scene she slowly blew them a kiss.

To top off the night after the final bows of closing night when I’m sure the cast was excited to see family and friends, Belle came straight off stage and greeted Megan.  This truly was the icing on the cake of a magical experience.    When I asked Megan what her favorite part of the experience was she said looking pretty, being royal, and being kind to others.

Tale as Old as Time

Brave Like Belle

By Lisa Graft
I didn’t know what to expect when I brought my almost-3-year-old daughter Josie to see Beauty and the Beast this summer.  She’s never been to a movie theatre or musical, and most days she can’t even sit still through one episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood!  But I was pleasantly surprised by so many things.

First, I was surprised by how engaged and enthralled she was in the story.  At 2 years old, she may not have been able to keep up with the details of the story, but she had no trouble at all following the emotions of sadness, fear, surprise, and love and reflecting them on her face.

Second, I didn’t expect her to be wrapped up in the music the way she was.  I can share at least 347 videos I took of her that night and most days since the show where she is singing her little heart out to “Tale as Old as Time” and “The Beast Song” as we call it (“If I Can’t Love Her”).  Not to mention, the night of the show she went full-on conductor, waving her hands in the air like she just didn’t care.  Right. On. The. Beat.

And finally, I didn’t expect her first theatre experience to have such a lasting impression on her, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!  No greater proof of this was last week, when her front two teeth met the sidewalk in an aggressive fall.  My sweet girl’s lip was busted wide open, but that was nothing compared to her teeth that were now cracked and chipped.  When we were getting ready to go to the dentist, she asked if she could wear her Belle dress, which she hadn’t worn since the show.  She channeled her inner princess to be brave like Belle.

Of course she got a lot of attention for her wardrobe choice because, let’s face it, she’s totally adorable.  But it helped her feel confident and cute.  In fact, at her second dentist appointment of the day, the entire staff joined in on her love for Beauty and the Beast.  From comparing her teeth to Chip (which she LOVED!) to digging through the supply closet until they found a Belle toothbrush for her to take home, everyone was on board with making Josie feel like a princess during her trauma.  And she rose to the occasion!  She was brave like Belle in every way, and I could not be more proud.

Right now, she doesn’t know or care that most kids her age still have all of their teeth.  Some day she might notice that her smile looks a little different than others as we patiently await those permanent teeth.  And if she comes to me with that concern, it’ll be easy to point her back to Belle, who also felt a little out of place, but found love and adventure in embracing exactly who she is!

Thanks to Lisa for this heartwarming story! Enjoy this? Check out her website for more!

Tale as Old as Time

“Small Town” Theatre

By Doug & Pam Porter

When we moved to Bourbonnais in 1998, Pam was coming from a city background (Chicago suburbs, Milwaukee suburbs), and I had grown up in rural Spearman, Texas (pop. 3535) which I had fond memories of, but did not regret leaving.  So, the question “Will there be anything to do in Bourbonnais-Bradley-Kankakee?” was always in the back of our minds.  And the consoling answer was usually some variation of “Well, Chicago is only an hour away!”

For a lot of reasons, over the years we came to understand how small-minded that attitude was, and Acting Out Theater Company was one of the many reasons we came to love our community. From the first production of Into the Woods, we knew this group was something special, and we vowed never to miss a play.  First of course is the magic of being outdoors, and the way AOTC manages to blend it’s staging into the natural surroundings.  We think of Big River on a pleasant summer night with the Kankakee River flowing gently behind the stage… Chicago in Momence’s historic downtown district, Cats outside an old warehouse in Manteno, Les Misérables with the eerie limestone walls of Kankakee’s Shapiro Developmental Center serving as a magnificent backdrop.  Then there was Sweeney Todd with its terrifying trap-door barber shop set, staged in Downtown Kankakee…

and this year the joyous Beauty and the Beast, back where it all began, tucked away in the (foreboding and sometimes damp) woods of Perry Farm.

But creative staging wouldn’t be enough if it hadn’t been for the one other special ingredient: the cast and crew.  Year after year, we are just stunned at the talent that either springs ready-made from our wonderful small community, or is enticed to join us here by the ongoing success—and growing region-wide reputation—of AOTC.  The voices, the costuming and staging, masterful directing and attention to detail, the unexpected excellence… everything about these performances is first class!  We have attended plays and musicals in metropolitan Chicago for years, and come away from AOTC productions telling each other, “Wow… Chicago has nothing on these guys!”  (Except huge budgets and big-time salaries.)

Which brings us to the last thing that we’ve come to appreciate about our little outdoor theater company: the spirit.  It’s obvious from our lawn-chair perspective that the people who share their talents with our town LOVE what they are doing, and they love giving us this gift every summer.  The joyous performances make it clear that the people involved with AOTC care about getting it right and making it look easy… even though is isn’t. They make us proud to be part of something in our “small town” that is really, really good.  Think of it as small town chic: mastering the art of being both very proficient and unpretentious.

Though we had to move away two years ago, we never miss the pleasure of coming back to discover what AOTC has up its sleeve this time!  Makes us proud to say, “Yeah, I’m from Bourbonnais, Illinois… have you heard about their outdoor theater?!”


Tale as Old as Time

Rainy Days … and Mondays

By Sharon RIchardson

Maybe the Carpenters iconic song pops in your head when you read these words – but for me it is all about Beauty and the Beast.  We fought rain this year – hard.  Stormy rehearsals – waiting it out under the leaky stage – running to the farmhouse to finish Gaston/Beast fight scene – 4th tech night with an unexpected storm 1 scene after intermission.  Thankfully the cast got back to the farmhouse in time – but many of us were scrambling to get everything up and protected.  Michael and I in an open roof Kubota making our way thru the trees during the heart of the tsunami will be a memory for the ages.  I actually didn’t realize jeans could get that heavy when wet!  Admittedly it was funny during the drive and we didn’t hit a tree so all was good!

We escaped our Thursday Preview Night unscathed so we were gonna sail right through the whole weekend of shows, right?  Mother Nature had other ideas. Storms this season have been unpredictable and quite severe at times.  Opening Night started out excellent.  Huge crowd gathering in the audience and at the festival – the cast getting ready with an electric buzz in the air – their show was so ready to make its premiere and they could not wait to share it with you.  I’ll never forget the moment I walked out on the farmhouse porch and glanced up at the sky and thought – hey those clouds look a little weird.  There stood our Beast, Nick, looking up at the same clouds.  I quickly assured him radar looks good – smooth sailing ahead.  What I didn’t know was a storm had just popped up near Dwight and was heading north.  It looked like it would just skirt the edge of us, we might get a little rain, but nothing to be concerned about.  I announced to the audience some weather was heading our way – please take cover – but no worries – plenty of time to show time.  Well that “small” little system grew and stayed swirling over us.  Radar kept changing by the minute and here we all were glued to our screens – the cast in the farmhouse – the crew backstage – the audience in the pavilion, gazebo and their cars.  I kept assuring the cast that by show time – or even a delayed show time – we were gonna make it.  But Mother Nature decided tonight was not going to be our opening night and we had to call it.  I felt all the emotions from all over the park just sink into my soul.  The cast is fully aware of rain dates – but of course we aren’t going to need them!  So people make plans – vacations – days off from work – other shows – family & friends here that could ONLY come that date.   AND then there was that huge audience waiting out there patiently that now were all exiting at the same moment in a storm.  I felt the angst of the world squarely on my shoulders.  I am the one that tells everyone how fantastic outdoor theatre is and right now we were smack in the middle of when it’s not.

We got hit with a few big storms that night so we had some digging out to do the next day so that we could actually have our postponed opening night!  Help started rolling in.  A message from the BTPD Executive Director’s wife Pam – “How can I help?”  Anthony Settle, BTPD Board Commissioner, “I’ll be right there.”  Bill Hengl, BTPD volunteer, “I’m right behind Anthony.”  They spent hours loading in woodchips to our backstage area for our cast.  Tech and backstage crew came rolling in to assess all parts to make sure there was no damage and get everything back up and running.  We do not have the luxury of just walking into an auditorium and flipping on the power.  Every single thing we do is in the great outdoors.  That night in our circle time backstage in the tent – that had just been loaded full of woodchips hours before – I looked around at that fantastic cast and saw the sun setting over the meadow – and my message to them was anything worth doing is not easy and not without risk – we were living proof of that – I then knew it was supposed to be tonight – magic was present tonight at Perry Farm – and what an incredible opening night it ended up being.

The stars in the sky and the stars on the stage shone brighter than ever on this glorious night.   Experiencing the things that make outdoor theatre what it is – the wolves coming out of the woods with spooky lighting and fog – Gaston falling 17 feet to his death – torches with real fire in the mob scene – the Beast singing his big number with a slight breeze rustling in the trees behind him in the West Wing.  I sat there most of the night teary eyed watching the fantastic cast sing and act their hearts out – having overcome everything that could be thrown at them – and performing at this level – it felt amazing and gratifying.

Fast forward to Sunday nights delayed start due to a storm that blew in and then blew out.  The stage crew jumped into high gear drying everything off and fixing things that got wet or damaged in the brief storm.  Audience member Randy Tumblin ran home and got his giant squeegee and towels and jumped up there and started helping.  Another good Samaritan ran home and got a pile of towels.  The next morning Eric and Grant Penrod came and put down more wood chips in our muddy center aisle so Monday nights audience would not get muddy feet.  People cared.  People wanted to help.  And the community came together to ensure we could put on our show.

Outdoor theatre is tough.  It is not for the weak or lazy.  The heat, bugs, and rain will separate the weak from the strong quickly.    But what does happen is a bond is formed that can’t adequately be described.  We survived.  We survived together.  We created something out of nothing.  We created something beautiful that can’t be duplicated anywhere ever.  SO I am here to tell you it is worth it.  It is awe inspiring – gratifying – fulfilling – and hard work.  BUT with the right group of people – anything is possible.

Thanks to all of you for supporting us during this weather driven year.  For loving us – for helping us – and for making sure we continue to do this crazy thing called outdoor theatre.  Henry Ford said “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”  I can’t thank everyone enough for the togetherness it takes to do this.  We love you and salute you!

Our rainy days led to a Monday night performance – and you know what?  That was A-OK!

Now on to Sleepy Hollow………..