Adaptation of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' ignites laughter in audience

The Stevens Puppets of Indiana presented Washingtonn Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at the Ballard Institute on Sunday, October 2, 2016. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

On Sunday, UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry hosted Stevens Puppets’ adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Featuring Zan and Dan Raynor of Stevens Puppets, this sold-out show showcased the original puppets carved in 1965. Attending were families and their children.

Kicking off the show was Dan’s interactions with the kids in the audience. Friendly and charismatic, Dan’s dialogue started a never-ending round of laughs from both the children and adults. Frequently, Dan would interject the script with his own commentary and sounds. Targeting the children, he made unusual, but hilarious noises to ignite the kids with laughter.

At the onset of the first scene, audience members can appreciate the authenticity of the backdrop painted by Zan. Puppet movements were fluid and fun to watch. Sometimes, Dan would play with the characters and make them dance or kick their feet. Dialogue between characters were captivating and humorous.

“The script is 90 percent original and 10 percent of my own,” Dan said. Occasionally, his words included ironic and unexpected remarks, again targeting the youth. Eventually, when Baltus Van Tassel, the father of the main family entered, he stated “It’s not like I’m a puppet.”

After the conclusion of the show, Zan and Dan allowed for the audience to ask questions and view the marionettes. The Ichobad, Ichobad on horse, and Headless Horseman puppets were shown to the audience. Dan explained the mechanics of controlling a puppet. The control for each puppet is relatively the same—the main wood and its “wings” or side arms. Adjustments were made for specific puppets to accommodate the scenes they were in. For example, to aid in Ichobad and Katrina’s dance scene, their controllers inserted into each other to provide more control.

When asked about the string material, Dan answered, “Black fish line was used because it diffuses the light. The clear string would reflect light.”

Zan and Dan have been with Stevens Puppets since 1993. The duo has toured the country, acting and directing professionally in 35 states. Last year, they had gone on tour for six months straight. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” showcases the voices of Zan and Dan’s five children.

“They come here often, performing either performance series or individual shows,” said Emily Wicks, Manager of Operations and Collections of the Ballard Institute. “They showed Sleepy Hollow last October, Beauty and the Beast in the spring, and Aladdin in the summer.”

This was my very first professional puppet show and I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Stevens Puppets will be sure to come back next year with its usual positive reviews, presenting “Rumpelstiltskin.”

Kevin Li is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at