Titus Andronicus Joins Summer Rep Season at Theatricum Botanicum, July 30

Titus Andronicus - Theatricum

Sheridan Crist and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Leave the children at home for Theatricum Botanicum’s upcoming production of Titus Andronicus, opening July 30. In this violent and disturbing saga of vengeance and retribution, director Ellen Geer explores questions of leadership and the relationship between government and its citizens as the company takes on Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy. It is recommended for mature audiences due to adult themes and violence.

When general Titus Andronicus returns from war with prisoners Queen Tamora, her lover and her sons, he hands over Tamora’s eldest son for sacrifice, and so sets off a bloody cycle of violence that swiftly accelerates out of control.

“Here’s a 400-year-old play that outdoes even the unimaginable horrors we hear about daily in today’s news,” says Geer. “At its core, it’s the story of a government gone awry. These leaders haven’t been elected by the people. They have been put into positions of power by political insiders. They don’t answer to their citizens, but to the gods of greed, envy and revenge.”

Titus Andronicus is often seen as Shakespeare’s early attempt to emulate the popular, bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries. According to dramaturg Isabel Smith-Bernstein, Shakespeare may have set the play in ancient Rome because he was living in a time reminiscent of the cruelties of that era, a time when violence and death were part of everyday life: in sports such as bear baiting and hunting, in public floggings and executions, and in the wars that divided empires. Death was always looming with threats of illness and plague.

Viewing the play as a cautionary tale for our own times, Geer sets Theatricum’s production in the not-too-distant future, making use of Jordan-Marc Diamond’s costumes and an original soundscape created by composer Marshall McDaniel to define time and place.

Sheridan Crist stars in the title role, with Marie-Françoise Theodore as Queen Tamora; Michael McFall as Tamora’s lover, Aaron; Christopher W. Jones as Saturninus; Willow Geer as Lucia; Mark Lewis as Publius; and Melora Marshall as “Marcia” (Marcus) Andronicus.

The cast also includes Kamran Abbassian, Raúl Ramón Bencomo, Clayton Cook, Turner Frankosky, Bradley Gosnell, Alexandra Hensley, Nima Jafari, Richard Johnson, Cindy Kania, Finn Kerwin, Kathleen Leary, Shane McDermott, Kelvin Morales, Precious Ra’Akbar, Alexander Sheldon, Talya Sindel, Daniel A. Stevens, Sky Wahl, Alexandre Wauthier, Michelle Wicklas and Miebaka Yohannes.

Lighting design is by Zach Moore, fight choreography is by Aaron Hendry; and the production stage manager is Pete Parkin.

July 30 – October 1, 2016 (7:30 pm)
Theatricum Botanicum
1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga
(midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley)
Tickets: 310-455-3723 or www.theatricum.com


Review: Romeo and Juliet through the Lens of the Middle East by way of Topanga Canyon

Romeo and Juliet - Theatricum Botanicum

Judy Durkin and Shaun Taylor-Corbett. All photos by Miriam Geer

Not even a wall can keep these lovers apart.

This particular wall happens to be in modern-day East Jerusalem and as Theatricum Botanicum’s production of Romeo and Juliet commences, chaos ignites at a checkpoint that divides Israel and Palestine. It is a city that has seen struggle for thousands of years and for one Muslim boy named Romeo and one Jewish girl named Juliet, not even their innocence can change the course of this story.

Following a prologue that ominously shakes its finger at what’s to come, director Ellen Geer’s opening sequence flashes to life in a rush of sound and movement. I could feel my heart start to race as the briskly choreographed fight scene reached its pivotal high point. Geer’s production wastes no time in defining the stakes of this all too real world and the intensity of fight choreographer Aaron Hendry’s skirmishes pulse like a pressure cooker as pent-up emotions erupt again and again.

The show connects on a visceral level because the Middle East’s ongoing crisis, though half a world away, still has repercussions in our own back yard. Local actions have global consequences and, until we accept that we all bear the burden of that responsibility, peace will remain elusive and loss is inevitable. The Capulets and Montagues show us how devastating that loss can be.

Theatricum Botanicum kicks off summer w/ Romeo and Juliet set in East Jerusalem

Sean Taylor-Corbett and Durkin. Photo credit: Ian Flanders

Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Judy Durkin. Photo credit: Ian Flanders

Theatricum Botanium kicks off its summer season with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in East Jerusalem on June 4. Directed by Ellen Geer, the production will highlight the play’s continued relevance for today’s audience setting Shakespeare’s story of forbidden love and warring families in a city beset by age-old prejudices, street violence and religious differences.

Romeo and Juliet has been retold many times before with a myriad of backdrops, proving each time that it continues to resonate regardless of time or place,” says Geer. “We place the story in a city currently divided by political and cultural strife. The lovers are able to see beyond the narrow scope of the world in which they live and find each other in spite of it all.”

Shaun Taylor-Corbett (2nd national tour, Jersey Boys) and Judy Durkin (Jean Fordham in last season’s August: Osage County) star as Romeo and Juliet. The cast will also include Alan Blumenfeld (Capulet), Jonathan Bray (Prince Escalus), Rav Val Denegro (Mercutio), Steven B. Green (Friar Lawrence, renamed “Mufti Zaman”), Melora Marshall (Juliet’s nurse), Karen Reed (“Geveret” Capulet), and Taylor Jackson Ross (Tybalt).

Also featured are Kamran Abbassian, Kate Adams, Claire Andrew, Clayton Cook, Julia Finch, Steve Fisher, Kevin Hudnell, Nima Jafari, Israel Lopez, Celia Mandela, Victoria Yvonne Martinez, Kelvin Morales, Daniel Ramirez, Mark Samet, Gray Schierholt, Alexander Sheldon, Celina Lee Surniak and Lane Wray.

Original music and sound design are by Marshall McDaniel, costume design is by Beth Glasner, and lighting design is by Zach Moore.

June 4 – October 2, 2016
Theatricum Botanicum
1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga
Tickets: 310-455-3723 or www.theatricum.com
Tickets range from $10-$38.50; children 4 and under are free.
The outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer’s 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. Snacks are available for purchase, and picnickers are welcome before and after the performance.

Theatricum Botanicum Announces 2016 Summer Season

Theatricum 2016 seasonIn 2016 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and, in Topanga Canyon, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum will feature three of Shakespeare’s classics as part of its upcoming summer season. Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and the company’s signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will join Tom, a world premiere adaptation with music and The Imaginary Invalid for another spectacular season outdoor under the oaks.

Here is the complete season which has been chosen to shine a light on current social issues both timely and significant in this important election year. The company will examine:

The Middle East through the lens of Shakespeare:
The repertory season kicks off on June 4 with Romeo and Juliet, set in East Jerusalem. Director Ellen Geer elucidates the continued relevance of this 421-year-old play, setting Shakespeare’s tale of forbidden love and warring families in a city beset by age-old prejudices, street violence and religious differences.  More

Shakespeare Preview: What to See in 2016

SHappy New Year and welcome back Shakespeare lovers! 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616) and that means it’s another big year ahead honoring one of the greatest writers of all time. Here’s a look at what’s coming so get out your calendars and make note.

Antaeus Theatre Company starts the year with its popular ClassicsFest reading series featuring four plays in January and February. Among them are Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning absurdist play, initiated by Bo Foxworth and Adrian LaTourelle, directed by John Henry Davis (Jan. 17 & 18), and Shakespeare’s classic The Winter’s Tale, initiated and directed by Elizabeth Swain (Jan. 31 & Feb. 1). These member-driven developmental readings are often the first step in the company’s progression to a fully-staged production and are a great way to become immersed in the plays. www.antaeus.org

For Valentine’s Day, A Noise Within will present Romeo & Juliet directed by Dámaso Rodríguez. Rodriguez is currently artistic director at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland but is well-known in LA. from his time spent as associate artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse and co-artistic director of Furious Theatre Company. In his streamlined interpretation of the story, he says, “the design and concept will evoke a street performance in an economically and socially repressed, centuries-old city.” It will remain focused on the play’s primary relationships and feature a diverse cast, original music by Martin Carrillo, and minimal props and costumes. A pre-show discussion will take place Feb. 17 prior to the performance at 6pm. Post-show conversations with the cast will follow the 8pm performances on March 18, April 8 & 29, and May 8 (2pm). www.anoisewithin.org

The Ensemble Shakespeare Theater has been developing an original work based on the fascinating character of Queen Margaret who appears in Henry VI Parts 1-3 and Richard III. Shakespeare’s Rose Queen is told from Margaret’s point of view and runs Feb. 20 – March 3 at Lineage Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Starring Megan Rippey as Margaret, Rose Queen’s gritty story will feature battles choreographed as movement pieces by Lineage Dance Company’s artistic director, Hilary Thomas, and other new elements of storytelling in an intimate theater setting. The cast also includes Brian White as Suffolk/Edward, Natalie Fryman as Eleanor/Richard III, Jay Blair as Henry VI, Sonny Calvano as Warwick, and other to be announced. Shakespeare’s Rose Queen follows previous original works by the company – Shakespeare’s Lovers and its international hit, Shakespeare’s Villains. www.californiashakespeare.org


Review: Theatricum’s Americana-Inspired As You Like It is Full of Homespun Charm


Willow Geer and Colin Simon. Photos by Ian Flanders

Seeing a play where Shakespeare’s unfortunate characters escape the city and seek refuge in the Forest of Arden is even more enjoyable when experienced in the idyllic setting of Theatricum Botanicum’s natural outdoor theater. Every time I go, I am reminded what an oasis it is in a city overwhelmed with urban sprawl.

In keeping with its season’s Americana theme, Theatricum Botanicum has transported Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It to the post-Civil War era, a decision that beautifully enhances the homespun charm of its characters while providing a relevant political context for the play. It also gives director Ellen Geer the opportunity to weave early American spirituals and folk songs into the fabric of the piece. One of the loveliest, “Aura Lee” in three-part harmony, delicately wafts on the afternoon breeze.  More

A Post-Civil War America Sets the Stage for Theatricum’s As You Like It

Willow Geer (Rosalind) and Colin Simon (Orlando). Photo credit: Ian Flanders

Willow Geer (Rosalind) and Colin Simon (Orlando).

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum kicks off its 2015 Americana season on Sunday, June 7 with an all-American staging of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, re-set in the divided South of the post-Civil War era and featuring traditional American folk music and dance from that period.

A tale about two sets of brothers — one alienated by ambition, the other estranged by envy — As You Like It is easily transposed to a time when our country was a house divided. Willow Geer stars as Rosalind, forced to flee camp when her uncle Frederick (Thad Geer), usurper of his brother’s position as a general in the Union army, threatens to have her killed. Accompanied by her cousin Celia (Elizabeth Tobias), Rosalind disguises herself as a man for safety’s sake. The disguise comes in handy when she tests the devotion of her noble admirer, Orlando (Colin Simon), on the run from his hostile older brother (Frank Wiedner). Meanwhile, the rebel camp is alive with music — banjo, guitar, ukulele, mandolin and more. With Rosalind’s wit leading the way, the forces of true love, justice and song eventually triumph.

“Re-setting the play just after the Civil War enlarges the scope,” say director Ellen Geer. “It heightens the point about brothers being pitted against brothers, and takes us to a deeper level.”  More

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum Announces Americana Summer Season

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is gearing up for another summer of performances under the California oaks and summer skies of Topanga. This season, the company sets out to explore who we are as Americans with the theme ‘Americana’ which will include a mix of American plays, Shakespeare performed with an American twist, toe-tapping Americana roots and folk music, buffet dinners in the gardens and more – making Theatricum a unique destination spot for locals and visitors alike.

Shakespeare offerings will include As You Like It, re-set in the Reconstruction-era South with live music of the period, and Theatricum’s signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, back by popular demand for the ninth year. Also on the season are To Kill A Mockingbird, Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; August: Osage County, Tracy Letts’ biting portrait of the dysfunctional American family at its finest, and absolute worst; and Green Grow the Lilacs, by Lynn Riggs, the play that inspired Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma

Dream_Titania_2 croppedThe season kicks off on Saturday, June 6 with a matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Melora Marshall (pictured left as Titania in the 2014 production of Midsummer) and Willow Geer. The most magical outdoor setting in Los Angeles is once again transformed into an enchanted forest, inhabited by lovers both fairy and human. Shakespeare conjures a world of wonder, magic and romance where comical misunderstandings and the pain of unrequited love are resolved, and all is reconciled through midsummer night revelries and the enduring power of nature.  More

Audition Update: Theatricum Botanicum and Santa Cruz Shakespeare

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum will hold auditions for its 2015 Summer Repertory Season in March. The season will include Shakespeare’s As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, To Kill A Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel, August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, and a final show to be announced. They are seeking all ethnicities for all roles, alternates and understudies. Please prepare a 1-3 minute Shakespearean monologue and bring a headshot and resume. All Auditions and Call Backs take place on the main stage theatre at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290

Audition Dates & Times:
Equity auditions: March 5, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (Open Call, no appt.)
Non-union auditions: March 7, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm (Open Call, no appt.)
Academy/Intern/College: March 8, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
(E-mail John Blandino at jdblandino@gmail.com or call (415) 512-5177 for an appointment for Academy/Intern/College auditions)

Please check their website for rain dates and call back dates. www.theatricum.com, www.theatricum.com

Santa Cruz Shakespeare has announced auditions for its 2015 season which will include Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, and The Liar. To be considered, please submit a headshot and résumé at least two (2) weeks prior to your desired audition date. (Please be sure to indicate your desired audition location and date along with your submission.) If you are considered appropriate for the available roles in the 2015 season, you will receive an email, usually one to two weeks in advance of the auditions at the location you requested. All actors living in Santa Cruz County are guaranteed an audition appointment in Santa Cruz, but you do need to submit a headshot and résumé in a timely manner. Submit your request for an audition appointment to:

Santa Cruz Shakespeare
500 Chestnut St., Suite #250
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
E-mail: auditions@santacruzshakespeare.org

Auditions will be held as follows:
In Los Angeles:
February 23 – AEA Auditions
February 24-25 – Invitation-only

In San Francisco:
March 1 – AEA Auditions
March 2 – Invitation-only

For residents of Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties:
March 15

For interested actors in New York, Chicago, or elsewhere, you may submit a video audition of two monologues (one should be Shakespeare). Please include your headshot and résumé. Videos are a viable way of auditioning for all actors, and will be given equal weight as the in-person auditions. For complete details about submitting a video audition, visit www.santacruzshakespeare.org.

Southern California Shakespeare Companies Celebrate the Holidays

Get ready for a healthy dose of holiday cheer from your favorite Los Angeles Shakespeare companies! Here are a few of the ways you can celebrate with your favorites this Christmas season.

TB Old fashioned xmas

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s will hold an Olde Fashioned Yuletide Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 6:00 pm. Festivities include carol singing, sweet and savory goodies, silent auction, holiday libations, an artisan gift shop, a visit from Father Christmas, the story of “St George and the Dragon,” and a reading of Leo Tolstoy’s holiday story “What We Live By” by special guest Amy Madigan. All proceeds benefit educational programming at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. The event will take place at Topanga Mountain Mermaid (Parking at Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. with shuttle service to the venue). Tickets are $200 and all proceeds benefit Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. A portion of the ticket is tax-deductible. Call (310) 455-3723 for tickets or visit www.theatricum.com.

A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens - ISCOver in Atwater Village in the ISC Studio, Independent Shakespeare Co. recreates (with a little artistic license) the experience of a public reading of A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens given by Dickens himself. Based on the novelist’s own adaptation, it is performed by ISC co-founder David Melville as Charles Dickens, playing nearly every character in the story with musical accompaniment and dramatic interjections by a young American actress, Miss Aks. Expect a performance full of the acting pyrotechnics Dickens was famous for, holiday music, wry humor, and redemption.Performances are Dec. 6, 13 & 20. Tickets: www.iscla.org. There will also be one performance of A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens across town at the Geffen Playhouse on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7:00 pm. Click Here for tickets.

ANW Christmas carolA Noise Within continues their family holiday tradition with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dec. 5 – 23. Directed by Geoff Elliott (who adapted the play from the novella) and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, the production also features evocative original music by Ego Plum. The cast includes Geoff Elliott as Scrooge, with Freddy Douglas, Stephen Rockwell, Rafael Goldstein, Jill Hill, Mitchell Edmonds, Deborah Strang, Alan Blumenfeld, Alison Elliott, Georgia Miller, Jack Elliott, Marie Sullivan, Ikenna Ogbogu, Chiza Ogbogo, and Seven Pierce-English. Tickets: (626) 356-3100 or www.anoisewithin.org. There will also be a Pay What You Will performance on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

“Remounting our acclaimed presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol allows families to once again take a supremely theatrical journey, and celebrate the transformative power of forgiveness during the holidays,” says Elliott. Rodriguez-Elliott adds, “Ebenezer Scrooge’s rebirth from miserly curmudgeon to the epitome of love and generosity affirms our faith in the potent goodness of human kind during this beloved time of year.”

Long Beach Shakespeare - Christmas CarolLong Beach Shakespeare Company will present Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of A Christmas Carol on Dec 19, 20 & 21. Mike Austin returns as Scrooge in LBSC’s annual presentation of the 1939 radio adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The live web-cast features sound effects and music performed by the actors. Also for the holidays the company will offer The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, a fully-costumed, staged version of the original 1938 radio play by Norman Corwin. Featuring colorful characters such as Mephistopheles (the Devil), Lucrezia Borgia, Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Simon Legree and Nero, and other fiends in Hades, it concerns a plot to murder Santa Claus and destroy Christmas forever. Nov. 28 – Dec. 14. For tickets and more information visit www.lbshakespeare.org.

And for regular Shakespearean fare, two companies will offer productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night this December:

City Shakespeare Company, December 5 – 20 at their performance space located at 1454 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401. www.CityShakes.org

Los Angeles Drama Club, December 6 – 14 at the Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036. www.losangelesdramaclub.com

Further south:

Every Christmas StoryShakespeare in the Vines will present Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) by Michael Carleton, John K. Alvarez, and Jim FitzGerald, Dec. 4 – 13 performed inside Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Vineyard and Winery in Temecula. Three actors decide that instead of doing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol again, they’ll perform every Christmas story ever told. They take holiday cheer to the extreme with a fast and furious look at the holiday classics and traditions we all know and love. No holiday icon is spared in this tour de farce of hilarious holiday merriment, from Tiny Tim, Frosty, and Rudolph to the Grinch and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Seating begins at 5:30 pm for dinner (Friday and Saturday night performances only); 6:00 pm for show only. Dining reservations must be made through Carol’s Restaurant by calling (951) 676-9243. On the menu: Winter Salad of baby mixed greens, sliced pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese and citrus vinaigrette, slow roasted boneless short rib, horseradish mashed potatoes, winter vegetable medley, pumpkin cake with Riesling caramel sauce and whipped cream, and your choice of a 2012 Montage or 2010 Sangiovese wine.

Burke MosesAnd at The Old Globe, everyone’s favorite green meanie will return for his 17th consecutive year in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the heartwarming musical based on the classic book and animated film. James Vásquez returns to direct this beloved San Diego holiday tradition which will run Nov. 15 – Dec. 27. Burke Moses makes his Old Globe debut as The Grinch with Taylor Coleman and Gabriella Dimmick alternating in the role of Cindy-Lou and Steve Gunderson returning as Old Max. Tickets: (619) 23-GLOBE or www.TheOldGlobe.org.

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