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Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ offers songs of love
and laughter at beautiful Theatricum Botanicum
TOPANGA, Calif (May 9, 2019) –– Mischief, madness and romance are in the air this summer when Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum presents William Shakespeare‘s rollicking comedy, Twelfth Night, in its magical, outdoor Topanga amphitheater. Twelfth Night opens Theatricum’s summer repertory season on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m., where performances will continue through Sept. 28.
Shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, and fearing that her brother Sebastian has drowned, Viola must disguise herself as a man. She falls in love with the neighboring Duke Orsino — who loves the Lady Olivia — who loves the disguised Viola. But false appearances are the norm on this Island of Misrule, where the fool is king, the court jester is a philosopher, and hijinks among the servants are wickedly delicious. Ellen Geer directs with her usual flair, while original music by composer Marshall McDaniel lends the familiar words and songs a refreshing new sound, lifting Shakespeare’s elevated language to even greater heights.
Bringing the Bard’s tale to riotous life is a cast that includes Theatricum favorites Willow Geer as Viola, Christine Breihan as Olivia, Christopher W. Jones as Sir Toby Belch, Max Lawrence as Duke Orsino, Melora Marshall as Malvolio, Sean McConaghy as Antonio, Cavin Mohrhardt as Sebastian, Elizabeth Tobias as Maria, Frank Weidner as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Time Winters as Feste.
Twelfth Night was first seen in the Inns of Court shortly after Christmas (hence, the title). In Shakespeare’s Renaissance, this holiday was celebrated as a festival, in which everything was made delightfully topsy-turvy — much like the world of the play’s Illyria. Scholars believe that William Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night in 1601, near the middle of his career. Considered one of his finest comedies, it rivals his others in character development and plot sophistication. A play about infatuation and the outrageous things it causes us to do, Twelfth Night makes use of illusion, deception, disguise and even madness, mixing in darker qualities often associated with more serious drama.
Costume design for Twelfth Night is by Amy Mazzaferro, lighting design is by Zach Moore and props are by Leah Haynor. Elna Kordijan is the production stage manager.
The afternoon following the opening of Twelfth Night (Sunday, June 2 at 4 p.m.) will see the opening of Theatricum’s signature production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the same stage. One week later, Moby Dick–Rehearsed — a “whale of a tale” adapted by the great Orson Welles from Herman Melville’s novel — opens on June 8; 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 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.
Twelfth Night opens on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m. and continues through Sept. 28. 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
Twelfth Night — Mischief, madness and romancwe are in the air this summer when Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum presents Shakespeare’s rollicking comedy in its magical, outdoor Topanga amphitheater. Shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, and fearing that her brother Sebastian has drowned, Viola must disguise herself as a man. She falls in love with the neighboring Duke Orsino — who loves the Lady Olivia — who loves the disguised Viola. But false appearances are the norm on this Island of Misrule, where the fool is king, the court jester is a philosopher, and hijinks among the servants are wickedly delicious. Original music by composer Marshall McDaniel lends the familiar words and songs a refreshing new sound, lifting Shakespeare’s elevated language to even greater heights.
• Written by William Shakespeare
• Directed by Ellen Geer
• Original music composed by Marshall McDaniel
• Starring Christine Breihan as Olivia, Willow Geer as Viola, Christopher W. Jones as Sir Toby, Max Lawrence as Duke Orsino, Melora Marshall as Malvolio, Sean McConaghy as Antonio, Cavin Mohrhardt as Sebastian, Elizabeth Tobias as Maria, Frank Weidner as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Time Winters as Feste
• Presented by Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Performances: June 1–Sept. 28 :
• Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, June 9 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, June 16 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, June 23 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, June 30 at 8 p.m.
• Saturday, July 6 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, July 13 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, July 21 at 4 p.m.*
• Friday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m.**
• Sunday, Aug. 11 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 7 at 4 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 21 at 4 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m.
*Prologue (pre-show discussion):Sunday, July 21 from 3 p.m.–3:30 p.m. (included in ticket price)
**Pay-What-You-Will performance on Friday, Aug. 2 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.