CF theater students to revive the Headless Horseman

Instructor Nonalee Davis and her students add their own flair to “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

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Posted October 19, 2022 | By Julie Garisto

The College of Central Florida will ride with the Headless Horseman this Halloween, paying homage to Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

“It’s the original American gothic ghost story, written more than 200 years ago,” said Nonalee Davis, CF theater instructor.

Twenty-three CF students make up the cast, including Janik Buranosky as Ichabod Crane, Perla Ramirez as Katrina and Jackson Reed as Brom Bones. The production will feature a student-built set and student tech crew.

Indeed, the CF theater department has spared no effort in its interpretation of Vera Morris’ adaptation, “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The play is “a fantastic mix of comedy and thrills,” said Davis. “Phantoms, folk dances, the notorious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, Katrina, the Sleepy Hollow Boys and, of course, the Headless Horseman all make appearances onstage.”

Morris’ adaptation mostly stays true to Irving’s plot, beginning with everyone’s favorite awkward schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, who comes to the community of Sleepy Hollow with high hopes and ambitious aspirations. When Ichabod proposes to the fair Katrina at a party, he is kicked out by the bullying Brom Bones and escapes through the graveyard during a storm. What transpires in the dark will forever change the once-peaceful farm town.

CF’s production of “Sleepy Hollow” features an enchanting rustic set with autumn leaves and a creepy graveyard. Its spooky statue-like phantoms recall the “weeping angels” of “Doctor Who” and the cemetery has gravestones named after real-life residents of Sleepy Hollow, New York, notated from cemetery photos.

Instructor Davis, who is renowned for her theatrical and movie/TV stuntwork, said she began the production process over the summer, contracting a set designer and carpenter to re-create the village that inspired Irving’s tale.

It’s a good thing that more students enrolled after the dust settled from pandemic cancellations and the remote learning lockdown period.

“I actually went from having six students to 28 students this semester, so I am super excited to have this many talented people in the program,” Davis said.

It took a lot of heart in the building set, she said. “We hired a set designer (Tyler Stentiford) and he came in and we walked the bare stage and I described to him what I wanted. He sketched it first and then he ended up putting it into a computer-assisted design program.”

The “Sleepy Hollow” performance is part of a course called Advanced Play Production and its instructor balances inclusivity with discipline, hard work and a sense of fun.

“We started this process in August and we blocked it and practiced the movement pieces in it and, once that was done, I pushed the kids very hard to get off book as quickly as possible so they could start working more on their characters and less on worrying about their lines. … I’m a little harder on them so that when they finally open, they feel super comfortable,” Davis said.

The rehearsal process also offers fun and theater games for the students to help them loosen up and transform the theater stage into early 19th-century New York.

In spring, Davis and her CF posse plan to shift gears to stage the upbeat, colorful and kitschy musical “Xanadu,” a film that starred the late-great Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly…  but will CF’s show also be a rollerskating fantasy?

“Yeah, absolutely,” Davis enthuses. “We’re going to build a half pipe. Woohoo!”


“Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Oct. 27-30
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-29, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at the CF Dassance Fine Arts Center, 3001 S.W. College Road, Ocala.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for non-CF students and can be purchased at or by calling 352-873-5810; free for CF students, faculty and staff with valid I.D.