Theatricum Botanicum Announces 2010 Summer Repertory Season

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Theatricum's spectacular (and historical) outdoor setting is an affordable summer treat for locals and tourists alike.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is magical in the Topanga woods. Photo: Mary Anne Dolcemascolo

We've chosen four plays that tap into the collective yearning - be it for love, money, power or change - that so many of us are feeling in these uncertain times

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Theatricum Botanicum artistic director Ellen Geer has announced a delightfully eclectic season of plays, music, poetry and comedy improv for Summer 2010.

Well known for its lovingly executed productions of Shakespeare, modern classics, and world premiere adaptations of classic plays and novels in a spectacular, outdoor setting, Theatricum's Summer 2010 Season will be no exception. Scheduled to run in repertory from June 5 through October 3 are Hamlet, with longtime company members Mike Peebler and Jeff Wiesen alternating in the title role; Theatricum's signature production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a perennial audience favorite set against an enchanted forest backdrop unrivaled by any other theater (because it's the real thing); a world premiere adaptation of Alexander Dumas' epic, swashbuckling The Three Musketeers; and Terrence NcNally's Tony Award-winning Master Class, starring Geer in the role of opera diva Maria Callas.

"We've chosen four plays that tap into the collective yearning - be it for love, money, power or change - that so many of us are feeling in these uncertain times," says Geer, who was just honored this month as Los Angeles County's 'Woman of the Year' in the 3rd District for her work to bring about social and economic change. "These are four timeless stories that will bring us together and drive us forward."

Unlike most theaters in the Los Angeles area that stage continuous runs of a single play, the Theatricum, using a company of actors, performs each play on a rotating basis so that it's possible to see all four plays in a single summer weekend.

In addition to the four plays in the 2010 Summer Repertory Season, Theatricum offers a variety of satellite programming including a Thursday Night Salon Series featuring comedy improv, cabaret and poetry; a Summer Music Series that will include tributes to longtime Theatricum friend Woody Guthrie and Dolly Parton; Family Fundays interactive plays and concerts for kids on Saturday and Sunday mornings; Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights featuring free readings of new plays on select Sundays; and theme dinners in the idyllic Theatricum gardens, including Greek "Dream Dinners" on Thursday evenings in August and French "Musketeer Meals" on Fridays in September. Audiences are always free to picnic on the lovely grounds before or after a performance.

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 the theater is run by his family. Two outdoor amphitheaters are situated in a natural canyon ravine, where audiences are able to relax and enjoy the wilderness during an afternoon or evening's performance.

The critically acclaimed Theatricum Botanicum is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Margaret Harford Award - the Los Angeles Critics Circle's highest honor - for "sustained excellence."

The Will Geer 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, group discounts, and a full schedule of theater, music and family entertainment, call (310) 455-3723 or go to http://www.theatricum.com.

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