Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum kicks off its All-Shakespeare Summer Season in celebration of the Bard’s 450th birthday with a gender-reversed Lear for the 21st century, opening on Saturday, June 7 at 8 p.m., and the return of the company’s signature rendering of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with performances beginning Sunday, June 8 at 3:30 p.m. The two productions will continue to run in repertory through the end of Sept. in the theater’s spectacular outdoor amphitheater nestled in a Topanga Canyon ravine, and will be joined later in the season by three additional mainstage offerings.
Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer takes on the title role in a new production that sees Lear divide her kingdom and test the loyalty of her three sons. Shakespeare's sublime poetry infuses this towering tragedy, a tale of madness, tyranny, loyalty and love. Joining Geer onstage are longtime company members Aaron Hendry as Goneril, Christopher W. Jones as Regan and Dane Oliver as “Cordelian.” Alan Blumenfeld portrays the Earl of Gloucester, Abby Craden is Gloucester’s elder daughter, the bastard “Igraine,” and Willow Geer is her younger half-sister, “Eden.” Also in the cast are Melora Marshall as the Fool, Liz Eldridge as the Duchess of Cornwall, Taylor Jackson Ross as the Duchess of Albany, Gerald C. Rivers as the Earl of Kent and Frank Weidner as Oswald. Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall co-direct.
The afternoon following opening night of Lear, cast members Willow Geer and Melora Marshall will be back on stage for a matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which they also co-direct) — this time in the roles of Helena and Titania, respectively. Also returning to the cast of Dream are Samara Frame as Puck, Katherine Griffith as Bottom and Michael McFall as Oberon. The beauty of Topanga’s countryside takes on a new dimension as fairies and mortals alike are beguiled by midsummer passions and puckish potions. In this signature Theatricum production, Shakespeare’s most beloved comedy pits mischievous sprites against heartsick humans for a magical night of revelry, chaos, love and comedy. Mediterranean buffet dinners, with a costumed cast of fairies in attendance, take place every Thursday in August at 6:30 p.m. in the theater's adjacent gardens, followed by an 8 p.m. performance (separate admission, or combo packages available).
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.”
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. Lear opens on Saturday, June 7 and continues through Sept. 28. A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on Sunday, June 8 and continues through Sept. 27. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or log onto www.theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook: www.facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum.