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Theatricum Botanicum to Celebrate the Bard's 450th Birthday With All-Shakespeare Season

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Theatricum Botanicum to Celebrate the Bard's 450th Birthday With All-Shakespeare Season

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum celebrates the Bard's 450th Birthday with an All-Shakespeare Season under the stars and live oaks of Topanga Canyon.

A lively mix of tragedy and comedy with a heaping tablespoon of Theatricum's trademark social commentary, the 2014 five-play repertory season has something for everyone, including unique Theatricum twists on King Lear and All's Well That Ends Well; Shakespeare's much-beloved Much Ado About Nothing; the company's annual, signature production of A Midsummer Night's Dream; and Equivocation, the award-winning play by Bill Cain that goes behind the scenes at the legendary Globe Theatre as King James commissions a young William "Shagspeare" to write a play about a thwarted attempt on his life. In addition, Theatricum has been selected to participate in "Shakespeare on the Road," a 60-day road trip by a team representing the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust that will visit and document Shakespeare-related theater festivals across America during the 450th birthday of Shakespeare in 2014 and the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

"William Shakespeare, more than any other writer, chronicles every one of our emotions: love, jealousy, rage, romance, despair, joy, tenderness and humor," says Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer. "We understand our world - and ourselves - better because of him."

Opening the season on June 7, Geer herself takes on the title role in a gender-reversed Lear for the 21st century, a daring 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.

The next day, on June 8, A Midsummer Night's Dream joins the repertory season. The natural beauty of Theatricum's Topanga environment transforms once again into an enchanted forest, peopled by lovers and fairies. Comic misadventures, mistaken identities and unrequited love are reconciled by magic, midsummer revelries and the enduring power of nature.

In the Bard's bittersweet All's Well That Ends Well, opening June 21, the beautiful but low-born Helena heals the king, winning the right to marry the man she loves - a count above her station. But no one is prepared for the severity and ruthlessness of Bertram's rejection of Helena as his royally-decreed wife, nor for the lengths Helena will go in order to win his love. Theatricum makes a black and white comment on our perceptions of class, casting the royals with actors of color, while the commoners are white.

Next up, beginning July 12, is Much Ado About Nothing, one of the most exuberant and spirited battles of the sexes ever written. Beatrice and Benedick find each other as detestable as worms. Their verbal jousts are witty but cruel, and every action is calculated to wound - yet beneath their animosity lies a mutual attraction that neither dares confess until circumstances unite them to rescue young friends and force them to unmask their own true love.

Winding up the season on Sept. 5 is Bill Cain's Equivocation: At once an explosive comedy of ideas and a high-stakes political thriller, this bold new work deftly reveals the cat-and-mouse games in politics and art, and the craft of learning how to speak the truth in difficult times. Set in 1605 London, a struggling playwright called "Shagspeare" receives a royal commission from King James to write a play promoting the government's version of the Gunpowder Plot, a recent failed attempt to blow up Parliament and the Monarchy.

Theatricum Botanicum is renowned for its spirited productions of Shakespeare and modern classics in a spectacular outdoor setting. Unlike most theaters in the Los Angeles area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, performs each play on a rotating basis so that it's possible to see all five mainstage plays in a single summer weekend.

Additional summer programming includes Under the Oaks, featuring poetry and music in the intimate S. Mark Taper Foundation Pavilion; comedy improv with Theatricum's in-house troupe Off The Grid; Family Fundays, offering children's theater from Creative PlayGround and music from Peter Alsop's Kids Koncerts; Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights presenting free readings of new plays; and Theme Dinner Buffets in the idyllic Theatricum gardens.

Mainstage Special Engagements include Momentum Place, Theatricum's annual offering of modern dance, aerial acts, juggling and performance art curated by Lexi Pearl, on Sunday, May 11 (Mother's Day); The Woody Show, Theatricum's tribute to the songwriter, folklorist, labor leader and longtime Theatricum friend on Saturday, Sept. 20; and Inara George and Friends, who return for their annual concert on Saturday, Oct. 18.

The beginnings of the Theatricum Botanicum 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 TV's "The Waltons"), opened a theater for blacklisted actors and folk singers on his property in Topanga. Friends such as Ford Rainey, John Randolph 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 is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Margaret Harford Award for "sustained excellence," which is the Los Angeles Critics Circle's highest honor.

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. Picnickers are welcome on the grounds before or after the performances.

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. Subscribe before Shakespeare's Birthday (April 23) for additional savings.

BOTANICUM'S 450th BIRTHDAY ALL-SHAKESPEARE SEASON AT A GLANCE:

MAINSTAGE REPERTORY PERFORMANCES June 7 through Oct. 4:

  • Saturday, June 7 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, June 8 at 3:30 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Drea
  • Saturday, June 14 at 8 p.m. - Lear (Pre-show discussion at 7 p.m.)
  • Sunday, June 15 at 3:30 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Saturday, June 21 at 4 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Family Day packages available - includes workshop, snack and performance)
  • Saturday, June 21 at 8 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Wel
  • Sunday, June 22 at 3:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Saturday, June 28 at 4 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pre-show discussion at 3 p.m.)
  • Saturday, June 28 at 8 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, June 29 at 3:30 p.m. - Lear (Family Day packages available - includes workshop, snack and performance)
  • Sunday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, July 5 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well (Pre-show discussion at 3 p.m.)
  • Saturday, July 5 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, July 6 at 3:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, July 6 at 7:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, July 12 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well (Family Day packages available - includes workshop, snack and performance)
  • Saturday, July 12 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, July 13 at 3:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, July 19 at 4 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, July 19 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, July 20 at 3:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, July 26 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, July 26 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, July 27 at 3:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Friday, Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, Aug. 2 at 4 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, Aug. 3 at 3:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Aug. 3 at 7:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Thursday, Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pre-show Mediterranean dinner buffet in gardens - separate admission)
  • Friday, Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, Aug. 9 at 4 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing (Pre-show discussion at 3 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, Aug. 10 at 3:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Thursday, Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pre-show Mediterranean dinner buffet in gardens - separate admission)
  • Friday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Aug. 17 at 3:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Thursday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pre-show Mediterranean dinner buffet in gardens - separate admission)
  • Friday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, Aug. 23 at 4 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Saturday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, Aug. 24 at 3:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pre-show Mediterranean dinner buffet in gardens - separate admission)
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Monday, Sept. 1 (Labor Day) at 6:00 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Friday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing (Family Day packages available - includes workshop, snack and performance)
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Sunday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Welll
  • Friday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation (Pre-show discussion at 7 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Sept. 14 at 3:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Friday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation
  • Saturday, Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Saturday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Sunday, Sept. 21 at 3:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sunday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Friday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation
  • Saturday, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. - All's Well That Ends Well
  • Saturday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Sunday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. - Lear
  • Sunday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. - Much Ado About Nothing
  • Friday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation
  • Saturday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. - Equivocation

MAINSTAGE SPECIAL ENGAGEMENTS:

  • Sunday, May 11 (Mother's Day) at 2 p.m.: Momentum Place - Lexi Pearl curates Theatricum's annual offering of modern dance, aerial acts, juggling and performance art.
  • Saturday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m.: The Woody Show - The spirit of Woody Guthrie is brought to life through his own words and music, performed by members of the Geer family and their friends.
  • Saturday, Oct. 18 (time TBA): Inara George and Friends - The acclaimed singer/songwriter, a homegrown Topangan, shares the stage with an eclectic musical line-up.

UNDER THE OAKS featuring poetry and music in the intimate S. Mark Taper Foundation Pavilion:

  • Thursday, July 24 at 8.p.m. - Theatricum Unmasked
  • Thursday, July 31 at 8.p.m. - In concert: Tribute to Pete Seeger
  • Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 8.p.m. - In concert: all female folk band The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 8.p.m. - In concert: Mr. Z Presents the Art of Jazz Singing

OFF THE GRID - comedy improv with Theatricum's in-house troupe:

  • Friday, June 27 at 8.p.m.
  • Friday, July 18 at 8.p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 29 at 8.p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.

BOTANICUM SEEDLINGS:A DEVELOPMENT SERIES FOR PLAYWRIGHTS furthers new works and new voices, presenting free readings of new plays:

  • Sundays, Aug. 24 and Aug, 31 at 11 a.m.

BOO-TANICUM - The bucolic Theatricum transforms into the haunted BOO-tanicum with the theater company's fourth annual Halloween extravaganza:

  • Friday, Oct. 31 from 4-9 p.m.

FAMILY FUNDAYS with Peter Alsop's KIDS KONCERTS and CREATIVE PLAYGROUND:

  • Every Sunday and select Saturdays at 11 a.m., June 1 through Oct. 26 (check www.theatricum.com for schedule)

The outdoor amphitheaters at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum are terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Picnickers are welcome before or after the performances.

For more information and to purchase tickets and subscriptions, call (310) 455-3723, or go to www.theatricum.com. Visit us on facebook: www.facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum.

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