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The Woodlands comes alive with the Glade Arts Foundation’s Enchanted Forest

November 22, 2018

As the air grows crisper and the days grow shorter, the Glade Art Gallery will be slowly and quietly overrun by a magical forest.

The Enchanted Forest, a multimedia performance installation celebrating the natural beauty of the township it calls home, opens on Nov. 29.

“We all live here, in the middle of this forest,” Glade Artistic Director Jodie Brooke said. “Most of the time we don’t pay attention to the fact that we’re in the middle of this planned community amidst the chaos of Houston.”

The site-specific work merges lights, sound, mystical set design, woodland characters and several different modalities of dancing into a fantastical production that defies description.

“It’s like an art installation with characters,” costume designer Macy Lyne said, “It’s not just theatre, it’s not just dance — it’s all of it.”

As the 150 guests in each tour arrive at the venue, they’re greeted by a guide — the exact species of whom is a surprise until visitors arrive — and journey through a forest built from metal frames and vines intertwined with dancers and actors who openly engage in dialogue with the audience.

“The space itself invites the audience in,” Brooke said. “You become part of it.”

The production team also devised two sensory-friendly performances on Dec. 16 and 27 with adjusted lights, sound production and cast/audience interaction to curb the often-exclusionary nature of holiday light shows for community members with more sensitivity .

For the small, but sophisticated, population of The Woodlands, the production was a long time coming, said Glade gallery co-owner Dragos Tapu.

“There’s been a resurgence in arts in The Woodlands the last couple of years,” Tapu said. “I think the community has matured enough as a whole where a production like this was needed and expected.”

The building that is now home to the Glade Art Gallery and the Glade Arts Foundation was originally built as The Woodlands Information Center — the first stop for any potential resident or business owner. On opening night, the building will host the first such immersive installation in the township’s history.

“There’s a delicious circularity to doing it in the building where The Woodlands was initially sold to people,” Brooke said.

Through the Arts Foundation, The Woodlands Arts Council and other organizations, The Woodlands is coming into its own and gradually closing the gap in performance and visual arts between the township and Houston’s famed residential companies, Brooke said.

The entire cast of Enchanted Forest is local, with performers brought in from programs in Hunstville, Conroe, The Woodlands and Houston. Hiring locally could helped stem the leak of talented artists who leave after college to seek roles in bigger markets, she added.

“There’s a lot of really great theatre training in the Houston area,” Brooke said. “But compared to the amount of people actually trained in those areas, the work available is actually fairly limited.”

Tapu said the enthusiastic initial reception of the production at the seven-month-old gallery makes it clear that The Woodlands is quickly becoming known as a hub for creatives.

“It was time for something cultural to happen here,” he added. “We’re just getting started.”

The Enchanted Forest takes over the Glade Art Gallery beginning Nov. 29.

mrincon@chron.com

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