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Summer is here: ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ kick off Theatricum season
TOPANGA, Calif (UPDATED June 23, 2022) –– Fans of Shakespeare, alfresco theater, old time rock’n roll and just plain fun— pack a picnic and head up to the spectacular, one-of-a-kind outdoor venue at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, where the 2022 repertory season, sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation, opens with two buoyant comedies.
Opening the summer season on Saturday, June 11 is the Bard’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, reset in 1950s small-town America during the nascent period of second-wave feminism and featuring a rockin’ score of ‘50s tunes (new song lyrics by Peter Alsop). Things might seem picture perfect in “Small Town U.S.A”… but when opportunistic schemer and womanizer John Falstaff blows into town with his gang and tries to woo two wealthy ladies at once, the town’s women gleefully plot his comeuppance. Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer directs.
Beginning Sunday, June 12, Theatricum brings back its signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by company favorite Melora Marshall. An annual season staple going back decades, Theatricum’s wooded stage morphs into the enchanted woods of Athens, where mortal lovers chase and are chased, players prepare, and fairies make magical mischief in Shakespeare’s most entertaining and beguiling comedy.
“Dream has been with us since the beginning,” notes Geer. “The woods of the Theatricum bring this play to life in a special way. Whenever we try to replace it, we are asked to bring it back again as families bring their kids and then their kids grow up and bring theirs. Many adults who now come to our theater once sat in our audience as children.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor stars longtime company members Jeff Wiesen as the libertine hooligan Falstaff; Emily Bridges, Willow Geer and Melora Marshall as Mistresses Ford, Page and Quickly; Jonathan Blandino and Bill Haller as Masters Ford and Page; Cavin (CR) Mohrhardt as Dr. Caius; Alistair McKenzie as Parson Hugh Evans; Tim Halligan as Shallow; and Earnestine Phillips as the Hostess of the Garter. The rest of the cast includes Joseph Darby, Miller Friedman, Christopher Glenn Gilstrap, Julius Geer-Polin, Ethan Haslam, Corrin King, Alexandra Kunin, Charles Lin, Ashley Maimes, Michaela Molden, Kenneth Montley, Aleksander Ristic, Gerald C. Rivers, Taylor Jackson Ross, A.M. Sannazzaro, Andy Stokan, Sky Wahl, Seth Weaver and Elliott Grey Wilson.
Lights are designed by Zach Moore, costumes by Tracy Wahl, the prop master is Alex Sheldon, and fight choreography is by Cavin (CR) Mohrhardt. New song lyrics are by Peter Alsop. Original music and sound design are by Marshall McDaniel. The production stage manager is Kim Cameron.
Heading the cast of lovers, fairies, clowns, and sprites in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are Olivia Michael as Helena; Steven Taub Gordon as Demetrius; Fiona Dorn and Michaela Molden, alternating as Lysander; Anais Morgan as Hermia; Tiffany Coty as Oberon; Heidi-Marie Ferren as Titania; Colin Guthrie as Theseus; Taylor Jackson Ross as Hippolyta; Jonathan Blandino as Bottom; Emoria Weidner as Quince; and Christopher Glenn Gilstrap as Puck. Also in the cast are Matthew Clair, Ted Elrick, Miller Friedman, Jamie Gallo, Ethan Haslam, Bri Hunter, Corrin King, Joelle Lewis, Julia Lisa, Ashley Maimes, Aarush Mehta, Milo Rechler, Jacob Salazar, A.M. Sannazzaro, Quinnlyn Scheppner, Isabel Stallings, Torianna Turnbow, Seth Weaver and Aralyn Wilson.
The creative team for Dream includes lighting designer Zach Moore, costume designer Beth Eslick and prop master Alex Sheldon. Original music and sound design are by Marshall McDaniel. Karen Osborne is the production stage manager.
Following The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the world premiere of Academy Award-winning writer Ernest Thompson’s newly revised The West Side Waltz will open on June 25; and the world premiere of a new stage adaptation by Ellen Geer of Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s historical novel, Trouble the Water, about escaped slave Robert Smalls who went on to become a U.S. Congressman, will open on July 9. 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 four 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, Della Reese, Pete Seeger 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. Check the Theatricum website prior to each performance for current, up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols.
The Merry Wives of Windsor opens on Saturday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.; A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on Sunday, June 12 at 3:30 p.m. Performances run in repertory through October 2. For a complete schedule of performances, scroll down.
Tickets to each performance range from $10 to $42. Premium seating is available for $60. Children 4 and under are free. Pay What You Will ticket pricing will be available on the following dates (cash only at the door): The Merry Wives of Windsor on Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Friday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m.
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 theatricum.com
Details for Calendar Listings
‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum resets Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1950s small-town America during the nascent period of second-wave feminism. Things might seem picture perfect in “Small Town U.S.A”… but when opportunistic schemer and womanizer John Falstaff blows into town with his gang and tries to woo two wealthy ladies at once, the town’s women gleefully plot his comeuppance. Enjoy the Bard’s buoyant comedy and a rockin’ score of ‘50s tunes in the spectacular surroundings of Theatricum’s one-of-a-kind outdoor setting in Topanga.
• Written by William Shakespeare
• Directed by Ellen Geer
• Presented by Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Performances: June 11–October 2:
• Saturday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, July 9 at 3:30 p.m.
• Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.*
• Sunday, July 24 at 3:30 p.m.
• Saturday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 7 at 7:30 p.m.**
• Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m.
*Pay-What-You-Will performance on Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.
**Prologue (pre-show discussion):Sunday, Aug. 7 from 6:30 p.m.–7 p.m. (included in ticket price)
• Adults: $42 (lower tier/assigned seating); $26 (upper tier/general seating); premium lower tier seating available for $60
• Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $25/$15
• Children (5-15): $10
• Children 4 and under: Free
• Friday nights July 15 (Merry Wives) and July 22 (Dream): Pay-What-You-Will
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga CA 90290
(midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)
• 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.
• Check the Theatricum website prior to each performance for current, up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols.
(310) 455-3723 or theatricum.com
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s 2022 summer repertory season
is sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation.
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