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Tallahassee's Lichgate will be the arboreal stage for "Into the Woods"

Lichgate's Great Oak dominates the preserve's open area.
Tom Flanigan
Lichgate's Great Oak dominates the preserve's open area.

One of Tallahassee’s least-known, yet most magical spaces will soon become an open air theatre. It will become the location for the latest production of the Wanderlust on Location Theater troupe.
The Wanderlust on Location group was founded in 2018. And its Artistic Director, Laura Hope-London, said they had been all ready to put on their latest production in 2020.

“In 2020, we meant to stage a site specific production of ‘Into the Woods’ and we all know what happened in 2020. Live theatre and a lot of things got put on pause indefinitely because of the pandemic.”

“Into the Woods,” in case you need a refresher, is a fantasy musical that came out in 1987. Stephen Sondheim wrote the music. And then, in 2014, the story was reborn as a Disney flick with Meryl Streep playing the washed-up witch. But for Wanderlust on Location, Hope-London says the location is really the star. It’s a little plot of unspoiled forest called Lichgate. Despite its obscure isolation, it’s only a stones throw from some of Tallahassee’s busier thoroughfares.

“The reason we chose Lichgate is because it has a very fairy tale inspired history. It was stewarded by a professor from FSU in the 1950s and 60s Dr. Laura Jepsen. And a lot of her research surrounded Shakespeare and English fairy tales. And she wanted to create her space to reflect that.”

What more perfect setting, said Hope-London, for this particular performance?

“So it’s really just this little haven tucked away off High Road that is quite literally in the middle of the woods. So we’re doing ‘Into the Woods’ in the woods.”

And Hope-London said it’s not only the setting that is out-of-the-ordinary.

“Our production is a little bit unconventional because we’re bringing it into the 21st Century and we’re really taking Laura Jepsen’s concept of sanctuary literally and using that to focus on the themes of the story, which is generational trauma and crisis and legacy and what we’re leaving behind to our children. And I think in today’s world, we’re all sort of searching for sanctuary in our own ways post-pandemic.”

Hope-London said it’ll soon be time to head for the forest.

“So the production will run from Nov. 10 through the 13th and the shows start at 7 p.m. We are including a little pre-show that will begin at 6:30, so we recommend getting there early. And we’re also partnering with Tallahassee Picnic to offer a variety of VIP picnic experiences that can be purchased as add-on to the tickets. All the information can be found at our website; wanderlustonlocation.org.”

It's certainly a different kind of theatrical happening in a very different kind of environment.

“It’s going to be an immersive, 360-degree theatre experience outdoors. So we’re subject to the elements, but it’s going to be a magical experience honoring a forgotten piece of Tallahassee history and letting people know that Lichgate is there and is this magical sanctuary that Dr. Jepsen wanted it to be.”

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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