Two plays by William Shakespeare are set to welcome audiences back to the spectacular outdoor venue at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum this summer. The 2021 summer repertory season, sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation, opens with Julius Caesar, on July 10 at 7:30 p.m. A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on July 11 at 4 p.m. 

Theatricum’s audience will see Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s thriller about power, politics and the elusive nature of truth, through a slightly different lens, with the iconic tale told from the vantage point of the Soothsayer (played by longtime company member Gerald C. Rivers). 

“We want to draw attention to the timeliness of the play — to how history repeats itself — without updating it or making any other significant changes,” explain co-directors Ellen Geer and Willow Geer. “Shakespeare’s story about the fall of Rome is a microcosm of our own society. A group of wealthy senators takes over a democratic government they think is going in the wrong direction. 

But the citizens are not consulted. The citizens have no say. By subtly shifting the point of view, we hope the audience will view this familiar story through new eyes.” 

The production, performed in 80 minutes without intermission, is headed up by Theatricum favorites Mark Lewis as Julius Caesar, Michael McFall as Marc Antony, Christopher W. Jones as Brutus, Melora Marshall as Cassius, Willow Geer as Portia, Cynthia Kania as Calpurnia, Max Lawrence as Marcellus and Franc Ross as Casca. 

The opening of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will follow one day later. This summer, Theatricum offers a new take on its signature production, infusing the Bard’s beautiful language with song to heighten the pleasure. Select sections of Shakespeare’s text will be sung to original music by Ellen Geer, with instrumentation and additional music by Marshall McDaniel. Like Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed in 80 minutes without intermission. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perennial favorite at Theatricum, where the set design remains unrivaled by any other theater — because it’s the real thing. Prepare to be transfixed as the most magical outdoor setting in Los Angeles is transformed  into an enchanted forest inhabited by lovers both fairy and human, a world of  wonder, magic, romance and comedy where misunderstandings and the pain of unrequited love are resolved through midsummer night revelries and the enduring power of nature. 

Melora Marshall directs and also stars as Titania, queen of the fairies, alongside Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company’s Lisa Wolpe as Oberon and Terrence Wayne Jr. as Puck. The four lovers are played by Ethan Haslam (Demetrius), Julia Lisa (Hermia), Joey Major (Lysander) and Sara Mountjoy-Pepka (Helena). 

In addition to Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a third production — the world premiere of The Last, Best Small Town by John Guerra — will join the repertory on July 31. 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 three plays in a single summer weekend. 

Seating will remain socially distanced and masks required as dictated by L.A. County guidelines on the day of each event. 

Julius Caesar opens on Saturday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Oct. 30. A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on Sunday, July 11 at 4 p.m. and continues through Nov. 7. For a schedule of performances, scroll down, or go to www.theatricum.com. Tickets to each performance range from $10 – $38.50, with premium seating available for $60; children 4 and under are free; Friday night performances are Pay-What-You-Will. 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.

Christopher W. Jones as Brutus and Max Lawrence as Marcellus, in Julius Caesar. Photo by Ian Flanders