ON STAGE: Twelfth Night at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. Time Winters, center, with Anna Telfer, Julia Stier, Moriah McAda-Salvia and Laura Wineland

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is the most delightful place to enjoy a play in the summer; an enchanted wooded grove in Topanga presenting timeless and topical plays. You could see all six in one weekend! They run in repertory through September 29.

Enjoy Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Twelfth Night” in a setting custom-made for these two magical works. “Moby Dick-Rehearsed” by Orson Welles tells the story of an acting troupe trying to make a play of the novel – now you won’t have to read it! Ellen Geer’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” chronicles the struggle between the individual and the welfare of society in the face of environmental disaster. Thornton Wilder’s classic, “The Skin of Our Teeth” looks at modernity and antiquity with history, humor and mythology. Joining the line up on Aug 17, D.L Colburn’s “The Gin Game” reveals secrets while dealing cards.

This weekend and next there are free readings of new plays about American families, part of the Botanicum’s Seedlings program. July 14 at 11 a.m., “Sadie’s Day” is a comedy about life, death, and three women confronting their choices as mothers and daughters. And on July 21, “The Dog Show,” is about a troubled family whose sins can’t be absolved by confession.

Call (310) 455-3723 or go to www.theatricum.com.

LIGHTNING, LAVA: ARTIST TALK

While the earth beneath our feet continues to move, Hawaii is a place that is still being formed by the forces of nature. Join artist Kelly Berg at Craig Krull Gallery (Bergamot Art Station discussing her newest works, created using oily ink on metal plates. After the  Kilauea Volcano erupted in 2018, Berg returned, and observed “how the landscape had shifted and changed…a metaphor for the current state of our world and environment beyond Hawaii.”  Berg uses spikes and pyramids in the prints to represent the “volcanic energy within the island.” While this chaos is emblematic of our anxious age, Berg also uses the pyramid as a symbol of transcendence, providing an ancient human context within the shifting natural tangle of lightening and lava. Saturday, July 13 at 11 a.m. including coffee and donuts. www.craigkrullgallery.com

HELL PREPARED

Enter the gates of the Venice Jewish Ghetto in the 17th century. “hell prepared: a ritual exorcism inspired by kabbalistic principles, performed within a dominant cultural context” is the latest production from a one-of-a-kind company (Theatre Dybbuk) in a unique venue.

Taking place in multiple locations on the campus of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz, “hell prepared” follows a spiritual leader as he endeavors to exorcise the dominant culture and its influence on his world. In the process, he is driven down through the pits of hell where he sees visions of a challenging past and an uncertain future. Choreographed movement, poetic text, shadow puppetry and choral scoring create a mystical landscape, based on a poem written inside the Ghetto by poet and mystic Moses ben Mordecai Zacuto.

Theatre Dybbuk creates provocative performances and innovative educational encounters that explore Jewish thought to illuminate universal human experience.

Limited performances of this world premiere take place July 26-28 and August 2-4. https://hell-prepared.eventbrite.com

CELEBRATE ROUTE 66

Join Santa Monica History Museum and California Historic Route 66 Association at the Museum’s newest exhibition, the “Hidden 66” about the intricate history of the iconic road. California’s Route 66: Hiding in Plain Sight will be open through October 19.

Route 66, a 2,448-mile long road connecting Chicago to Santa Monica, became a symbol of the mystique of the open road and an icon of Americana. To illustrate the Route’s history, the exhibition features artifacts such as early driving guides, iconic signage and ephemera, and historic photographs from the Santa Monica History Museum Collection. A rare manuscript map for “Proposed Highways,” from the height of the 1920s Good Roads Movement, is also be on display.

The exhibition was developed with the support of the California Historical Route 66 Association.

For more information about the exhibition click https://santamonicahistory.org/route-66-summer-exhibition/ The museum is right on the campus of our main library.

THE CATCHER WAS A SPY

The story of baseball catcher Morris (Mo) Berg is completely fascinating. A book, called “The Catcher Was a Spy,” came out many years ago; now there’s a documentary, “The Spy Behind Home Plate,” about this unsung, little-known hero, by award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner.

Berg was an enigmatic and brilliant baseball player (he started with The Robins, which became the Dodgers), who became a spy for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, a Jew whose father did not want him to play ball. But that’s what took him around the world and into privileged places where information gathering became his specialty.

In 1944, the OSS assigned him to attend a lecture by German physicist Werner Heisenberg in Zurich. For the Swiss trip, Berg was given a gun and a cyanide pill to take with him and was instructed to shoot Heisenberg if he was constructing an atomic bomb for the Nazis. He later worked for the OSS in a prominent role in US efforts to undermine the German atomic bomb program. After WWII, Berg remained elusive and later became reclusive.

Go see this astonishing and eye-opening film at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills; catch it before it closes. https://www.laemmle.com/films/45510#get-tickets.

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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