Monday, July 7, 2008


I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but I haven't lived there in almost fifteen years, and until yesterday, I had not been to Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum. I don't like saying things like "should" but the whole time I was watching "As You Like It" in Topanga Canyon yesterday, I was thinking, "this is how Shakespeare should be experienced."

The stage is more of a porthole looking into a forest than a scaffold, and the actors don't meander on it anyway, using every possible spot within the theater gates. And there isn't one bad seat in the house. At half the price of the play I saw before this one, it was a bargain, too! The audience was enthusiastic and as varied as far as age/race/gender as I have ever seen, something I like to mention when talking about going to plays.

The play was funny and fast (directed by Ellen Geer), well-played (nearly everyone in the play was a pleasure), and beautiful. Costumes were perfect, and the songs delighted the audience (Melora Marshall).

This was the third play I've seen this year set in the cowboy days, and I wonder where this trend is coming from, and I wonder where it will end up. I thought it wouldn't work after seeing the "Comedy of Errors" in Ashland, but it was as great here as it was for San Diego's "Merry Wives of Windsor."

I want to Promote the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum as much as possible. I think it's worth a trip, and I want to see another play there soon. They don't take on airs or take themselves too seriously. They invite you into their home to participate in their favorite pastime. Everything seems a little DIY, which I adore because it somehow feels as if they actually care about the art of live theater, like a labor of love; it feels like this talented group of players understands something that everyone in theater should. I'm not sure what that is, but I think it has something to do with falling in love with your audience so that they can fall in love with you.

I want to mention Michael Lindsay because he was the best Touchstone I've seen in a long time, but I have to say that nearly everyone who took the stage in yesterday's production was an utter delight.


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