[NoHo Arts District, CA] – Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum continues its 50th Anniversary Summer Season with Queen Margaret’s Version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses, a new edit of Shakespeare’s best-known history plays — Henry VI Parts I, II and III and Richard III — compiled by artistic director Ellen Geer. Performances begin Saturday, June 24 at Theatricum’s one-of-a-kind outdoor amphitheater in Topanga, where they continue through October 1.
Dubbed the “British Game of Thrones” and Shakespeare’s “First Boxed Set” by British director Trevor Nunn, the Bard’s War of the Roses follows 30 years of bitter infighting between the rival Lancaster and Plantagenet dynasties as they battle for power and the crown of England. Geer puts the focus on the women in court as they watch the bloody wars (battle scenes courtesy of fight choreographer Cavin (CR) Mohrhardt) take the lives of their fathers, husbands and sons.
Those women include Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI (played by Melora Marshall); Dame Eleanor, wife of the Duke of Gloucester, and Lady Elizabeth Grey, Queen Elizabeth after her marriage to Edward IV (both portrayed by Willow Geer); the Duchess of York, mother of both Edward IV and Richard III (Earnestine Phillips); and Lady Anne, daughter-in-law of Henry VI, widow of the young Prince Edward, and, finally, wife of Richard III (Claire Simba).
“It’s so like today,” says Geer. “The intrigue of the court is just like what happens in Congress and the fight for the White House. It’s all about who deserves what and who did what to whom. All done for political rise and wealth. No one really cares about the people, or about good government. Why do this play, you ask? Because watching as history repeats itself might someday bring folks to their senses.”
Playing the men in the production are Emoria Weidner as King Henry VI; Franc Ross as the Duke of Gloucester, protector of the realm; Max Lawrence as Richard, Duke of York (father of Edward IV and Richard III); Benjamin McFadden as both the Duke of Suffolk and Richard III; Tim Halligan as the Duke of Somerset; Jon Sprik as the Duke of Buckingham; and Christopher Wallinger as Cardinal Beaufort. The large cast also features Charlie Burg; Sara Carpenter; Ben Church; Rhett Curry; Julius Geer-Polin; Dylan Greer; Colin Guthrie; Emerson Haller; Anthony Hernandez; Christopher Wei Fu Hernandez; Michael Kendrick; Andrew Klein; Tariq Mieres; Will Mueller; Nations; Quinlynn Scheppner; Sky Wahl; Aralyn Wilson; and Elliott Gray Wilson.
The creative team for Queen Margaret’s Version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses includes lighting designer Zach Moore, sound designer Charles Glaudini; costume designer Shon LeBlanc and prop master Ian Geatz. The production stage manager is Kim Cameron.
Queen Margaret’s Version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses will run in repertory every weekend with Shakespeare’s Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, each of which open earlier in the season, and A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally, which joins the repertoire on July 15. Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum will perform all four plays in repertory, making it possible to see them all in one single summer weekend.
Other events taking place at Theatricum during this 50th anniversary season include comedy improv with Theatricum’s resident troupe, Off the Grid, at the end of each month (June 30, July 27, Aug. 31, Sept. 28); a 50th Anniversary Gala (Aug. 5); the annual Under the Oaks salon series on Fridays in September (Sept. 8 through Sept. 29); an Americana Harvest Festival that includes a special performance of The Woody Guthrie Story (Oct. 8); and the company’s annual Holiday Family Faire (Dec. 9).
About Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
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.
Queen Margaret’s Version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses opens on Saturday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. and continues to run in repertory through October 1; a prologue (pre-show) discussion will take place on Saturday, Aug. 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 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 (cash only at the door) is available for the performance on Friday, Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando 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.
• Adults: $48 (lower tier); $30 (upper tier); $60 (premium seating)
• Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $35/$20
• Children (5-15): $15
• Children 4 and under: Free
• Friday night, Aug. 18 Pay-What-You-Will (cash only at the door)
• The outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. 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.
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