Right down the street from Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus, in the town of Irvington, is the Sunnyside cottage, which was the home of the American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859). Irving’s literary work contributed to the forging of an American identity in the first decades after the American Revolution, and he is considered by many to be the father of American literature. 200 years ago, Washington Irving wrote two stories which became American classics, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In 2018, the playwright and director Seth Bockley wrote and directed a theatrical adaption of Rip Van Winkle for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 summer season, Rip Van Winkle, or Cut the Old Moon into Stars which was performed by professional actors and community actors.
In the Fall 2019 semester students in the Honors English I section which I taught, engaged in a semester-long project on Irving’s short story Rip Van Winkle and Seth Bockley’s theatrical adaption Rip Van Winkle, or Cut the Old Moon into Stars. They read and analyzed the story, learned about the theatrical adaption, and attended a dramatic reading of the adaption performed by the community actors who had taken part in the 2018 HVSF performance. The dramatic reading took place at Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus; it was a School of Liberal Art’s theme event and part of the Department of Literature and Language’s Irving Symposium to mark the bicentennial celebration of Washington Irving’s literary contributions to American literature.
We invite you to join us in an exploration of Irving and Bockley’s works by reading the following thoughts and reflections of the experience written by the students in Honors English I. We hope that you enjoy the journey!
Dr. Reissig-Vasile, Professor of English
School of Liberal Arts, Department of Literature and Language
Summary of the story Rip Van Winkle:
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving was published in 1818; it is about a man named Rip Van Winkle who wanders into the Catskills mountains in order to flee his nagging wife. Little did he know that he would fall asleep in the Catskills mountains after drinking a liquor given to him by the ghosts of Henry Hudson and his crew. The liquor makes Rip sleep for 20 years and he eventually wakes up to realize that everything around him is different. He fell asleep during the colonial period and woke up to a new nation called the United States.
by Yairi Tejeda
Summary of the play Rip Van Winkle, or Cut the Old Moon into Stars:
Seth Bockley wrote and directed his theatrical adaption of Rip Van Winkle two hundred years after Irving wrote this story. In Bockley’s theatrical adaption he wants to raise more issues than Irving does in his original story. Bockley’s theatrical adaption is similar to the original storyline of the story: Rip fell asleep for twenty years and woke up to find out that life had moved on without him. However, in the theatrical adaption Rip is no longer the main character; it is his daughter, who is brought to life along with Rip’s wife Geertje. The women of the theatrical adaption are portrayed differently than they are in the short story. In the theatrical adaption Rip’s daughter is adventurous and his wife is hardworking and not just a nagging wife. The theatrical adaption is in a way more modernized because women are given a voice and bigger roles than in Irving’s original story. Also, in the theatrical adaption there are characters who aren’t in the original short story: the writer Washington Irving is a character in his own story as well as Diedrich Knickerbocker, a fictional historian created by Washington Irving.
by Ariana Lopez
Responses to the dramatic reading:
The dramatic reading of Rip Van Winkle: Or Cut the Old Moon into Stars contained many different aspects than the original short story written by Washington Irving. Many characters became more developed, gender issues were brought to the forefront, and the audience was given a different perspective on various characters. The writer Seth Bockley brilliantly included his own characteristics that enhanced, yet stayed true to the original short story. I feel it was very interesting that the story was augmented but still held on to the same impact as the original short story. These new attributes gave the story even more depth and made it extremely fulfilling to watch.
The aspect I found particularly worthy of further examination was the development of female characters. Previously, the women played minor, antagonist-like roles. However, in the dramatic reading of the theatrical adaption, the audience soon finds out that Rip’s daughter and wife would be taking on more dominant roles. It is through these new leading roles that the audience can gain different perspectives. Specifically, Geertje, Rip’s wife, finds herself with more dialogue and significance. She is able to actively express her thoughts and concerns free from the overshadowing thoughts of Rip. We get more of an idea of who she is and why she acts the way she does. Geertje explains the main things she is expected out carry out as a wife and mother without the aid of her husband. This entirely shifted my idea of who she was a person and opened my eyes to her struggles. This was a drastic transformation from how she represented in the original short story. As a consequence, my view entirely changed of Rip; I began to think of him as a horrible, husband and father. It’s very interesting to see how the change of roles can influence one’s opinion on a specific situation or character.
Another fascinating addition was the way in which Bockley highlighted gender issues. Traditionally women have been portrayed a stay at home moms who take care of the housework and the children, while the men work outside the home. However, in the dramatic reading Geertje was forced to take care of all aspects of the home as well as the financial responsibilities. This aspect captivated me because of the breakdown of gender roles and norms. The portrayal of Geertje as a person also highlights modern gender changes; in the dramatic reading she is now shown as being strong and independent.
After reading the short story Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and listening to the dramatic reading Rip Van Winkle: Or Cut the Old Moon into Stars, I am interested in the fact that the story’s main protagonist’s daughter is given a major role in the theatrical adaptation. In my opinion this is one of the better things Seth Bockely did to this story. Giving Sara a voice allows the story to be taken to new heights and it even betters the story in my opinion. Opposed to the short story, Sara is an actual character and the story revolves around her. Sara could be classified as lazy just like her father, also that she is not fit for marriage. Even though I was confused at first, I like the fact that she went to look for her missing father, that she proved to everyone that she wasn’t lazy. I was so puzzled for the fact that she waited all these years to go and look for him. Why did she wait twenty years to look for him? Didn’t Sara want that father figure in her life? The answer is because she was finally classified as all of those things; she was too lazy, no man would marry her; all she wants to do is go on boat rides and read books. I like that fact that she is an actual character in the adaption and it gives the story more depth and meaning. She finally has a voice and can voice her opinions as opposed to her just showing up towards the end of the story and just taking in her father to live with her. The prologue by Sara was also a very interesting addition to the story. It gives background information and gives her take on the story and where she stands in the debate of what this story means. Sara is also given her own section labeled “Sara’s Adventure”. In this section she goes searching for her father, the one that abandoned her all those years ago. In going to search for him she also meets up with Dolph Heylinger, her old playmate. She would also prove her mother wrong in the sense that she would later marry Doplh and they could live out their years together. A part of the story feels like an underdog story. Everyone believes that Rip abandoned his family and that he died, except for Sara. She believes he is still alive, but no one would listen to her. She doesn’t listen to anyone, defies the odds, and finds her father, which is very heartwarming and plus everyone loves a nice underdog story.
Another aspect that I found interesting is the fact the Diedrich Knickerbocker has a role in the story. Diedrich Knickerbocker is a fictive historian made up by the author Washington Irving. But that’s the thing; he is made up and not real at all. In the beginning of the story Washington Irving and Diedrich Knickerbocker meet and they discuss the fact that he is a sub average lawyer and should not go to London to work with his family. He should pursue writing. He should write about the Americas and not Great Britain. They have another brief dialogue and this dialogue stands out. “Don’t write about an ocean, it’s too big. Don’t write about a pond, it’s too small. Write about a river.” He also said to write about the landscape of the Americas, which he did beautifully. Diedrich Knickerbocker plays the role of Washington Irving’s subconscious. We all have subconscious. They tell us what to do and not to do. That’s exactly what he does. He tells him to not go to London and to stay and write, which is funny to see how it played out. But it’s also weird in the end. At the end of the dramatic reading, it essentially states what the characters have done with their lives. Sara has become a historian while Dolph has become a sailorr. But the most important one to look at is Sara. It states that she tells the stories and the history of the Hudson Valley, but it says that Diedrich Knickerbocker stole her stories and based used them as his own. Seth Bockely adaption has helped me realize things in my life and opened my eyes to new parts of literature that I never knew about.
During the dramatic reading of Rip Van Winkle: Or Cut the Old Moon Into Stars, Seth Bockley, playwright and director, gives minor characters in the short story major roles in the theatrical adaption. Bockley’s theatrical adaption allows the audience to see other points of views from the characters in the original short story, to make a deeper connection with the characters. Throughout the theatrical adaption, Bockley emphasizes characteristics and or traits that some of the characters have that were not developed in the short story.
In scene one, the opening character who is given more developed attributes is Deidrick Knickerbocker, who is a persona of Washington Irving’s conscience. During this scene, Irving sees Knickerbocker, but is not pleased to see him, and they have a few disagreements on Irving’s future. Knickerbocker is the one who encourages Irving to continue his writing and not follow his brothers. In the short story, Deidrick Knickerbocker is briefly mentioned when they find the papers within his belongings, but to Bockley, he deserved a more significant role.
When we first meeting the Van Winkles, we are introduced to Sara, Rip’s daughter, who in the short story was barely even mentioned. In the theatrical adaption, Sara talks about how her father had wandered into the Catskill Mountains and never returned home. She asks herself, if she forgive a man who abandoned them twenty years ago. Sara is portrayed as this young woman longing for adventure and not love, which was not typical for a girl during that era. Sara then braves the haunted mountains to find her long lost father. In the short story, no one goes looking for Rip.
With Rip gone and no other man to take care of the farm, Geertje, only known as Dame Van Winkle in Irving’s original story, runs it by herself. In the short story, Irving did not even give Rip’s wife a name and portrayed her as a nagging wife. But Bockley saw her differently; he saw her a hard-working mother trying to support her family. With Geertje playing a significant role in the theatrical adaption, Bockley keeps her alive when Rip wanders home twenty years later, instead of her being dead and forgotten about. This turned out to be a good thing with Sara wandering off into the mountains to find her father, due to her becoming lost. Rip and Geertje set off together to find their daughter and find her in safe with a longtime friend, Dolphe, who is only a character in the theatrical adaption.
The short story Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and the theatrical adaption of the short story entitled Rip Van Winkle or Cut the Old Moon into Stars by Seth Bockley, have many similarities and difference; there were many interesting aspects of the dramatic play.
An interesting aspect is the role of female characters in the theatrical adaption. In the short story, Rip’s wife isn’t given a name. She is briefly mentioned just to show her relationship with Rip. Although she is mentioned, she isn’t given much significance. Rather, she is displayed as a wife who finds any excuse to argue with her husband and women who want everything done as they please. On the other hand, the adaption gives Rip’s wife the name of Geertje. Geertje is now portrayed as a complex and fully developed character and not just a nagging wife. Rip’s daughter is another female character in the short story that was nameless and given a minimal amount of significance. In the theatrical adaption, Rip’s daughter is given the name of Sara and is presented as the protagonist.
Another interesting aspect is Knickerbocker’s role as Irving’s inner voice. We all have a inner voice which in a way tells us what to do. Knickerbocker had that exact function on Irving. Knickerbocker influences Irving to proceed with writing rather than becoming a below average lawyer in London. Knickerbocker tells him that literature is what he should do because he is good at it. With this said, he also persuades Irving into writing American literature rather than writing about Great Britain. Knickerbocker was successful in persuading Irving because as we can see, Washington Irving is known as the father of American literature.
In the theatrical adaption of Rip Van Winkle, called Rip Van Winkle Or Cut the Old Moon into the Stars, by Seth Bockley, there were a few aspects that I found interesting that were not included in the original version by Washington Irving. In the original Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, Rip’s wife did not have a role and wasn’t an important character in the short story. In the theatrical adaption, Geertje played an important role in the story. Geertje was a forgiving person, had humor, and was a strong woman. The audience was able to feel that through her character. The fact that she was able to forgive Rip for being gone for so long is a great example of how strong of a woman her character is.
Another aspect that I found interesting about the theatrical adaption is that Deidrick Knickerbocker and Washington Irving were actual characters. In Rip Van Winkle by Irving, Knickerbocker is a fictional persona invented by Irving who also narrates Rip Van Winkle. In the beginning of Cut the Old Moon into the Stars, Knickerbocker and Irving were conversating with each other on whether Irving should go to London and live with his brothers or continue living in New York. Knickerbocker had convinced Irving to stay and work on his writing. Seth Bockley put in Irving’s real-life dilemma about whether or not to continue with his writing.
Another aspect from the theatrical version is that Rip was still the same lazy old man as he was in the original version of Rip Van Winkle. This is an important aspect because as a reader, I would expect everything in the theatrical version to be different. I think this aspect stands out the most because every other character from Irving’s version has been changed except Rip.
One final aspect from the theatrical adaption that I found interesting would be that Sara waited 20 years to go on an adventure to look for her father. I found this aspect interesting because in Irving’s version, Sara did not leave to seek her father at all. I think that in the theatrical version, characters are more emotional and sympathetic to what is going on around them. Even when Rip had returned, Sara did not seem angry that he had been gone for so long. I feel that she was more interested in what had happened to him and wanted to make sure he was okay before she could jump to any conclusions or hate her father for leaving.
The theatrical adaption of “Rip Van Winkle or Cut the Old Moon into Stars” was written and directed by Seth Bockley in 2018. The theatrical adaption had important aspects such as the role of the women and the relationships between the characters which was different from the short story of “Rip Van Winkle”.
The theatrical adaption amazed me on how it views Sara, Geertje, and Rip in a different way than in the short story. In the short story Rip’s wife is viewed as a grouchy and nagging wife. Rip’s wife did not have a name in the short story, but in the theatrical adaption, she has a name which is Geertje. Geertje is able to do things independently without Rip’s help. Geertje was able to chase down stray cows, fix the fence, make a wheel of cheese that was broken on their property, which shows how Geertje does not need a man to help her with doing things on the farm and how hardworking she is. In the short story Rip’s wife feels angry that Rip does not help on the farm, but he will help the neighbors instead and hang out with his friends. The villagers see Rip as a kind and helpful fellow and don’t understand why his wife is upset. In the theatrical adaption, the villagers and Rip’s friends see Rip as a horrible husband for leaving his family. But Geertje was capable of doing the work around the farm on her own. This can give the viewers an idea of how much women do not need a man to help them do work. Women are able to get the job done and were strong enough to do things on their own. In the short story, Rip’s wife was not alive when Rip returned twenty years later to the village. Rip was happy when he found out his wife was dead since he can finally be free from her rule over him. In the theatrical adaption, Geertje was still alive and this is important since it shows how twenty years can affect a relationship and show how Geertje forgave him even if he left the family.
In the short story, Rip’s daughter takes her father in after he returns from his sleep and she does not go out looking for her father like in the theatrical adaption. In the theatrical adaption Rip’s daughter is given a name which is Sara and she is seen as adventurous. The author showed how Sara was adventurous by when she confronted a peddler, saw that she was selling a rusty musket that looked just like her father’s, and when she asked the peddler where she found the musket, the peddler said in the mountains, so then the adventure began. Sara looked through the mountains and demons appeared and she thought the demons may have taken her father, so she set out to look for reinforcement. Sara didn’t have much of a role in the short story, “Rip Van Winkle” but in the theatrical adaption, Sara is seen as a girl who never lost hope of her father returning home one day. This shows determination since she always thought her father was coming home even if other people thought he was dead.
The dramatic reading of the theatrical adaption had many interesting factors and issues raised that are very different and more in depth than the original short story of “Rip Van Winkle”. I am interested in the modern adaptions in the female characters and the question Sara asks, how to forgive a person that abandoned you? The modern changes in the story are fairly noticeable, especially in the female characters Sara and Geertje. In the adaption, Sara is seen as a strong woman who wants to observe everything in order to drawn conclusions. We see this characteristic of hers when she is determined to find her father. She wanted to find her father because she did not believe he was dead; she wanted an answer to the question: did you abandon us? Also, Sara is determined to find her father because she does not believe other people’s opinions about her father Rip Van Winkle.
She wants to witness her father’s character herself in order to draw a conclusion about him. Sara also has a modern characteristic, because she does not really care for money nor politics; she cares more for an adventure. This side of her character is seen when she sets off to find her father; even though; many people believe he is dead. She solved the puzzle of her father’s disappearance when she went the forest and saw the ghost of Hendrick Hudson and his crew and she asks them if they had seen her father, to which they replied that they had. From that point she figures that the ghost of Hudson is the reason to Rip disappeared, and she convinces Dolph to help her find her father, which he agrees to do because he knows how it feels like to have your father abandon you.
Geetrje is also portrayed as a modern woman in many ways. At the start of the dramatic reading, Geetrje is playing two roles in her household. She is playing the male role, because she is working to provide for her family, but she is also playing the female role, in that she is taking care of the domestic chores. Greetje’s character shows her modern adaption when she forgives Rip Van Winkle after he disappeared. She also forgives him for his past mistakes towards his family. But just because she forgave him, that does not mean they are together again as husband and wife. In the theoretical adaption we come to know that after Rip returned from his twenty- year nap, he does not live under the same roof as Geertje. He lives on his own in a goat barn.
Even though Greetje and Rip are separated, that does not mean they have to be on bad terms. Actually, they remain good friends, and co-parent for the sake of their daughter. It is very clear that there is no cold blood between them. During Sara’s wedding, they both seem equally happy and they both give her good advice about marriage, based on their experience. This is a very modern action of Greetje. To be able to stand on your own two feet, be the base of the family, and also be able to forgive, befriend and co-parent with your previous husband, is very modern, and is something that many women do today.
The question that Sara asks the audience at the beginning of reading of the theatrical adaption is very important: How do you forgive someone that abandoned you? In the theatrical adaption of Rip Van Wrinkle, everyone believes that Rip abandoned his family and left them alone to struggle with life, especially Greetje. But despite everyone thinking that Rip is dead, Sara was convinced that he was alive. So she looked for him and eventually she found him. After finding out the reason why Rip disappeared, which was due to the ghost of Hendrick Hudson and his crew, she understood that Rip leaving her and her mother was not a choice but perhaps destiny or bad luck. When Sara and her father reunite again, it seems as she immediately forgives him and welcomes him back into her life. After finding out it was not his intention to leave, Sara and Greetje welcomed him back into their lives. There are many answers to Sara’s question, but maybe the main answer would be to listen to their reason for leaving and see if they can be forgiven and welcomed back into your life, just like Sara and Greetje did.
Rip’s wife Geertja and daughter Sara played a significant role in the theatrical adaption. The theatrical adaption shows how women gained a significant role in society and things that they are capable of doing things since they were given a significant role in the adaption. Rip’s wife Geertja was portrayed differently in the theatrical adaption than in the short story. The short story showed her as a nagging wife that tells her husband what to do, but the theatrical adaptation shows that she is capable to do things as a woman. Showing what Rip’s wife is capable of, it can give the viewer an idea of how many women are capable of doing things that may be heavy work and that women do not need to stay at home and take care of the house; they can do other things and get down and dirty to get the job done, like when she chased after the stray cows. Also, in the short story Rip’s wife was not alive after Rip’s return to the village, but in the theatrical adaption his wife was still alive and this is important since it shows how a twenty years can affect a relationship and shows Geertja as a better person since she forgave him. In the short story “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving Rip’s daughter did not even have a name, but in the theatrical adaption Rip’s daughter is given a name which is Sara. This shows how she is an important aspect of the theatrical adaption and how she is able to portray women in a way.
At the very beginning of the dramatic reading, I found Diedrich Knickerbocker and Washington Irving’s dialogue to be quite interesting. I noticed how in the dramatic reading Diedrich Knickerbocker is given more of a voice than in the story Rip Van Winkle. In the beginning, Diedrich Knickerbocker is giving Washington Irving ideas on what to write about. He suggests writing about America, hues, landscapes, and mountains. I found it interesting how Irving and Knickerbocker were disagreeing on topics that Irving should write about with Knickerbocker being Irving’s inner thoughts. This made me ask myself: is it possible to question your inner thoughts? I believe Seth Bockley included this minor confrontation with Irving and Knickerbocker to impose questions on the audience and show Irving’s struggles.
The conversation between Irving and Knickerbocker at the beginning shed light on their relationship and how they are two different people but with such similar traits, both being stubborn. Although they had differences, they both agreed on writing about America and its landscapes. I believe that maybe Bockely, the playwright, included the confrontation with Irving and Knickerbocker because he believed it was important for readers to see Irving’s inner conflicts.
Another aspect of the dramatic reading that I found to be intriguing was the characters not representing traditional gender roles and this is not only with the female characters but both men and women. In the theatrical adaptation, Seth Bockley describes both Rip and Sara’s character. Sara is outgoing, adventurous and outspoken which goes against a stereotypical woman during that time who would be described as timid and obedient. In the dramatic reading, I noticed how more of Sara’s character was revealed when she became worried about her father’s whereabouts. There was so much determination, drive, and compassion in Sara which stood out to me. The traditional gender role of men was also not shown in the dramatic reading; this I noticed with Rip. Rip has been called lazy and selfish by many characters in the play including his wife. The traditional man of a household would be strong, someone who takes the initiative, who is dedicated and supportive, and who is a role model to his family. Rip does not show these character traits at all. This aspect of the dramatic reading made me question the message that Irving wants the audience to take from this. Bockley’s characterization of Sara is the absolute opposite of a traditional woman. I got a better understanding and view of Sara’s character throughout the dramatic reading when I saw such determination and perseverance in her, when no one else was worried about where her dad might me.
Another aspect that interested me during the dramatic reading was at the end when Rip finds out that he is no longer the subject of a British monarch, no longer under British rule. From Rip’s memory, the country was ruled by King George 3rd but the nation had changed entire methods of government after the American Revolution. It seemed as if Rip had never experienced freedom before because he didn’t know how to react to his country becoming an independent nation. Regardless of the vast changes that occur around him, he remains the same gentle, easy-going, idle soul — both in his early period of the story and when he returns to his village. Rip remains the same man although he passes ‘overnight’ from the past to the future –where he continues to adhere to his true nature and to live freely as he sees it. This part of the play shows Rip’s difficult transition from being a colonist to a citizen. I believe Irving wanted us to experience Rip’s difficulties in this huge transition, how it’s affecting him and how he is coping with it. This part of the play reminds the audience of the importance of change and new beginnings in America. Rip has gone through a significant change in the past 20 years and he’s trying to adjust to his new country. Rip’s experience of his country’s change is one aspect of this story that makes Rip Van Winkle an important American literary text, that focuses on experiencing change as an American, on trying to keep up with this rapidly changing world. The world is always changing, and we will continue to adjust to it which is what is shown. It was interesting seeing Rip’s reaction; it was almost as if he was lost or overwhelmed, in a state of confusion.
This last fascinating aspect of the dramatic reading that I believe had a great impact on me and my understanding of the story, from my interpretation, is the theme of forgiveness. Toward the end, Sara asks for her parents to forgive each other’s faults and to move on. I think Irving and Seth Bockley wanted to point out how Rip Van Winkle has so many meanings and value, some abstract in so many ways. Forgiveness wasn’t an important theme at the beginning of the adaption until it became very prominent and powerful towards the middle-end when Sarah asks her parents to forgive each other for their mistakes.
The theatrical adaptation and the entirety of the story Rip Van Winkle are so powerful and unique in many ways. Irving incorporates so many themes and Seth Bockley helps us interpret the characters and what Irving might have been trying to convey. The theatrical adaptation can be interpreted in many ways and there’s so much to take away from it.
An aspect I found most interesting about the theatrical adaption, Rip Van Winkle: Or, Cut the Old Moon into Stars was how different it is from the original story. In the theatrical adaption you see women are given more of a voice. For example, in the theatrical adaption Bockley develops the female characters more that Irving does in his original short story. In the theatrical adaption the women are actually given names like Geertje, Rip’s wife, and Sara his daughter. In the short story women have such a small role and are flat characters but in the theatrical adaption they have a bigger role than Rip himself and are now more round characters. The women of the theatrical adaption are described differently than they are in the short story. In the theatrical adaption Rip’s daughter is described as adventurous and his wife is described as hardworking and not just a nagging wife like she is in Irving’s short story. The theatrical adaption is in a way more modernized because women are given a voice and bigger roles that we don’t find in Irving’s original story.
In the original short story Rip Van Winkle is the protagonist and the story revolves around him but in Bockley’s theatrical adaption he no longer has that protagonist role; his daughter Sara takes over the role as the protagonist. She doesn’t play to the stereotype of a female of her time. She wants to go out and have adventures before she settles down with a man to marry him. Although, in the theatrical adaption Rip’s wife kind of plays to the stereotype of a female because she does the housework, she also does the farm work and that is supposed to be Rip’s job. Even though she is in a way playing to the stereotypes, she is switching up gender roles. It shows how she’s a strong woman and how she is able to do a male’s job as a woman. With women having a stronger voice it gives us a different perspective of who they are and how they act; with the women having a stronger voice it still gives the audience the same perspective about Rip and how he is still this lazy man who does nothing but just sit around.
In the original short story, we don’t hear much about Rip’s wife; all we know is that she had died by the time that Rip returned home, but in the theatrical adaption she doesn’t die, and Rip and his wife are happy again. Even though they aren’t together they still manage to still be one when it comes to parenting. When Sara gets married to Dolph, her mother tells them to not make the same mistake as her and her father but to make their own mistakes. Geertje forgives Rip because people should forgive, and just because they aren’t together, and they don’t live together doesn’t mean they can’t co-parent and be happy.
The theatrical adaption Rip Van Winkle; or Cut the Old Moon into Stars, is very different from the original story. One aspect of the theatrical adaption that interested me is that Rip Van Winkle’s daughter has a voice and the character is more developed. This was interesting to me because the theatrical adaption was told in a more modern way which made the adaption more interesting. Some of the things that interested me the most about Sara is that she is a fully developed character who is adventurous and wants to discover what life might bring her. You might be wondering why this interests me and it is because Washington Irving does not give Rip Van Winkle’s daughter a name or bring her character to life. Now seeing a change in the theatrical adaption where more characters are brought to life and have a voice is interesting. Why does Seth Bockley make this change and what was his purpose for doing all of these changes in characters and changing the way that the story should be told?
What interested me about Sara’s character is that she gets married to a man that has some of the same characteristics as her. Also, the inner conflict that he creates regarding whether she should go look for her father. Then when her father comes back after so much time, she feels Rip should no longer to be considered her father since Rip had missed so much of her life. Sara basically grew up without a dad and her knowing that and having inner feelings about what has happened creates an inner conflict within herself.
The theatrical adaption of Rip Van Winkle; Or, Cut the Old Moon into Stars was performed as a dramatical reading in the Main Hall of Mercy College. It was a great experience to see actors read their parts and it felt like almost as if they were truly acting. The theatrical adaption was very different from Irving’s story. There is a similar story line, but the issues raised and portrayed played out differently. The actors in the dramatic reading did a fantastic job with bringing out the true character of the story. It was interesting to see how ambition plays a big role in the adaption. The ambitious nature of the female character Sara makes her an interesting protagonist. Sara is upset when her father leaves her and her mother. Even with all the distress of growing up without a father figure, she still has ambition and hope to find her father. It makes her a strong female character.
As a child, Sara experiences the loss of her father and domestic boredom. Sara is different from most of the people that live in the town, because she is ambitious and is always looking for an adventure. Sara finds it boring to do housework and to help her mother with chores. She seeks adventure just like Rip Van Winkle did. Her mother, Geertje, tries her best to suppress Sara’s ambition, but it does not work for long because once another villager finds Rip Van Winkle’s gun, Sara goes out to look for him. She hopes to find Rip Van Winkle alive and bring him back home. This is an important difference from the original story because Sara was nameless and played a very small role in Irving’s story, but in the theatrical adaption, she is the protagonist.
Sara is already married to a man when we meet her in Washington Irving’s story. In the theatrical adaption, the audience is able to see Sara meet and marry her future husband. Sara’s character is very prominent mostly because it is almost as if she doesn’t fit in with her village. Instead of fitting into the era of industrialization and hyperproductivity she longed for adventure. Her ambition to leave home and explore the world made her a historian. An important character in Washington Irving’s story was Knickerbocker who was a fictive historian that also plays a role in the theatrical adaption, but Sara became a historian which was unheard of in those times. Sara is very unique because she chooses to become a historian.
The theatrical adaption of Rip Van Winkle; Or, Cut the Old Moon into Stars is an interesting, and magnificent play. The actors were astonishing at bringing out the liveliness of their characters. Their energy on stage was extremely good. Everyone in the audience can find their connection to the play: whether it is Sara’s loss of her father or her difference from the other villagers. Her round character gives depth to the play. This theatrical adaption is also an important history lesson. It covers the struggles of colonists who lived through the change of the King’s rule to a new independent country called America. This theatrical adaption is very motivational, because Sara goes against social norms to find her father and fulfill her dream to become a historian.
The story of Rip Van Winkle is truly an interesting one from the very beginning, especially finding out that it may not have ever come about in the first place. Washington Irving, the author of this story, faced a conflict within himself: whether to continue writing, or to follow in his brother’s footsteps. The “historian” from which Irving receives this story from plays an important role in him making the decision to continue as an author. Diedrich Knickerbocker, the “historian” is actually a fictive persona of Washington Irving. A fictive persona in this case simply means a character who is made up by the author, normally to serve a purpose in the plot. In the original story, Knickerbocker serves the purpose of being a source of information, and a questionable one at that. Through much of the introduction to the story, Knickerbocker’s credibility is questioned. It is argued whether or not the historian’s research is a reliable source at all. This is because his research comes from personal accounts of people rather than using a variety of written sources. In the theatrical adaptation, however, Knickerbocker is not only a historian with more credible research, but he is also the one who encourages Irving to continue as a writer.
The first scene of the dramatic reading introduces both Irving and Knickerbocker, as separate characters, having a discussion about Irving’s future. Irving was going to leave America, London bound, and follow his brothers’ footsteps in becoming a lawyer. Had it not been for Knickerbocker’s counterargument, this very well may have been the course of events to take place. Not only did Diedrich encourage Irving’s writing abilities, but he also critiqued his skills as a lawyer, calling Irving a “below average lawyer”. To anyone who had only been exposed to the theatrical adaptation, this scene simply seemed as though someone Irving entrusted had given him both the courage to write and an idea of what to write about, all the while insulting his skills in the justice field. To those with prior knowledge of the story, the scene is one demonstrating an internal conflict of an author, the questioning of his own abilities, and having to convince himself he is on the right path. Even after overcoming his doubts of himself as a writer, Irving was faced with the question of what to write. In the theatrical adaptation, Knickerbocker is the one to present the idea to him. In actuality, the debate of an “ocean being too large” and a “pond being too small” all took place in Irving’s mind. In the theatrical adaptation, Knickerbocker was the one to suggest writing about America. Doing so was new for the time period, as many authors were afraid to break away from the writing styles of Britain. Despite this, Irving chose to write about the country of America. Not only did he write about the landscape, the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains, but he also wrote about the characteristics of the time period. He brought up political issues, gender stereotypes, the folklore of the Native American people, even about the architecture of the region. Irving’s breaking away from traditional British writing is what makes him the father of American literature. Even with giving women a larger role in the theatrical adaptation, many of Irving’s viewpoints shine through, in keeping with the topic of forging an American identity.
Written and edited collectively by students in the Fall 2019 Honors English I class, ENGL191DFA and their professor, Dr. Celia Reissig-Vasile
Editors: Jani Schofield, Michael Stone, Ashly Davis, Yairi Tejeda, Kwuiny Laurent, Sandie Wallace, Lamar Anabtawi, Connie Wallace, Chanel Levius , Ariana Lopez, Katherine Pena, Anette Kiil, Caitlin Rodriguez, Frankmery Reyes, Rhonda Williams
Rip Van Winkle
Or,Cut The Old Moon Into Stars
a new play from an old story
By Seth Bockley
Freely adapted from the story by Washington Irving
Rip Van Winkle, or Cut the Old Moon Into Stars was originally produced by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Garrison NY in the summer of 2018.
Mercy College 2019– Voices: A Dramatic Reading: key scenes of the play, read by some of the citizen actors from the original production.
Commentator: Celia Reissig-Vasile
Narrator 1: Lindsey Marcus
Narrator 2/flute player: Sally Dorfman
Rip Van Winkle: Bernadette Humphrey-Nicol
Geertje Van Winkle (Rip’s wife): Tara Vamos
Sara Van Winkle (Rip’s daughter): Michele Humphrey-Nicol
Dolph (Sara’s childhood friend whom she eventually marries): Dante De Leo
Washington Irving (the author): Christine Kelly
Diedrich Knickerbocker (Irving’s fictive historian): Jim O’Neill
Lily Ladle (a peddler): Ellen O’Neill
Lady Vanderdonk (an ancient heiress): Suzanne Johnson
Jamie Cornish (a young political operative): Ellen O’Neill
Doolittle (owner of the Union Hotel and politician): Alison Anthoine
Credits & Acknowledgements
Seth Bockley, for permission to adapt his play for the dramatic reading
Raymond Bokhur, Composer & Music Director of the play, for permission to use the music for the dramatic reading
Davis McCallum, director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, for his support of this dramatic reading and his guidance
Roger Acevedo and Yudy Gomez, for the video montage and for their role as dramaturgs
The School of Liberal Arts Theme Committee, for sponsoring this event