THE WINTER'S TALE & A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM to Kick Off Theatricum's Outdoor Summer Season

The Winter's Tale opens Saturday, June 1.

By: Apr. 16, 2024
THE WINTER'S TALE & A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM to Kick Off Theatricum's Outdoor Summer Season
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Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum will open its 2024 summer repertory season with two productions by the Bard. Opening first, on Saturday, June 1, The Winter’s Tale is a sweeping romance of passion and forgiveness. The very next day, Sunday, June 2, marks the opening of Theatricum’s signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream –– an audience favorite year after year. There’s no better way to watch Shakespeare come alive than by spending a summer afternoon or evening at Theatricum's spectacular amphitheater, carved into a rustic hillside in Topanga.

Containing one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions (“Exit, pursued by a bear”), The Winter’s Tale is a tragedy in its first third and a comic pastoral in its second, then finally resolves itself in romance. In a jealous rage, King Leontes (Aaron Hendry) falsely accuses his wife, Hermione (Willow Geer), of adultery with his best friend, King Polixenes (Max Lawrence). Their baby daughter, Perdita (Sophia Dawson), cast out to die, is adopted by an old shepherd (Earnestine Phillips) and secretly grows up in Polixenes’ kingdom as a shepherdess. When Polixenes discovers that his son (Christian Jordan Smith) has fallen in love with Perdita, he forbids their marriage and the lovers flee. Through the inadvertent help of a comic pickpocket (Gerald C. Rivers), a clown (Daniel Ramirez) and two shepherdesses (Aubrey Sage and Liza Rash), the lovers and their parents are reunited, and old wounds are healed through the forgiving power of love. Also in the cast are Tim Halligan as Antigonus; Michelle Jasso as Emelia; Melora Marshall as Paulina; Franc Ross as Camillo; and Andy Stokan as Archidamus. Kevin Rauch plays Cleomenes, Timothy Willard portrays a lord, and Aralyn Wilson is Leontes’ young son, Mamillius.

“Out of a winter plagued by jealousy and torment emerges the glorious rebirth of spring in high humor of the countryside,” says Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer, who directs. “One of the Bard’s final plays,The Winter’s Tale concludes in one of the most extraordinarily written scenes of magical redemption, in which Time ensures that the past is only prologue to the reconciled future.”

The creative team includes composer and musical arranger Marshall McDaniel; costume designer A Jeffrey Schoenberg; lighting designer Zach Moore; sound designer Grant Escandón; prop master Ian Geatz; and wardrobe supervisor Beth Eslick. The assistant director is Sara Carpenter and the production stage manager is Karen Osborne, who is assisted by Sky Wahl.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens the very next day with a Sunday matinee. Shakespeare’s most entertaining and beguiling comedy, Theatricum audiences insist on its return every summer. Once again, the venue’s wooded stage will morph into the enchanted woods of Athens, where mortal lovers chase and are chased, players prepare, and fairies make magical mischief.

This year, associate artistic director Willow Geer directs.

“I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this glorious play for decades,” she says. “As I age and grow and experience so many different types of love and relationships, I am constantly in awe of the timelessness of Shakespeare and his unwavering ability to illuminate and explore the human heart so eloquently. In this year’s Dream, we endeavor to immerse the audience in the whimsical world of fairy enchantment, Greek mythology and mortal folly, inviting all to revel in and relate to the joyous tapestry of human connection woven throughout this delightful comedy.”

The cast of magical woodland creatures includes Christopher Glenn Gilstrap as Puck; Max Lawrence (following his previous night’s performance as Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale) as Oberon; Liz Eldridge as Titania; Alyssa Ross, Oliver Rotunno and Gemariah Williams-Morgan as Cobweb, Peaseblossom and Mustardseed; Annie Reznik as the First Fairy; and Emilie Dechant, Sarah Hajmomenian, Georgie Swanson, Aralyn Wilson and Elliott Wilson as youth fairies. The lovers are played by Isabel Stallings (Helena), Rhett Curry (Demetrius), Caroline Quigley (Hermia) and Kelvin Morales (Lysander). The hilarious Mechanicals are headed by Brian Wallace as Bottom and Melora Marshall (her second turn in one weekend following her performance in The Winter’s Tale) as Peter Quince, with Hunter James as Snout, Shane McDermott as Flute, Stella Ramirez as Starveling, and Sammie Zenoz as Snug. Last, but not least, Ted Dane plays Egeus with Kevin Matsumoto as Theseus, Ianthe Marini as Hippolyta and Jorge Agustín as Philostrate. Rounding out the ensemble are Michael DiNardo, Cristian Sanchez and Timothy Willard as lords, and Rachel Edelstein, Shoshanna Green, Cat Masterson and Aubrey Sage as Amazons. Musical effects are created live on stage by Sky Wahl.

The creative team includes fight choreographers Jonathan Blandino (who also assistant directs) and Sara Carpenter; costume designer Tracy Wahl; lighting designer Zach Moore; prop master Ian Geatz; and wardrobe supervisor Beth Eslick. The production stage manager is Kim Cameron, assisted by Aylin Garcia.

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. 

The Winter’s Tale opens on Saturday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. and continues to run in repertory through September 30; a prologue (pre-show) discussion will take place on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on Sunday, June 2 at 3:30 p.m., with performances continuing through September 23; a prologue discussion is set for Thursday, Aug. 29 from 6:30 p.m.–7 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, funded by the
City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, is available on the following dates: The Winter’s Tale on Friday, July 19 and Monday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m.; and A Midsummer Night's Dream on Monday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. (available online the week of the performance or cash at the door).

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley (*Please note: Topanga Canyon Blvd is currently closed between the theater and PCH; until further notice, exit the 101 at Topanga Canyon Blvd. South to access Theatricum from the 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 The Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, scroll down. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (310) 455-3723 or visit theatricum.com




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