Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum has announced its 2020 summer line-up of theater, music and performance in its unique and stunning outdoor setting in Topanga. The start of the repertory season has been pushed back to July, and the dates of all productions and special events are subject to change depending on the evolving Coronavirus emergency, but a press release from the theater expresses the hope that the show will go on “as we emerge on the other side of COVID-19, stronger and more connected than ever.”
Addressing political, economic, and climate change concerns through both words and action, the company will present five plays, opening in rapid succession and performed in repertory throughout the summer. In addition to theater, Theatricum will present four special events on its main stage:
SUMMER SEASON OF PLAYS
Julius Caesar. William Shakespeare’s political tragedy, a chilling and eerily timely thriller about power, political change and the elusive nature of truth. In ancient Rome, Caesar’s tyrannical rule has polarized the city. His assassination divides the people, the senators, even his friends, into warring factions, as the republic descends into bloody civil chaos.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This annual audience favorite returns but changed up, infusing Shakespeare’s beautiful language with music and song to heighten the pleasure. The most magical outdoor setting in Los Angeles is once again transformed into an enchanted forest inhabited by lovers both fairy and human that 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.
The Merry Wives of Windsor. Another buoyant comedy by the Bard, this time re-set in 1950s small-town America to a score of rockin’ ‘50s tunes. When opportunistic schemer and womanizer John Falstaff blows into town on his Harley and tries to woo two wealthy women at once, the townspeople gleefully plot his come-uppance. Things might seem picture perfect in “Small Town U.S.A.,” but just underneath the surface, the fight for change is in full force as the women’s rights movement heats up.
‘Night Mother. The Pulitzer Prize-winning two-hander by Marsha Norman, starring real-life mother and daughter Ellen Geer and Willow Geer. Life in the mother-daughter Cates household is changed forever when 40-something Jessie announces to Mama that she plans to kill herself before the night is over. Over the course of 90 minutes, in real time, Thelma desperately works to convince her daughter that life is worth living. Eloquent and darkly humorous, ‘Night, Mother has been hailed as an American classic and one of the most powerful contemporary dramas ever written.
The Last, Best Small Town. The world premiere of this play by local playwright John Guerra. Two neighboring families, one Latinx and one white, live in nearby Fillmore, the self-proclaimed “Last, Best Small Town in Southern California.” Set during the first decade of the 21st century, immediately following the financial crisis, the children of these families come of age, fall in love, suffer loss, and continually hunt for their place in a changed world that can no longer promise them a better life than their parents.
All five productions will play in repertory through Sept. 27. Opening dates will be announced as soon as possible. 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 five plays in a single summer weekend.
Additional upcoming events include:
Sunday, May 10 (Mother’s Day) at 2 p.m.: Momentum Place, Theatricum’s yearly offering of modern dance, aerial acts, juggling and performance art curated by Lexi Pearl;
Saturday, July 4 from 11 p.m. – 5 p.m.: Theatricum’s annual Family Barn Dance;
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.: the company’s bi-annual The Woody Guthrie Story, a tribute to the songwriter, folklorist, and labor leader who was a longtime Theatricum friend;
In October (Date TBA): a concert by acclaimed singer/songwriter (and native Topangan) Inara George will perform a benefit for the theater’s artistic and educational programming.
Additional summer programming at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Pavilion includes Under the Oaks, four evenings of music and performance; and comedy improv with Theatricum’s in-house troupe Off The Grid. Completing the summer schedule into fall are Family Fundays, offering interactive children’s theater from Creative PlayGround and music from Peter Alsop’s Kids Koncerts; and Theatricum’s annual Halloween celebration, which sees the bucolic Botanicum transformed into the haunted “BOO-tanicum.”
Theatricum Botanicum continues its campaign to “Go Green” this summer. Efforts include reducing printed marketing materials by at least 40 percent this year; replacing bottled with canned water and refillable containers at concessions; adding additional compost and recycling bins for patrons; and offering free, public classes about composting and sustainable living.
Theatricum has entered into a partnership with the Environmental Restoration Group (ERG), EcoMalibu, and the California State Coastal Conservancy to “Heal Topanga Creek” by organizing volunteers to remove invasive weeds, trash, and debris and plant native plants. The program will also educate the public about the importance of native plants.n
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. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga.