Into the Woods

Posted on: August 7th, 2013 by Carrie Young No Comments

Carved into a hillside in LA’s rustic Topanga Canyon, a 229-seat outdoor amphitheater comes alive under the stars with a backdrop of shady oak trees, brush and boulders. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum- which gets its name from the English botanist John Parkinson’s Herbal Theatrum Botanicum- is an ideal venue for theater, offering a diversity of programming from Shakespeare to poetry to folk music to the development of future playwrights. This hidden LA treasure stretches back to the McCarthy Era Blacklisting in the 1950’s, when the actor Will Geer- of the The Waltons- opened a theater for Blacklisted actors on his Topanga property. Finding himself included on that list and unable to find work in Hollywood, Geer cultivated a large garden and earned a living by selling vegetables, fruit, herbs and theater, as his land subsequently became an artists’ colony.



From his successful run as Grandpa Walton, Geer eventually formed the non-profit Theatricum Botanicum whose mission is to educate and entertain audiences of all ages by presenting the classics, socially relevant plays and education programs in a beautiful, natural sanctuary for the arts. After his death in the late 1970’s, the family decided to work towards becoming a professional repertory theater which has garnered critical praise and numerous awards over the past 40 years. Theatricum has expanded the Botanicum grounds by purchasing an additional piece of property southwest of the amphitheater, as well as initiating Classroom Enrichment, an educational outreach program that was created in 1990. The current production of Taming of the Shrew has received great reviews, including the LA Times Critics Pick, and features Geer’s granddaughter Willow Geer, a key player at Theatricum.



And for those of us lucky enough to access this lush outdoor venue- as well as the sublime Hollywood Bowl- it is customary to show up with gourmet goodies in tow. The options in Topanga have become more haute than hippy these days with Canyon Gourmet Grocers, where a cool Topanga couple- fashion stylist Danielle King and commercial director Peter Kagan- carry staples from LA’s major culinary spots, such as Suzanne Goin’s frozen pot pies, pancake batter from Axe, and the coveted Moon Juice drinks. Since Theatricum might very well be LA’s own take on New York’s Shakespeare in the Park, I am totally looking forward to having my own Midsummer Night’s Dream this weekend…