Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s 2022 Summer Season

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.

Looking for a magical getaway this summer but just a short drive away? Is that even possible in L.A.? Yes, it sure is. We got you. 

Summer is on the horizon, and Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum has a mix of classical theater, new work and music set to take place at its spectacular, one-of-a-kind outdoor amphitheatre in Topanga. Individual tickets and season subscriptions are now on sale at theatricum.com for the “Ties That Bind” 2022 Summer Repertory Season, sponsored by the S. Mark Taper Foundation.

In addition to the company’s annual offering of Shakespeare, the 2022 season will include a world premiere, a surprising “all new” revival, and a host of satellite events.

“Our 49th season will shine light on the complicated weave of relationships that tie and bind us to each other as we struggle to find freedom and balance within ourselves, our families and our community,” says Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer.

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s 2022 Summer Season

Best known for presenting lively and engaging renditions of the works of William Shakespeare, Theatricum will open the season with two of the Bard’s buoyant comedies: The Merry Wives of Windsor, opening June 11, and the company’s annual, signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening June 12.

Set to a rockin’ score of ’50s tunes, Merry Wives has been re-set to 1950s small-town America during the nascent period of second-wave feminism. Things might seem picture perfect in “Small Town U.S.A”… but when opportunistic schemer and womanizer John Falstaff blows into town on his Harley and tries to woo two wealthy ladies at once, the town’s women gleefully plot his comeuppance.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains a perennial favorite at Theatricum, where the set design remains unrivaled by any other theater — because it’s the real thing. What better place to delight as fairies cavort than in the heart of the Topanga woods on a true midsummer eve? Theatricum infuses Shakespeare’s beautiful language with music and song, as audiences are transported to a world of wonder, magic and romance.

Joining the repertoire on June 25 is a spanking “new” revival. Forty-one years after its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre, Academy Award-winning writer Ernest Thompson (On Golden Pond) has deconstructed his script for The West Side Waltz. In the world premiere of Thompson’s newly revised, heart-filled dramedy set during the tumultuous ’80s, Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer; her sister, Melora Marshall; and daughter Willow Geer take on the roles of an aging concert pianist, her violin-playing spinster neighbor, and a would-be actress on New York’s Upper West Side.

Finally, the world premiere of Trouble the Water opens on July 9. Inspired by the real-life story of Robert Smalls, who escaped slavery to become an American hero, Trouble the Water navigates the rich tributaries of courage, betrayal and redemption in a script freely adapted by Ellen Geer from the 2019 award-winning historical novel by Rebecca Dwight Bruff.

All four productions will play in repertory through October 2. 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 four plays in a single summer weekend.

Other Events

In addition to theater, Theatricum will present an array of special events: Momentum Place, Theatricum’s annual offering of modern dance, aerial acts, juggling and performance art curated by Lexi Pearl, on Sunday, May 8 (Mother’s Day); comedy improv with Theatricum’s resident troupe, Off the Grid, on Friday, June 24; Thursday, July 28; Thursday, Aug. 25 and Friday, Sept. 30; a “sneak peak” of a new work-in-progress, Birth Control: A Musical, with music and lyrics by Inara George and book by Rina Mimoun, on Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9; and a Holiday Family Faire on Saturday, Dec. 10. The company’s annual Under the Oaks salon series will take place over the course of five Thursday evenings in September: Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender, written and performed by Lisa Wolpe, on Thursday, Sept. 1; classical music with Much Ado About Music on Thursday, Sept. 8; a Stephen Sondheim Cabaret featuring the talents of Theatricum company members on Thursday, Sept. 15; Acoustic Asylum, turning some of L.A.’s best recording and touring musicians loose in an organic setting, on Thursday, Sept. 22; and modern classical fare influenced by progressive rock, jazz fusion and pulsing electronic music with musicians and composers The McDaniel Brothers (Marshall on cello and piano, Kellen on viola) on Thursday, Sept. 29.

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.”

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. Actors making their entrance. Photo by Ian Flanders.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. Actors making their entrance. Photo by Ian Flanders.

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s always been a staunch arts supporter

The beginnings of 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 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 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.

Theatricum Botanicum continues its campaign to “Go Green,” completing the Topanga Creek revitalization project headed by Debbie Sharpton. All nonnative plants have been removed from the grounds with the help of many volunteers, and native plants have been planted. Visitors will be greeted by a mural of a red-tailed hawk and signage that confirms that nature and art live together. Theatricum is committed to being an active defender of the planet and a warrior against climate change.

Get away to one of L.A.’s most magical places to see live theater in a long-time venue rich with history just a short drive from the NoHo Arts District!

Will Geer’s 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.

For a full schedule of theater, music and family entertainment, and to learn about up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols as each performance approaches, call (310) 455–3723, or go to theatricum.com.