Theatricum Botanicum’s Summer Repertory Opens June 3

Alan Blumenfeld and Willow Geer in a scene from the Merchant of Venice. Photo by Ian Flanders

Theatricum Botanicum’s Artistic Director, Ellen Geer (Will’s daughter), says the plays she has chosen for this summer season are as relevant as ever, perhaps more so. Speaking at Theatricum’s Spring Salon for donors and friends, held at The 1909, she said, “It’s vital that we do the best that we can for our earth and each other.”

Theatricum’s Board President, Susan Nissman, reminded the audience that the theater’s founders, Will Geer and Herta Ware, were blacklisted for their political views in the 1950s and urged audiences to enjoy the artistry of the actors and writers of this season’s plays. “There may be no finer setting in the world in which to suspend disbelief for two hours.”

Under Geer’s creative supervision, this true renaissance theater has blossomed into a vital creative force that has been recognized internationally for its interpretation of William Shakespeare’s work. It’s time now to enjoy its 2017 summer repertory of five plays and fully appreciate all that the Theatricum brings to Topanga and far beyond.

The Merchant of Venice, opens June 3—Written by William Shakespeare in the late 1500s, this play reflects the culture of its time. Every character embodies elements of hatred and intolerance, from the wealthy privileged Christians to the wealthy immigrant Jew, Shylock. His daughter, Portia, steals his money and elopes with a Christian in search of a better life. Shylock, having lost his daughter and his money, is bent on revenge. Ellen Geer directs.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opens June 4—This signature production, an annual favorite with audiences, has a set design unrivaled by any other theater because it’s real. Theatricum’s magical outdoor setting is once again transformed into an enchanted forest inhabited by lovers, both fairy and human. Shakespeare conjures a world of wonder, magic and romance where comical misunderstandings and the pain of unrequited love are resolved, and all is reconciled through midsummer night revelries and the enduring power of nature. This year the play is directed by Theatricum’s original Puck, Melora Marshall.

Animal Farm, opens June 17— George Orwell’s book has been adapted as a play by Peter Hall and is directed by Ellen Geer. It. This musical adaption is told by a young child who engages us in a world of talking animals who reject their cruel human masters and work to create a world of equality.

Other Desert Cities, opens July 9—written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Mary Jo DuPrey. This 21st Century play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has been described as “funny and fierce, invigorating and intelligent.” It’s the story of a family that appears to be living the American Dream until the clash of changing times and beliefs force them to wade through a crisis that threatens the conservative veneer of their “respectable” family.

Trouble in Mind, opens July 30—This is a busy season for Artistic Director Ellen Geer who directs three of the five plays. This play is as relevant now as ever. A theater troupe rehearses a play during the 1950s, at the dawning of the Civil Rights movement. Playwright Alice Childress said, “The Negro woman will attain her rightful place in American literature when those of us who care about the truth, justice and a better life tell their story with the full knowledge and appreciation of her constant, unrelenting struggle against racism and for human rights.”

Dinner and a Show Buffet. Dream Dinners with a costumed cast of fairies in attendance take place in the theater’s adjacent gardens prior to Thursday evening performances on Aug. 3, 10, 17 and 24. Separate admission, or combo packages are available.

Prologue, a (pre-show discussion) takes place Monday, Sept. 4 at 5 pm. Included in ticket price.

TICKETS: Adults: $38.50 (lower tier); $25 (upper tier); Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $25/$15; Children (5-15): $10; Children 4 and under: free. Mediterranean buffet dinner/play combo: call theater for pricing, advance reservations required.

In addition to its annual summer season of five repertory plays, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum offers year-round classes to actors of all ages, hosts live music concerts, nurtures budding playwrights, and successfully reaches schools and students throughout Greater Los Angeles County with the aim of making live theater bloom for generations to come.  

Topanga is lucky beyond measure to have this artistic haven at its core. Theatricum Botanicum needs and deserves our support.


Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga CA 90290. The outdoor amphitheaters are terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon and 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 more information: (310) 455-2723;;; Twitter: @theatricum.


Claire Fordham

Fordham worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News in the UK and wrote a weekly anecdotal column for Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, The Sun. She currently writes regularly for Huffington Post, The Malibu Times and the Messenger Mountain News. See "A Chat with Claire Fordham" on this website under Podcasts.

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