Monday, November 12, 2018

WILL GEER'S THEATRICUM BOTANICUM

WOODY GUTHRIE

Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

You know him as Grandpa Walton. What you may not know is that actor, activist, and gardener Will Geer has a major backstory.

In the midst of a successful New York stage, film, and radio career in the mid-1950s, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted.

He moved his wife and family to LA’s Topanga Canyon, began growing flowers, vegetables, and herbs, and founded a community theater known as Theatricum Botanicum (literally, “Garden Theater”), initially for other blacklisted actors, playwrights, and folk singers.

In 1973, Geer began his successful run with the popular TV series “The Waltons.” He and his wife, actor Herta Ware, established a nonprofit, expanded the theater, and became known, among other things, for their staging of Shakespeare plays.

Geer died in 1978, but his family has carried on. Under the artistic direction of his daughter, Ellen Geer, the theater now offers an annual summer season of five repertory plays, as well as year-round classes to actors of all ages. They host live music concerts, nurture fledgling playwrights, and reach out to schools and students across LA County.

And once a year they pay tribute to one of their dearest friends and greatest heroes: folk singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie.



READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


WILL GEER PRE-GRANDPA WALTON
IN LUST FOR GOLD, 1949

TOPANGA CANYON'S THEATRICUM BOTANICUM

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