We already knew Lakewood Ranch's James and Misdee Miller love horses.
The couple bought the Sarasota Polo Club in June and immediately announced they were going to extend the polo season while eventually offering more equine events at the facility.
Jeffery Kin, the artistic director of The Players Centre for Performing Arts, discovered something else about them as well.
"They are theater people," Kin said.
That becomes important Oct. 17-20 when The Players presents its version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at the Sarasota Polo Club.
The Players presented "Sleepy Hollow" last year as its first outdoor theater performance. It was hosted by the Sarasota Polo Club, which at the time was owned by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
Of course, SMR was trying to help The Players, which was planning a $30 million theater complex in SMR's new Waterside Place. Those plans have since been scaled down to a $21 million theater.
"Sleepy Hollow" was an instant hit in East County.
"We had a lot more people show up at the door than we expected," Kin said. "We decided to add an extra show this year to spread out the audience. We want everyone to have a great place to sit."
Before Kin could worry about seating his patrons, he had to make sure he had a venue for "Sleepy Hollow."
He arranged a meeting with the Millers.
"Once we sat down and talked about the event, they wanted to continue it," Kin said. "They were excited about the game plan and they had no issues."
With the Millers on board, Kin is hoping "Sleepy Hollow" can become an annual offering at the Sarsasota Polo Club. He had often heard SMR executives say that because the residents came from so many places outside of Florida, they had lost their traditions. Kin said he would love to see "Sleepy Hollow" develop into a "go-to event" as a harvest festival in October.
This year's performance, which begins at 6 p.m. each evening, will offer refreshments before the performance and time for those who attend to mix with the actors and each other after the show.
"I would tell people to show up about 5 p.m." Kin said. "There will be things to do and fun to be had. It's open seating and it will allow people to get a good seat."
For those unfamiliar with Washington Irving's classic, "Sleepy Hollow" involves a goofy schoolmaster, Icabod Crane, who moves to the farming community of Sleepy Hollow. He begins to look for a wife, and he settles on a woman, Katrina, who already has a boyfriend. Problems ensue with restless spirits and a haunted graveyard in the background. One of those spirits is the Headless Horseman.
"It's a mystery and a parable." Kin said. "And it is mostly done with a great deal of fun."
With the show beginning at 6 p.m. and running into dusk, Kin said a spooky ambiance takes over. Those who do attend might note that on one might last year, it became windy, and believe it or not, chilly. So a blanket might be in order depending on the forecast. The weather also becomes a problem for the cast as well as they need to keep their electronic equipment dry.
Sara Logan directed "Sleepy Hollow" last year and this year will assist new director Alyssa Goudy. Phillip Troyer will be new this year as Ichabod Crane and Alexandra Cavanaugh is a student of The Players' theater program who will play Katrina. The lead ghosts are Yvonne Clark and Derek Dutcher.
"Last year we learned you always have to be prepared to make last-minute changes in outside theater," Kin said. "You have to go with the flow. Alyssa will run the entire show this year and call all the shots, so that should help. We limited our number of chiefs."
Kin said The Players also will be operating with a burst of energy coming from the sale of its Sarasota theater combined with the groundbreaking of Waterside Place.
"We're on the tips of people's tongues," he said. "But we know we have to keep our nose to the grindstone. Next year at this time, we will have broken ground on our new theater."
Tickets for "Sleepy Hollow" are $25 for adults and $12 for children under 15. Call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org for tickets.