‘Village of Vale’ at Invisible Dog Art Center

Step into an immersive fairy tale in Boerum Hill

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There is a whole universe being built inside a Boerum Hill arts venue.

A Park Slope artist and his creative team will tell an original, immersive fairy tale five ways — through prose, performance, song, illustration, and scenery — at the Invisible Dog Art Center from Feb. 5–8. And don’t let the word “fairy” put you off — the tale ditches the Disney-esque “Once upon a time … happily ever after” dross for something much darker, the creator said.

“We’re trying to go back into the old world of fairy tales — not so light, like ‘Frozen,’ but more like ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales,’ ” said John McGrew, who added that he would not recommend bringing kids under 8. “Creating this whole world that we’re placing inside the Invisible Dog.”

The story, framed as vignettes, centers on a town that is shaken from extreme stasis when a traveling merchant appears, peddling wares that change townsfolk’s lives for better or worse.

Four actors will tell the tale, accompanied by three string players, a piano, drums, and guitar — a la the multimedia children’s story “Peter and the Wolf,” McGrew said.

One guest artist illustrated the tale, and another made a replica of a holy tome that figures into the story. And the production’s creative team is turning the venue into a set for audience members to explore before the show proper.

“We’re encouraging people to download the album beforehand and listen to it while walking through the space,” he said.

The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio fabulist said he was inspired by surroundings past and present.

“I grew up in woods, so being in the city, I have to get out and go for a walk every day,” said McGrew. “All these ideas came from walks throughout Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park.”

McGrew outlined the plot and composed most of the music — a mix of moody ambient music and lush choral arrangements — over the last two-and-a-half years. Filmmaker Joe Varca fleshed the tales out and is directing, Brooklyn writer Jonathan Karpinos wrote the book adaptation, and local musician Graham Fisk helped McGrew polish the soundtrack.

McGrew and crew crowd-funded the project online — exceeding their goal of $10,000 by $1,600 at press time. One-quarter of the excess raised is going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, McGrew said.

“Village of Vale” at the Invisible Dog Art Center [51 Bergen St. between Boerum Place and Smith Street in Boerum Hill, (347) 560–3641,]. Feb. 5–7 at 8 pm. Feb. 8 at 3 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019: Age recommendation added.
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