Theatricum Opens 2018 Summer Season with Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS

Theatricum Opens 2018 Summer Season with Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS

William Shakespeare'sCoriolanus, a tragedy based on the life of legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus, opens the summer season at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum on June 2.

Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer co-directs with Melora Marshall, both of whom also appear in the cast.

An allegory for today's tumultuous times, Shakespeare's searing tragedy is a cautionary tale of political manipulation and revenge. Rome, a city where the one-percenters rule, is led by a populist general who has nothing but contempt for the common people and is unable to reconcile his disdain for the citizens with his love of country.

"In this play, there are no heroes," says Geer. "It's really just like today."

Caius Martius (David DeSantos, recently seen in The Sweetheart Deal at the LATC; Cloud 9 at Antaeus andMacbeth at A Noise Within) is a fearless soldier but a reluctant leader. His ambitious mother (Geer) and the senator Menenius Agrippa (Marshall) attempt to carve him a path to political power, but he struggles to change his nature and do what is required to achieve greatness. The company also featuresAlan Blumenfeld, Tim Halligan, Max Lawrence, Dane Oliver, Franc Ross, Andy Stokan, Christopher Wallingerand Michelle Wicklas.

Original music and sound design for Coriolanus are byMarshall McDaniel, costume design is by Robert Merkel, lighting design is by Zach Moore, props are by Sydney Russell, and fight choreography is by Aaron Hendry and Dane Oliver. Jordann Zbylski assistant directs and Elna Kordijan is the production stage manager.

With its one-of-a-kind outdoor setting in the heart of Topanga Canyon and its roots in the 1950s McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist - when actors Will Geer and his wife, Herta Ware, created the theater as a haven for blacklisted actors - Theatricum is best known for its productions that frame contemporary social issues through the lens of classic literature.

Theatricum's signature production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream will follow the opening of Coriolanus on June 3. The Crucible by Arthur Miller opens on June 16; The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold joins the season on June 30; and a rare revival of Haiti by William DuBois, originally presented by the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project in 1938, kicks off on July 28. All five mainstage productions will play in repertory through Sept. 30.

Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, will perform each of the plays in repertory, making it possible to see all five mainstage plays in a single summer weekend.

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, 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'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 Ralph M. Parson's 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 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 and picnic before a performance.

Coriolanus opens on Saturday, June 2 at 8 p.m. and continues through Sept. 23. Tickets range from $10 - $38.50; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or visit Visit Theatricum on facebook: Follow us on twitter: @theatricum and instagram: @theatricum_botanicum.

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