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Thar she blows! Theatricum Botanicum presents
‘Moby Dick–Rehearsed’ by Orson Welles
TOPANGA, Calif (May 16, 2019) –– A celebration of one of the greatest novels ever written and a triumph of theatrical imagination. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum presents Moby Dick–Rehearsed by Orson Welles. Opening night is set for Saturday, June 8 at 8 p.m. on Theatricum’s beautiful outdoor stage in Topanga, where performances will continue through Sept. 29 as part of the company’s 2019 summer repertory season.
In Welles’ ingenious adaptation of the famous novel by Herman Melville, a Shakespearean acting troupe works between performances of King Lear to create a play about Moby Dick. As the actors take up their new roles, the theater is transformed from a bare stage into the yardarms, sails, masts and deck of a ship hunting the great white whale. Under the direction of Ellen Geer and choreographed by Dane Oliver (Robby Award winner and LADCC nominee for his extraordinary fight choreography for last season’s Haiti), the actors provide the action-packed adventure — and the audience’s imagination provides the ocean, period costumes and the whale.
The production stars Theatricum company members Tavis L. Baker as Stubb, Tim Halligan as Peleg, KiDané Kelati as Pip, Jacob Louis as Elijah, Melora Marshall as Flask, Michael McFall as Queequeg, Dane Oliver as Ishmael, Gerald C. Rivers as Captain Ahab, Franc Ross as the director, Dante Ryan as Tashtego, Colin Simon as Starbuck and Isaac Wilkins as Daggoo. The creative team includes costume designer Beth Eslick, lighting designer Zach Moore and prop master Dante Carr, with original music and sound design by Marshall McDaniel. Kim Cameron is the production stage manager.
Moby Dick–Rehearsed premiered in 1955 at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London, in a production directed by Welles. The original cast included Welles, Christopher Lee, Kenneth Williams, Joan Plowright, Patrick McGoohan, Gordon Jackson, Peter Sallis and Wensley Pithey. The play was published by Samuel French in 1965.
The production will perform in repertory on the main stage with currently running productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On June 22, Ellen Geer’s new, freely adapted version of Henrik Ibsen‘s powerful An Enemy of the People joins the season, and Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Skin of Our Teeth kicks off on July 13. All five productions will continue to play in repertory through Sept. 29. A sixth production will open Aug. 17 on the smaller stage in the theater’s intimate S. Mark Taper Pavilion: The Gin Game by D.L. Coburn — another Pulitzer Prize winner — will star long-time Theatricum company members and real life husband-and-wife team Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James in a co-production with the Sierra Madre Playhouse.
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, making it possible to see all six plays in a single summer weekend.
Theatricum Botanicum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine, “One of Southern California’s most beguiling theater experiences” by Sunset magazine, and “Best Theater in the Woods” by the LA Weekly. “The enchantment of a midsummer night at Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] crystal clear why audiences have been driving up into the hills since Theatricum’s maiden season way back in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn’t get any better than this,” writes StageSceneLA. Says Los Angeles magazine, “The amphitheater feels like a Lilliputian Hollywood Bowl, with pre-show picnics and puffy seat cushions, yet we were close enough to see the stitching on the performers costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills.” In 2017, Theatricum was named “one of the best outdoor theaters around the world” by the Daily Beast.
Theatricum’s beginnings 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 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.
The amphitheater is 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.
Moby Dick–Rehearsed opens on Saturday, June 8 at 8 p.m. and continues through Sept. 29. Tickets range from $10 – $42; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310–455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook: www.facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum and instagram: @theatricum_botanicum.
Details for Calendar Listings
Moby Dick–Rehearsed — In Orson Welles’ ingenious adaptation of the famous novel by Herman Melville, a Shakespearean acting troupe works between performances of King Lear to create a play about Moby Dick. As the actors take up their new roles, the theater is transformed from a bare stage into the yardarms, sails, masts and deck of a ship hunting the great white whale. The actors provide the action-packed adventure, and the audience’s imagination provides the ocean, period costumes — and the whale.
• Written by Orson Welles
• Adapted from the novel by Herman Melville
• Directed by Ellen Geer
• Choreography by Dane Oliver
• Original Music composed by Marshall McDaniel
• Starring (in alphabetical order): Tavis L. Baker as Stubb, Tim Halligan as Peleg, KiDané Kelati as Pip, Jacob Louis as Elijah, Melora Marshall as Flask, Michael McFall as Queequeg, Dane Oliver as Ishmael, Gerald C. Rivers as Captain Ahab, Franc Ross as the director, Dante Ryan as Tashtego, Colin Simon as Starbuck, Isaac Wilkins as Daggoo
• Presented by Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Performances: June 8–Sept. 29:
• Saturday, June 8 at 8 p.m.
• Saturday, June 15 at 8 p.m.
• Saturday, June 22 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, June 29 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, July 7 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, July 14 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 4 at 4 p.m.*
• Friday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m.**
• Saturday, Aug. 17 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 25 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m.
*Prologue (pre-show discussion):Sunday, Aug. 4 from 3 p.m.–3:30 p.m. (included in ticket price)
**Pay-What-You-Will performance on Friday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga CA 90290
(midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)
• Adults: $42 (lower tier); $26 (upper tier)
• Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $25/$15
• Children (5-15): $10
• Children 4 and under: Free
• Friday night performance: Pay-What-You-Will
The outdoor amphitheaters at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum are terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. 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.