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Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
rises up in 2017
TOPANGA, Calif. (March 20, 2017) — Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum rises up and speaks out with a summer line-up of socially conscious classic and contemporary plays, music and performance. The 2017 summer season at the company’s unique outdoor setting in Topanga will offer five mainstage productions in rotating repertory as well as a host of satellite events, June through October.
“Each of the plays emphasizes how critical it is to resist and struggle against the forces of inequality and injustice — while also reminding us that there’s humor in being human,” says Theatricum’s artistic director, Ellen Geer. “The plays range from Renaissance Italy to ancient Greece to 1950s and modern-day America, yet each deals with the consequences, sometimes dire, sometimes amusing, of miscommunication and of our inability to reach out and embrace those who might be different from us.”
The five plays will open in rapid succession and play in repertory throughout the summer months, kicking off on June 3 with William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, directed by Ellen Geer. Alan Blumenfeld will star as Shylock in what is arguably one of the most controversial plays ever written, a comic tragedy that continues to raise penetrating questions about racism, religion and justice in 2017.
June 4 will see the return of Theatricum’s signature production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Director Melora Marshall conjures up Shakespeare’s enchanted forest in this classic romp of comical misunderstandings and the vagaries of the heart, both human and fairy.
How do lies become truths? Opening June 17, Sir Peter Hall’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, featuring music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell, is a brilliant satire about the corrupting influence of power.
Joining the season on July 8, members of the Geer family will star in Other Desert Cities, Jon Robin Baitz’s funny, explosive and entertaining look at unruly family politics that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Mary Jo Duprey (Theatricum productions of August Osage County and The Imaginary Invalid) directs.
Finally, multiple NAACP award-winner Earnestine Phillips will star in Trouble In Mind by pioneering African American playwright Alice Childress. Beginning July 29, this insightful, wickedly funny and often heartrending slice of theatrical life exposes the fault lines of the racial divide.
Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, will perform each of the plays in repertory through October 1, making it possible to see all five plays in a single summer weekend.
In addition to theater, Theatricum will present three special events on its mainstage: Re-PETE Celebration 2017: The Songs and Spirit of Pete Seeger–The Rising of the Women on Saturday, April 1, in what has become an annual sing-along tradition; Momentum Place, Theatricum’s annual offering of modern dance, aerial acts, juggling and performance art curated by Lexi Pearl, on Sunday, May 14 (Mother’s Day); and Theatricum’s third annual Family Barn Dance and Bar-B-Que on Tuesday, July 4.
Additional summer programming includes Under the Oaks, four evenings of music and performance in the intimate S. Mark Taper Foundation Pavilion; comedy improv with Theatricum’s in-house troupe Off The Grid; Family Fundays, offering interactive children’s theater from Creative PlayGround and music from Peter Alsop’s Kids Koncerts; Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights presenting free readings of new plays; Theme Dinner Buffets in the idyllic Theatricum gardens; and Theatricum’s annual Halloween celebration, which sees the bucolic Botanicum transformed into a haunted ‘BOO-tanicum.’
The beginnings of the Theatricum Botanicum can be traced to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklist (before he became known as the beloved Grandpa on The Waltons), opened a theater for blacklisted actors and folk singers on his property in Topanga. Friends such as Ford Rainey, John Randolph and Woody Guthrie joined him on the dirt stage for vigorous performances and inspired grassroots activism, while the audiences sat on railroad ties. Today, two outdoor amphitheaters are situated in the natural canyon ravine, where audiences are able to relax and enjoy the wilderness during an afternoon or evening’s performance. Theatricum’s main stage amphitheater sports a new and improved sun shade for increased audience comfort, installed last season with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Ralph M. Parson’s Foundation. Theatricum is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Margaret Harford Award for “sustained excellence,” which is the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s highest honor.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura (101) Freeway. The amphitheaters are terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Patrons are welcome to arrive early and picnic before a performance.
For tickets, subscriptions, group discounts and a full schedule of theater, music and family entertainment, call 310-455-3723 or go to www.theatricum.com.