Being downsized, fired or just plain ‘let go’ is generally hard medicine to take in and make sense of on the way to rebounding from the experience. When actor Will Geer found himself an enemy of the U.S. government and shunned by ruling Hollywood society in the 1950’s he retreated to a country ranchita. Ten years later this homestead sanctuary for himself, his family and others in his predicament became a bonafide theater and performance space. Today it has a strong slate of Shakespearean as well as contemporary theater productions and music programming for all ages.

Sheltered by the towering oaks of legendary Topanga Canyon this outdoor amphitheater is an accessible destination. Hiking, restaurants, cafes, shops and art galleries in town, even picnic tables amidst the chirping crickets and croaking frogs.. A full day could easily be spent exploring this bohemian enclave nestled in between Santa Monica and Malibu, part of Los Angeles County, California.

Once blacklisted in the 1950’s late actor Will Geer had a second chance as the patriarch of a family on the ‘Waltons’

Prairie dresses are all the rage again.  Maybe you remember the ‘Waltons?’ Will Geer and Ellen Corby Win Best Supporting Actor and Actress In A Drama from the Emmys Archive (1975)

True to keeping it in the family, nephew Marshall McDaniel has programmed an ambitious series of Fridays this FaIl to delight you for the second year running. I found this on my mildly – or I like to say – ‘micro-obsessive’ search for soulful outdoor performance spaces, an antidote to life in the fast lane. To kick off the series it was the top-rate piano-centric Pacific Trio with its masterful performance of Leonard Bernstein’s only chamber composition scored while still in his teens as an undergraduate at Harvard University.

The week after was a guided singing experiment with a band pulled together by film composer Rolfe Kent known for the theme songs for the television show ‘Dexter,’ and the films ‘Sideways’ and ‘Up in the Air.’ Rolfe and a collection of exceptional soloists engaged the audience into performing colorful melodies and harmonies that were recorded and looped together into a soaring vocal swirl. Imagine – or better yet come on down – to experience first hand two more offerings heightened by the lush, open-air backdrop of the Theatricum Botanicum.

Classic folk songs created for resistance movements are fresh as ever in ‘Blacklisted’ for today’s political climate

If ‘we the people’ are not careful and forget to vote in all elections ‘Blacklisted’ could happen again. ‘Blacklisted,’ takes the audience 65 years back in time to a dystopic and regrettable era in U.S. history. Theatricum Botanicum started as Will Geer’s Plan B, his response to unemployment after being blacklisted from a thriving career in Hollywood in the early 1950s. His disaster response also included a long career of labor unionizing throughout the United States and association with subversive beloved musicians like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and others made him a target of suspicion at the height of the Cold War’s first ‘Red Scare’.

‘Blacklisted’ will feature an Ampico grand player piano featuring music of Conlon Nancarrow, another blacklisted composer whose work lives on

In keeping with Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s deep social justice roots, Blacklisted is a one of a kind evening. Live performances of the works of these musicians, which certain elements of society had once sought to silence, not only celebrates them but ensures they shall not be forgotten.

One of the best parts of living in Los Angeles is its creative community working in Hollywood in the film and television industry. When these folks such as Danny Elfman and his hand picked posse aren’t on the road, one can find them keeping themselves active at local venues. Such is the highly coveted treat that Theatricum Botanicum hosts a WORLD PREMIERE of new chamber music from some of Hollywood’s most prominent composers living in and around Topanga Canyon. Composers Collective is an annual concert presenting new works and beloved classics by some of LA’s most popular and innovative musicians of television, movies, the concert hall, and more.

To a socially minded sponsor out there, the promoters of this series, the Oak Tree Group would love to hear from you!

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