Arts & Entertainment

Interview With Colum Goebelbecker: Star of Creative Cauldron’s ‘Ichabod: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

By Julianna Vandermark

Falls Church News Press: I’m curious, how did you get into acting in Falls Church and what was your path in acting and theater that led you to this role?

Colum Goebelbecker: Where do I start? I started acting when I was in high school. I was very much a sports kid and only played sports until I saw my sister and a production of Cinderella when I was in eighth grade, and I was like, whoa, she’s making people laugh on stage. And I don’t know if it was just like a competition spirit, but I think there was just something about how she was expressing herself and seeing her turn into something new, that really drew my attention, even even as an eighth grader. So I did musicals throughout high school, but it was mainly just a hobby. And then I went to Georgetown to study government, I got a degree in government from Georgetown. And then it was really during COVID, that I realized that I wanted to pursue acting. I think a lot of us were just thinking about how precious life was and just like mortality, and it just gave me a lot of time to really get in touch with my arts and how I wanted to serve the world, because I’ve always been really thinking about like, wanting to do social impact work, like do service work. 

I kind of naively thought of theater as like, almost a narcissistic thing, which I’ve fully put aside, but just as a thing for me. But then, I found this company that I currently work for, the Lab for Global Performance and Politics, which has the mission to harness the power of performance to humanize politics. So they use theater for social change and academic context and performance contexts in, in they work with policymakers, and it just for the first time drew my attention, like, oh, like I can use this hobby that I think I have some talent in to actually do this social impact work. 

So I auditioned, you know, thought nothing of it. Because I’ve been learning as an actor, you need to just audition and then forget the auditions because you do so many and more, even the most successful actors. I heard this from a person who recently got like three out of 10 auditions. And those are people who are working and successful. So you know, I auditioned and didn’t think anything of it, and then must have been two, three months later over the summer. I think it was mid July, I got an email. Hey, your cast has a kebab and this original musical. And that’s what brought me to this show.

Colum Goebelbecker

FCNP: Do you remember your first day of rehearsal for Ichabod: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Can you describe it to me?

CG: I do remember the first day of rehearsal, I was very nervous, because I looked up my fellow actors who are all phenomenal. I looked up, you know, their bios, and a lot of them had websites. And I don’t have a website yet. And these people had acted in shows throughout DC and toured with Broadway companies. It was a bit intimidating to be walking in as like the youngest person in the room, but also like playing Ichabod and wanting to show people that I could do it and own it, but also, rightfully so wanting to give, you know, the veterans the respect, and it was a totally new space. I didn’t, I didn’t know Falls Church. I didn’t know the theater. So yeah, I definitely walked in, you know, I was nervous, as I think is normal. But people were very welcoming from the start. 

FCNP: What were your expectations about the theater and the experience going into it?

CG: I have a friend who I met at auditions who I told right away when I got cast, because I knew that he knew of the theater. I don’t know if I reached out to him or how we connected. And he told me like a poet critic called him was very well respected like DMV theater. But beyond that, I too didn’t know much about like, when I first entered, I was like, oh, this is like the, you know, this is just like a really small space and I but I love actually I prefer smaller, more intimate black box spaces. I really like being able to really feel the audience and I mean, you saw the show, like it’s, it’s very, it’s a very tight space. Like, I’m always, I mean, the actors were walking right in front of people in the front row throughout the show. So from the first day, when I walked in, I I enjoyed realizing how tight the space was. And just how it’s just so awesome. Just how much magic you can create and just, you know, you just walk into this little space and it’s just like this whole world and Margie Jervis, our amazing set designer has just done some incredible art in there. And she has a beautiful art piece of trees like Right, right, right when you walk in that I immediately loved that was like okay, this. This is great energy to have in the theater. 

FCNP: What was your exposure to, or knowledge of, the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow before the production?

CG: It’s America’s most famous ghost story. I had heard of it. I knew of the town I knew that it was a historical place I knew Washington Irving was like a classic American writer but I really I’m not I wouldn’t like consider my someone like particularly has a strong affinity for like ghost stories. Something that’s changed after working on this piece but like before then I was probably just see more like average go the middle ago like I you know, I’m interested in it but but not you know, I wasn’t reading the headless Selena, like I wasn’t reading the Headless Horseman like every year like I’m not super into like McCobb arts I do love a Sweeney Todd like the musical by Sondheim’s so that that was like a cool like has been a cool entry point into this. Like, you know, I would it’s not a horror musical. It’s honestly more like a love musical or like, about like with using this type of sportsmen tale. But yeah, before I really didn’t, I didn’t know much about the story. But I rewatched the Disney movie, there’s a 1922 silent film that I watched to try and get in touch with, like, some of the mannerisms that, like the people use back in the day. Yeah, I really didn’t know, I really did not know much.

FCNP:  Is there kind of an idea or topic that you think The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, like, tell like represents as like an allegory or metaphor or symbol?

CG: I think it’s just yeah allegory for like, love and heartbreak and insider outsider divides. I love just through the process how I found out about how even though it’s hundreds of years ago in American history, there’s so many similarities today to the urban rural divide as we were talking about…especially in our polarized political scene in DC. And how, and honestly, how we should be suspicious of like groupthink and suspicious of people latching on to Well, I don’t know, I do love myths as like a as like having a place in culture but suspicious of yeah, just like groupthink and like mob mentality and how at the end of the day, it’s just like individual units of people trying to work stuff out.

FCNP: How has your background in Government informed your experiences in theater and with this production?

CG: I work as a project associate for this program called In Your Shoes, which is essentially a performance methodology where you, that’s, that’s all about cultivating empathy, across differences. And essentially, you take a group, and you divide them into pairs, and you give each pair of prompts something like what does home mean to you? What is like your identity and unity was your culture mean to you, and then you, each pair has a conversation, and you record the conversation, and you transcribed your partner’s words and form it into what we call an ethno poetic transcription, simply just a poem, and then you perform like a poem of the other person. And in the transcription, you include all the others, you know, all their nonverbal, our ticket, like all the like, the likes, and the arms and it’s like you really try and get into their shoes into their body. And I just bring that up because the industry program started, from a collaboration with Georgetown, we’re just very liberal progressive school, and Patrick Henry College, which is like a conservative Christian school in Virginia. And so we put people into pairs from each school. And it’s, I now work for the program and I’m doing like a different iteration. I’m working on a program in collaboration with Georgetown Center for US China dialogue, so it’s between like Chinese students and like Chinese American students and American students. And that, as I shared earlier has really just piqued my interest in the political ramifications of theater and so since I’ve been working for the lab during the show, I’m always thinking about how whatever show I’m in like relates to political dimensions and so I’ve been thinking a lot comparing that like Patrick Henry Georgetown collaboration with this show as like Georgetown being a robot and like Patrick Henry like being the town of Sleepy Hollow Yeah. And how at the end of the day they don’t it’s sad but they don’t he gets chased away you know, like they don’t see from history it’s good Trina does like it’s a beautiful thing that love like can can cut through these divides, but no one else in the town really does step in Gabon shoes ever. Maybe the children do. But not any of the adults.

FCNP: What have you learned from your time so far in this production?

CG: Yeah. Yeah, we’re only halfway through the run. I’ve learned. I’ve learned just to like, wow, what have I learned, oh, my God. I’ve learned to just cultivate an even deeper sense of gratitude. For collaborators who, especially like directors, who operate in a very horizontal way. What I really loved about working with Matt and Steven is that, like, Matt would constantly say, like, I don’t, I don’t want to feel like the show has a director. And he’s the director. But he would just say, like, I want to build on what you guys are giving, and that especially graduated from college. So recently, I acted like my first professional show was a show for the Capitol Fringe Festival. And then I also did the Tempest with grassroots Shakespeare, DC. And that’s like a public, we like performing in a park, which I love. I’m very passionate about theater and parks. But there’s something special about it, like, this is my first professional show, like in a theater. You know, like, like a set theater and to work with a director who was not highfalutin, who very much like, came down to my level and met me where I was at, meant so much to me. And like, my like burgeoning, like art history, like, especially as a young artist, that to me with like, these are like industry professionals who have worked in theater for so long, and creative culture, and really a special place where everyone was very differently from day one, and really gave me a space to really believe in myself, and just run with the show. Yeah, and that’s continued to this day, and the artistic producer and founder Laura has been equally as gracious and kind and welcoming. And the stage manager, Nick has been phenomenal. Everyone has just really created like, it’s not it’s not wishy washy at all just like you need like a safe like inclusive, like that really matters. In theater and, and just that, that collaborative energy. I’ve learned to appreciate it so much more from this show.

“Ichabod: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is being performed at Creative Cauldron until October 30th. One can buy tickets for the show at https://www.creativecauldron.org/ichabod.html.