The Washington Ballet Partners With Smithsonian On Sleepy Hollow Premiere

“The Washington Ballet Presents Sleepy Hollow”

[Washington, DC] – The Washington Ballet presents Sleepy Hollow, the third installation in its ongoing “The American Experience” series of developing original full-length ballets based on iconic American literary masterworks.

In choosing to adapt America’s first great ghost story, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow into a ballet, Artistic Director Septime Webre was attracted by the opportunity to create a thrilling and theatrically extravagant work. The themes of post-Revolutionary America’s geographic and intellectual expansion given newly-won freedom are prevalent in the era the story reflects. The twin dynamics of fear and excitement of the unknown and the prospect of untapped potential serve as thematic inspirations. Irving’s classic tale integrates these factors into the setting which is placed in a town at the edge of a mysterious glen encapsulated in a dream state and addicted to superstition.

Directed and choreographed by Webre, the lush yet ominous setting for this ballet is inspired by Hudson River School artist landscapes and American portraiture works of the 19th century. The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is a unique partner in the conceptual development of a mise-en-scène of lush magnificence whose works helped directly inspire the set, projection, costumes, puppet and lighting design.

Award-winning Composer Matthew Pierce offers a haunting score with ancient Gaelic lyrics and hymns that will be performed live by a 14-piece orchestra and 18 choristers from the the Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir. Webre has assembled an “artistic dream team” of collaborators including Costume Designer Liz Vandal, Scenic and Properties Designer Hugh Landwehr, Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor, Projection Designer Clint Allen, Librettists Karen Zacarias and Bill Lilley and Puppet Designer Eric J. Van Wyk in the development of a stunning production that will transport audiences back to the famed glen that author Washington Irvington describes as having “a drowsy, dreamy influence.”

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is an obvious partner for this “The American Experience” collaboration, as it exhibits one of the broadest and most in-depth collections of American art in the world. Fine art genres that inspired the production include Hudson River landscapes; 19th Century Colonial portraiture and Revolutionary War battle scenes. Images of these works will actually be incorporated in the design of the production. Early political cartoons and satirical drawings from other sources will also be projected as panoramic backdrops.

A collection of works used as inspiration for the scenic design of this production can be found on the SAAM Facebook page.

For more information on Sleepy Hollow, including casting updates, behind-the-scenes videos and more, visit


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