'Macbeth' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' kick off Theatricum's magical 50th anniversary season
May 8, 2023
Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum opens its 50th Anniversary summer Season with two of William Shakespeare's most mystical offerings: the thrilling supernatural tragedy, Macbeth, and that most magical of romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's no better place to commune with the spirits than Theatricum's spectacular outdoor amphitheater, carved into the rustic hillside and surrounded by the Topanga woods.
Opening night for Macbeth is Saturday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m. Audiences are invited to remain after the performance for a champagne toast to Theatricum's 50th.
Full of murder, treason, ambition and greed, Macbeth is a brilliant political thriller about the rise and fall of a brave warrior who would be king at any price. Haunted by prophecies and goaded by his ambitious wife, Macbeth sets an evil and bloody rise to the throne in motion. A grand and gripping tale of murder, treason, ambition and greed that follows Macbeth's transformation from battlefield hero to bloody tyrant, Shakespeare's supernatural thriller remains startlingly relevant in today's political climate.
Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer directs longtime company members Max Lawrence in the title role; Willow Geer as Lady M; Aaron Hendry as Macduff; Claire Simba as Lady Macduff; Cavin (CR) Mohrhardt as Malcolm; Franc Ross as Duncan and the Porter; Taylor Jackson Ross as Hecate; Steven C. Fisher as Ross; and Jeff Wiesen as Banquo. Also in the cast are Marc Antonio Pritchett as Old Siward and Andy Stokan as the doctor.
A Midsummer Night's Dream opens the following afternoon, on Sunday, June 11, with a 3:30 p.m. matinee.
Shakespeare's most entertaining and beguiling comedy, Dream has been an annual staple at Theatricum going back decades. Each summer, Theatricum's wooded stage morphs into the enchanted woods of Athens, where mortal lovers chase and are chased, players prepare, and fairies make magical mischief. Melora Marshall returns to direct the company's unique production, which infuses the Bard's beautiful language with song to heighten the pleasure; select sections of Shakespeare's text are sung to original music by Ellen Geer, with instrumentation and additional music by Marshall McDaniel.
"Dream has been with us since the beginning," notes Geer. "The surrounding woods bring this play to life in a special way. Whenever we try to replace it, we are asked to bring it back again as families bring their kids and then their kids grow up and bring theirs. Many adults who now come to our theater once sat in our audience as children."
Heading the cast of lovers, fairies, clowns, and sprites in Dream are Caroline Quigley as Helena; Steven Taub Gordon as Demetrius; Ashley Maimes as Hermia; Ben Church as Lysander; Jonathan Blandino as Oberon; Taylor Jackson Ross as Titania; Danezion Mills as Theseus; Alan Blumenfeld and Jon Sprik alternating as Bottom; Emoria Weidner as Peter Quince; and Christopher Glenn Gilstrap as Puck.
Following Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream, the season will continue with Queen Margaret's Version of Shakespeare's War of the Roses, compiled by Ellen Geer from the Bard's best-known history plays (Henry VI Parts I, II and III and Richard III), which opens June 24; and A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally, opening July 9. Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum will perform all four plays in repertory, making it possible to see them all in one single summer weekend.
Other events taking place at Theatricum during this 50th anniversary season include comedy improv with Theatricum's resident troupe, Off the Grid, at the end of each month (June 30, July 27, Aug. 31, Sept. 28); a 50th Anniversary Gala (Aug. 5); the annual Under the Oaks salon series on Fridays in September (Sept. 8 through Sept. 29); an Americana Harvest Festival that includes a special performance of The Woody Guthrie Story (Oct. 8); and the company's annual Holiday Family Faire (Dec. 9).
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." In 2017, Theatricum was named "one of the best outdoor theaters around the world" by the Daily Beast.
Theatricum's beginnings can be traced to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklist (before he became known as the beloved Grandpa on The Waltons), opened a theater for blacklisted actors and folk singers on his property in Topanga. Friends such as Ford Rainey, Della Reese, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie joined him on the dirt stage for vigorous performances and inspired grassroots activism, while the audiences sat on railroad ties. Today, two outdoor amphitheaters are situated in the natural canyon ravine, where audiences are able to relax and enjoy the wilderness during an afternoon or evening's performance. Theatricum's main stage amphitheater sports a new and improved sun shade for increased audience comfort, installed with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Ahmamson Foundation. Theatricum is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Margaret Harford Award for "sustained excellence," which is the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's highest honor.
Macbeth opens on Saturday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m. and continues to run in repertory through September 23; a prologue (pre-show) discussion will take place on Sunday, Aug. 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. A Midsummer Night's Dream opens on Sunday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m., with performances continuing through September 21; a prologue discussion is set for Sunday, July 2 from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets to performances range from $15 to $48. Premium seating is available for $60. Children 4 and under are free. Pay What You Will ticket pricing is available on the following dates (cash only at the door): Macbeth on Friday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m .; and A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday, July 9 at 3:30 p.m.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. The amphitheater is terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Patrons are welcome to arrive early to picnic in the gardens before a performance.
To view the schedule of performances for Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream, scroll down. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (310) 455-3723 or visit theatricum.com
Details for your Calendars
'Macbeth' & 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
Performances: June 10–September 23:
• Saturday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth (Opening Night)
• Sunday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream (Opening Matinee)
• Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Sunday, June 18 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, June 25 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Sunday, July 2 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, July 2 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Sunday, July 9 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream*
• Sunday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Sunday, July 16 at 3:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Friday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Sunday, July 23 at 3:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Friday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, July 30 at 3:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Thursday, Aug. 3 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Thursday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Friday, Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Thursday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth*
• Saturday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Monday, Sept. 4 (Labor Day) at 6:30 p.m.– A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Thursday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Sunday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
• Thursday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. – A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. – Macbeth
*Prologue (pre-show discussion): Macbeth on Sunday, Aug. 26 from 6:30 p.m.–7 p.m. and A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday, July 2 from 2:30 p.m.–3 p.m.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga CA 90290
(midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)
• Adults: $48 (lower tier); $30 (upper tier); $60 (premium seating)
• Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $35/$20
• Children (5-15): $15
• Children 4 and under: Free
• Sunday, July 9 at 3:30 p.m. (A Midsummer Night's Dream: Pay-What-You-Will (cash only at the door)
• Friday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. (Macbeth): Pay-What-You-Will (cash only at the door)
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