“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
For the first time in over a year, live performance returns to the outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. The 2021 summer repertory season, sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation, features three plays running July 10 through November 7. Tickets went on sale this week at theatricum.com.
Best known for presenting lively and engaging renditions of the works of William Shakespeare, Theatricum will open the season on Saturday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. with a fresh look at Julius Caesar. Director Ellen Geer views Shakespeare’s iconic thriller about power, politics and the elusive nature of truth through a different lens, telling the tale from the vantage point of the Soothsayer.
Audiences yearning for live theater after a year-long drought can satisfy their cravings by returning the next day, Sunday, July 11 at 4 p.m., for the opening of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This summer, Theatricum offers a new take on its signature production, infusing the Bard’s beautiful language with music and song to heighten the pleasure.
On Saturday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m., Theatricum is excited to introduce a world premiere play to the rotation. The Last, Best Small Town by local Latinex playwright John Guerra is a tale of small town America set in the nearby town of Fillmore — the self-proclaimed “Last, Best Small Town in Southern California.”
All three productions will play in repertory through Nov. 7. Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, performs each of the plays in repertory, making it possible to see all three plays in a single summer weekend.
In addition to theater, Theatricum offers artistic and educational satellite programming throughout the season. An in-person concert by singer-songwriter Inara George and her band (Barbara Gruska, Gabe Noel, Samantha Sidley and Wendy Wang) has already been announced for June 6 at 2 p.m. The company’s annual Under the Oaks series of music and performance is currently being scheduled.
Theatricum Botanicum was born out of homegrown Topanga activism as well as a drive for theatrical excellence. In the 1950s, actor Will Geer was blacklisted during the McCarthy era in Hollywood—he took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Will Geer refused to give up acting. He opened the outdoors theater for his fellow blacklisted actors and folk singers in his own backyard in Topanga. Friends such as Ford Rainey, John Randolph, and Woody Guthrie joined Will Geer on the dirt stage, while the audience sat on railroad ties.
In 1973, Geer and his wife and partner Herta Ware, officially opened the Theatricum Botanicum in its present location, on five acres under the oaks. Ever since, the Theatricum has been the center of summer cultural activity in Topanga, presenting a full slate of classical and contemporary plays, and hosting annual community events. COVID-19 shut the theater down but didn’t stifle the creative impulse that drives it. Now the award-winning theater is back live, and better than ever, with support from the prestigious S. Mark Taper Forum Foundation.
Theatricum Botanicum is also continuing its campaign to “Go Green,” completing the Topanga Creek revitalization project headed by Debbie Sharpton. All nonnative plants have been removed from the grounds with the help of many volunteers, and native plants have been planted. Visitors will be greeted by a mural of a red-tailed hawk and signage that confirms that nature and art live together. Theatricum is committed to being an active defender of the planet and a warrior against climate change.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura (101) Freeway. The amphitheaters are terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating.
Seating will remain socially distanced and masks required as dictated by L.A. County guidelines on the day of each event. For tickets, subscriptions, group discounts and a full schedule of theater, music and family entertainment, call 310-455-3723 or go to theatricum.com.