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Theatricum Botanicum Presents 'Long Day's Journey'

One of America's greatest plays by one of its greatest playwrights, Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, opens at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum on July 26, joining the Summer Repertory Season that continues through the end of September.  Heidi Helen Davis directs Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer; Aaron Hendry; William Dennis Hunt; and Jim LeFave in O'Neill's autobiographical exorcism of his own personal demons that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.

O'Neill's searing drama about his home life remains one of the most challenging and moving theatrical experiences and is one of the most enduring works of art of the last century.  In August, 1912 the four Tyrones gather in their summer home in New London, Connecticut, where they embark on an extraordinary psychological journey over the course of one long, hot summer day.  Each family member battles his own past in four remarkable personal struggles that reveal the family's downward spiral of alcoholism and drug addiction.  The play is so personal and revealing that O'Neill forbade it to be published or performed until after his death.

"We live in a society where most of us have been touched in some way by substance abuse," commented Geer.  "Here is a writer who explores it to the core and anyone who sees this production will be affected by how addiction shapes a family's life.  I feel strongly that this play needs to be seen, especially today.  Perhaps it will spark viewers' recognition and start them thinking.  As Mary Tyrone says in the play, 'The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too.' "

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) began his life surrounded by theater, as his father, James O'Neill, was an extremely popular actor.  O'Neill did not begin writing however, until 1912, when, bedridden with tuberculosis, he was inspired by the plays that he read to keep himself occupied.  At the time of its writing, Long Day's Journey into Night was so intensely personal to O'Neill that he sealed the manuscript and stipulated that it not be published until 25 years after his death.  His widow contravened the order and the play was published in 1955, two years after his death, and performed on Broadway a year later - winning the Pulitzer for O'Neill posthumously.  The playwright called it a play of "old sorrow, written in tears and blood," finding, in this most personal artistic expression, the courage to write with "deep pity and understanding" and to finally find forgiveness.  Through that journey of forgiveness, he left a lasting mark on American literature and changed the face of American theater.  Hailed by many as America's premier playwright, O'Neill wrote 45 plays during his lifetime, four of which were awarded the Pulitzer Prize -the other three were Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christie and Strange Interlude.  In 1936, O'Neill was the first playwright ever awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

On Monday night, August 4 from 7-9 pm, playgoers will have a chance to explore the language and themes of LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT more deeply and intimately with director Heidi Helen Davis and members of the cast.  The evening is part of a new event series called Herta's Roundtables; with all proceeds from the separate admission fee going to benefit the Herta Ware Scholarship Fund.

The beginnings of the Theatricum Botanicum can be traced to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the McCarthy-era 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.  Since 1973, the Theatricum has presented Shakespeare and the classics in repertory in its scenic, outdoor amphitheater in rustic Topanga Canyon.  The Theatricum Botanicum is a recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's highest honor, the prestigious Margaret Harford Award for "Sustained Excellence in Theater," and Artistic Director Ellen Geer was presented with the LA Weekly Career Achievement Award in 1999.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT runs in rotating repertory with As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth and The School for Scandal.  Performances of LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT take place on Fridays at 8 pm on August 1; September 5, 12, 19 & 26; and Saturdays at 8 pm on July 26 (Opening Night); August 2, 9, 16, 23, 30;and  September 6, 13, 20 & 27.  Tickets are $20.00 (upper tier) and $28.00 (lower tier); seniors, students, Iraq war veterans and members of Equity pay only $15 and $20.  Audiences at the Friday, September 5 performance are invited to participate in a pre-show discussion beginning at 7 pm.  A Herta's Roundtable Discussion takes place on Monday, August 4 from 7-9pm (separate $15.00 admission fee to benefit the Herta Ware Scholarship Fund).  The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.  For tickets and information, call (310) 455-3723 or visit online at www.theatricum.com.


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