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Queen Lear?

By Mayank Keshaviah - L.A. Weekly

Tue, Jun 24, 2014

Considered one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies by such luminaries as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, King Lear also has been taken to task for its wanton cruelty by the likes of Samuel Johnson, and writers Charles Lamb and A.C. Bradley have deemed it nearly impossible to be properly presented onstage.

Similarly of two minds am I after viewing Theatricum Botanicum's reverse-gender production, as my general esteem for the artistic merits of the company is leavened by the fact that its adaptation seems to confuse the intricate plot of the original more than it illuminates. As such, it becomes difficult to invest emotionally in the production.

Sure, the concept of a Queen Lear (artistic director Ellen Geer) with three sons (Aaron Hendy as Goneril, Christopher W. Jones as Regan and Dane Oliver as "Cordelian" instead of Cordelia) shifts the resonances of Shakespeare's language at times, forcing us to consider subtle gender biases we may harbor regarding cruelty and filial piety. But directors Geer and Melora Marshall (who also plays Lear's Fool) do not switch all characters' genders (Alan Blumenfeld as Gloucester and Gerald C. Rivers as Kent remain male, for example), adding to the confusion in trying to reflect on the original while keeping the relationships straight.

To its credit, Theatricum provides a wonderful environment for Shakespeare, and the directors fully explore all corners of their arboreal space, especially during the storm scenes, which are heightened by Ian Flanders and Marshall McDaniel's excellent sound design. Though Geer seems blustery and constantly outraged at the start, she later finds more nuance and even tragic humor in Lear's madness.

The remainder of the cast is generally good, though Blumenfeld and Rivers shine brightest, as does Willow Geer as "Eden"/Tom O'Bedlam.

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; in rep through Sept. 28. (310) 455-3723. www.theatricum.com.



A Stunning Lear Commands the Stage at the Theatricum Botanicum



A Stunning <i>Lear</i> Commands the Stage at the Theatricum Botanicum

Considered Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer takes on the title role of the aging monarch that sees Lear divide her kingdom and test the loyalty of her three sons.

Yet, this Lear, directed and interpreted by Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall, is interesting, intriguing, funny and ultimately, heartbreaking. 

Joining Geer onstage are longtime company members Aaron Hendry as the handsome, yet evil eldest son, Goneril, Christopher W. Jones as the equally repugnant Regan and Dane Oliver as the youngest and most beloved son, “Cordelian.”

Alan Blumenfeld masterfully portrays the Earl of Gloucester, Abby Craden is sinister as Gloucester’s elder daughter, the bastard “Igraine,” and Willow Geer is her younger half-sister, “Eden,” who also doubles as the ‘mad beggar’ “Tom O’Bedlam.”

Also in the cast are Melora Marshall as the wise Fool, Liz Eldridge as the Duchess of Cornwall, Taylor Jackson Ross as the Duchess of Albany, Gerald C. Rivers in a beautiful portrayal as the loyal and wise Earl of Kent and Frank Weidner as Oswald, servant to Goneril.




Tuesday, 17 June 2014 15:15

Queen Lear in Topanga at Theatricum Botanicum

Written by Lydia Kapp
The Theatricum Botanicum summer production of Lear is a must see. The outdoor theater is one of the most beautiful in all of Southern California with an ambiance that is both inviting and magical all at once, as if you’ve unknowingly stepped into a summer Narnia and something truly great is abouo take place. It smells like the woods, it looks like the woods, it sounds like the woods, and it tastes like hot chocolate and iambic pentameter. The stage blends effortlessly into the Malibu hills, and when the characters are a long way off, as Shakespeare often writes, the actors are genuinely a long way off. How often do we get to see that kind of space and scope in densely packed Los Angeles?
Literally and figuratively, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is a breath of fresh air. The production of Lear mixes things up this year with a queen playing the title role rather than a king, and instead of three daughters, the queen has three sons. The entire play takes on a new edge, diving into the complexities of the mother and son relationship, and the relationships those three brothers have with the women around them, as their counterparts have also been gender-reversed. Explaining the changes to the average audience member who is not familiar with Shakespeare’s original King Lear gets a little complicated, especially when the production is so brilliantly smooth and compelling that even someone who has read the play before might wonder if perhaps this is how Shakespeare originally intended it. I found myself shaking my head in awe of how well it worked, this risk of shifting genders. We’ve seen many productions of Shakespeare’s plays, and directors have a tendency to adapt them in ways that are “cool” or “interesting,” but often don’t really contribute to the story. Theatricum Botanicum’s Lear is quite the opposite. While maintaining a traditional Elizabethan costume design, complimented deeply by the atmosphere of the stage itself, this production finds a perfect balance between stability and chance taking.
In addition, the acting is superb. Ellen Geer, longtime Theatricum Botanicum performer and the current Artistic Director of the theater, gives an exceptional performance as Queen Lear. She marries the regality and fragility of Lear’s character with an astonishing quirkiness that seems distinctly feminine and so incredibly real. It’s as if she’s each of our grandmothers at whom we poke fun, we might pity, and truly love, all at once. Geer’s real-life daughter Willow is excellent as Eden, the legitimate daughter of the Earl of Gloucester, played by Alan Blumenfeld. Although she starts the play as a meek and gentle spirit, Eden is forced to disguise herself as a beggar. She names herself Poor Tom and prances about the stage as if she’s completely lost her marbles. Willow Geer plays this transformation so convincingly I forgot that she was the same character. What a delight to be as convinced as her father the Earl, who takes her for the beggar she pretends. The moments between the two of them are both heart wrenching and lovely. The Earl’s other, illegitimate daughter Igraine is one of the most famous roles in Shakespeare. This role also being gender reversed, we get to see actress Abby Craden bring a distinctly feminine viciousness to the conniving nature of the character. She effortlessly switches from plotting villain to damsel in distress, showing us not only Igraine’s adeptness, but Craden’s too.
Aaron Hendry and Christopher W. Jones lead the destruction as Lear’s two eldest and orneriest sons, Goneril and Regan. Both actors carry a grace and confidence earned from years of training and practice. I was impressed with the ease they brought to bear on these two vile characters; they made the text sound natural, as if it had never been written into any sort of poetic structure at all. Also quite lovely was the woman who played Goneril’s wife, Taylor Jackson Ross. She possessed an integrity that contrasted so perfectly with her husband’s evil, that I believed her portrayal from the very first scene. Liz Eldridge, who played Regan’s wife the Duchess of Cornwall, caught just the right balance between catty daughter-in-law and ruler of her own household. She was a good counterpart to her husband. Gerald C. Rivers gives a strong performance as the Earl of Kent, the Queen’s most loyal friend who saves her more times than she’ll ever realize, and Dane Oliver plays the only loyal son Cordelion, who alone acts upon the vows of love he made to his mother the Queen. Melora Marshall brilliantly plays the Queen’s Fool, whose jokes spit more wisdom than might appear. Her physical embodiment of the role is sharp and committed, making her words ring all the more truly.
Marshall also co-directed this production with Ellen Geer, and I must say in my opinion, it is quite an accomplishment. The many other actors give themselves completely to the world, and make this a show you absolutely do not want to miss.
Definitely bring a warm sweater, scarf, or blanket with you as it does get cold at night, and if you want something to sit on other than the wooden seats, bring a pillow or a cushion. They also have cushions you can purchase at the venue for the duration of the show. Also, make sure you have some extra cash to contribute to the Young Actors Fund, where you can help support the non-equity and intern actors involved in the show. They’ve also got cheap hot chocolate, cider, tea, and snacks, so come prepared for a lovely evening of theatre, woods, food, and fun!



June 13, 2014 - by Shakespeare in LA

Ellen Dostal

REVIEW: A FORMIDABLE ELLEN GEER Becomes LEAR at Theatricum Botanicum

A frightening thing happens when a woman plays the title role in a gender-reversed King Lear; the betrayal and revenge between mother and sons takes on an added level of horror. What was already tragic to begin with, as originally written for a father and daughters, now feels even more threatening in the reverse.

Perhaps it is because the bond between mother and child pre-dates even birth making the treachery of flesh born of flesh feel like the ultimate violation of a sacrosanct relationship. When it is a son raising his hand against his mother the threat is magnified, especially when viewed through the lens of today’s modern society.

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, an aging ruler is ready to give up his throne and apportion his kingdom among his three daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, based on how much their declarations of love please him. Two of the daughters acquiesce and feed Lear’s ego with false reassurances but Cordelia, the youngest, answers with a seemingly less spirited reply. “I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less.” Though she goes on to explain the logic of her words, Lear is enraged and sets in motion a series of events he will too late come to regret. Make no mistake, this tragedy ends in death. A lot of death.

For Theatricum’s LEAR, the weighty role goes to Ellen Geer, theatre doyenne and matriarch of the Geer clan, who weathers the internal and external storms of the play with considerable dexterity and a lifetime’s worth of acting prowess at her fingertips. She is a formidable actor, and to see the heartbreak move across her expressive face is much like watching an ocean wave curl its way to the shore before it breaks. She rages; she boasts; she wanders aimlessly as her mind falters and then steels herself against the torturous elements perched high above the audience where the staging precariously accentuates her vulnerability.

She and Melora Marshall co-direct, steadily moving the story to an ending that doesn’t lessen its impact by trading on sentimentality. With Geer leading the way, at least seven other roles are presented by an actor of the opposite sex.

Cruelty thy name is Goneril, here played with shocking bitterness by Aaron Hendry as the eldest of the three children and orchestrator of the plan to strip Lear of her dignity and her power. Together with Regan, played by an equally strong Christopher W. Jones, they make a disgusting pair of ingrates whose vile actions reflect their increasing greed. Hendry is physically and vocally intimidating. Jones, along with Liz Eldridge as his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, are just plain awful people. When Jones plucks out Gloucester’s eyes, played poignantly by Alan Blumenfeld, the brutal scene is staged front and center so the audience cannot escape the full measure of horror.

Gloucester’s sons (Edgar and Edmund the bastard in Shakespeare’s original text) become Eden (Willow Geer) and Igraine (Abby Craden) in this production. This switch allows for greater sexual tension in the play as both of Lear’s sons lust after the devious Igraine causing them to turn on each other later after they’ve rendered Lear powerless.

Propelled by her own desires, and willing to do anything to get them, Igraine is the catalyst for many of the deaths that take place. Though she experiences a bit of remorse at the last, it is too little too late and Craden brings marvelous shadings to one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters.

As her sister, Eden, Willow Geer morphs from innocence to feigned madness in a wild, unpredictable performance as Old Tom. It is the kind of bold character work often attributed to Melora Marshall and Geer seizes it both physically and vocally as she darts across the stage and up into the trees like a feral cat on the run. That she will return to her former self in Act 5 makes this character arc a full and rich one.

She is one of the truly good and loyal characters in LEAR. Melora Marshall’s Fool is another, as is Gerald C. Rivers’ stalwart Earl of Kent. Marshall pokes and prods the Queen but never leaves her side when she is cast out. Even the disparity in their stations cannot keep Lear from looking to the Fool for comfort. We see in their relationship another kind of family bond; one born of choice. Marshall is better than ever in the nuances of this role.

Which brings us to Lear’s youngest son, Cordelian, the truest and most honest soul in the story. Wronged though he is, his death at the end of the play is Shakespeare’s most challenging plot resolution since one hopes that good will somehow triumph over evil. But that is not the moral of this story and though Oliver captures in his performance all the devotion and love inherent in Lear’s youngest son, his reprieve is not to be, giving pause to remember that “Striving to better, oft we mar what ’s well.”

Lighting (by Zach Moore) and sound design (by Ian Flanders and Marshall McDaniel) are especially striking in this production. Their man-made effects powerfully enhance the natural elements to create an imposing presence in the usually peaceful glen.

This is a LEAR of a lifetime, artfully mastered and important in its scope, and one of my top picks of what to see this summer. A LEAR like this won’t come around again.



by Brenna Smith

June 11, 2014


As with most plays from antiquity, Shakespeare is difficult to adapt for modern times. History is rife with sexism and racism and all of the other horrible-isms we’ve made so much progress against, and the stories of the times are not immune. Granted, Shakespeare is notable for his strong and complex female characters, yet they are often awful people.
Last year, I reviewed Theatricum Botanicum’s production of "The Taming of the Shrew," and was most impressed with the way they were able to take one of his more painful pieces, rife with psychological and physical torture, and make it sweet. And somehow, those fantastic folks at the most magical theatre in Los Angeles have done it again with their production of "Lear."
Gender-swapping the main characters and dropping the "king" from the title, "Lear" tells the famous story of the old monarch divvying up their lands to the children who can say they love them the most. In this version, Her Majesty Queen Lear divides her land amongst her three sons, yet when the youngest refuses to use empty words to prove his love, he is disowned by his mother and queen, and the lands meant for him split between his elder brothers.
The two sons with their new power quickly grow weary of their mother’s retirement shenanigans and kick her to the curb, causing her to go mad, wandering the forests of England. Because this is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, everybody dies sad, unfortunate deaths.
Daughter of Theatricum Botanicum’s founder Will Geer, Ellen Geer brought Queen Lear to soaring heights of power and rage as well as heartbreaking lows of insanity and loss.
And this is where the beauty of directors Melora Marshall and Ellen Geer’s gender-swap comes in. In the original story, it’s a spurned father who loses his mind at his treatment by ungrateful daughters; making the monarch a mother victimized by sons greatly increases the sympathy the audience feels towards her and makes the play far more tragic.
This new layer of tragedy would not have been possible if it weren’t for the incredible performance of stage and screen veteran Ellen Geer in the titular role. Daughter of Theatricum Botanicum’s founder Will Geer, Ellen Geer brought Queen Lear to soaring heights of power and rage as well as heartbreaking lows of insanity and loss.
Supported by a strong cast of Theatricum regulars, including the always hilarious Melora Marshall as Lear’s Fool, a tragic turn from Alan Blumenfeld as the Earl of Gloucester and a skillfully fluid performance from Gerald C. Rivers as the often disguised Earl of Kent, Geer’s transition from powerful monarch to slavering fool is well worth the ticket price, and the incredible venue that is the Theatricum Botanicum is worth the trip up to Topanga.
Seriously, if you’ve never been to the beautiful outdoor theatre, you need to go, and "Lear" is the perfect play to start your love affair with this company and this location. Just be sure to try to go at night; it’s far more magical under the stars, and Topanga gets hot as hell during the day.




Reviewed by Dany Margolies

Ellen Geer and Dane Oliver
Photo by Ian Flanders

Shakespeare’s King Lear has its potencies. Simply described, it follows the downfall of a once-
powerful leader and the dysfunction of his family. Pondering his retirement, the monarch asks his three daughters to avow their love. The elder two, Goneril and Regan, lavish empty words on papa. The youngest, Cordelia, refuses to play that game, believing her actions of loyalty and respect will trump her sisters’ verbiage.

The role of Lear is also a noted goal of male actors who are, shall we say, no longer castable as Romeo. Audiences expect to see an aged Lear, whose two eldest daughters are married, who is ready to divide his kingdom among the three heirs. Age and apparent frailty aside, Lear commands the stage, the role requiring vocal and emotional range and calling for masses of memorization. Who among our great actors can fit the bill?
And, can a woman take on the role?

After more than 40 years of filling theatergoers’ summer schedules with various productions of Shakespeare plays and starring in probably every leading female role in those plays, Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum artistic director Ellen Geer takes on Lear. Completing the gender swap, this Lear’s three children are sons. Will the audience feel more protective of a female Lear? Do the two sons’ actions now feel like elder abuse? Alas, it seems disrespect, hunger for power, and plain ol’ cruelty know no gender.
It’s possible audiences quite familiar with King Lear will find that the intellectual exercise trumps much of the text’s emotional impact. Quite easily, the wordfather become mother, he becomes she, and so forth, and for the most part the meter still scans as Shakespeare wrote it. But the acting and the picturesque and effective staging in this production, co-directed by Geer and Melora Marshall, thrill where it matters most.

At the play’s top, Geer’s Lear is a bloated bag of ego. The flattery of elder sons Goneril (Aaron Hendry) and Regan (Christopher W. Jones) sits well with her. When she hears the simple “no more, nor less” from her youngest son, Cordelian (Dane Oliver), Geer’s Lear evidences a recognition that he may be speaking accurately and from a deeper love; but she’s embarrassed and rejects him out of pride.
Lear takes a fall, despite the best efforts of her loyal advisors and companions. The Fool, more often seen in gender-blind casting than the other characters are, is here played by Marshall. Although the character is still referred to as “boy” and “sirrah,” Marshall gives the Fool deep sisterly devotion and care, while maintaining the verbal comedy the role allows.Kent is played by Gerald C. Rivers in a Caribbean accent when face-to-face with the sane Lear, in standard English elsewhere. Lear, Fool, and Kent ride out the storm on the roof of Theatricum Botanicum’s permanent two-story structure, the outdoor stage providing perfect ambience for the play’s outdoor scenes.
Less easy to see, Edgar’s main scene is enacted far house right. Edgar, though, is here called Eden, played with sturdy sincerity and a notably expressive voice by Willow Geer. Eden’s sibling, Edmund in the original, is here Igraine, played with head-to-toe resentful ire by Abby Craden.
Other acting standouts are Alan Blumenfeld as the eye-gouged Gloucester and Frank Weidner as Goneril’s henchman Oswald. But the night’s biggest surprise is young Oliver, who plays Cordelian with classic delivery and physicality, and who will undoubtedly shore up the company’s needs in the up-and-coming-actor department. It’s a thrill to watch him go a round with Geer.

Lines get rewritten to suit the gender shift. “Put’st down thine own breeches” becomes “lift’d up thine own skirt.” Puzzlingly, however, here Lear says, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a shameful child!”
One of theater’s great stage directions, “Re-enter Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms,” is staged by the Geer family with due respect to the text, as well as to the gender swap. After Lear has found Cordelian’s body, hanged in prison, Ellen Geer emerges from a trap door in the stage, seeming to hoist Oliver up the stairs. In this version, at play’s end, Edgar and Albany will share the throne.
Marshall McDaniel provides evocative original music, and Ian Flanders and McDaniel contribute scene-setting sound design. Speaking of even more of the Geer family, in grand Theatricum tradition the family dog gets a cameo, showing stage presence and not reacting to the awws of the audience.


June 2014




June 2nd, 2014





Posted by Peggy Clifford on Monday, January 13, 2014
Actor Gerald C. Rivers will be the keynote speaker, accompanied by singer Charles Holt, at the birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, Jan. 20, at the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Auditorium, 525 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica.
One of the largest and most diverse celebrations of its kind in Southern California, the celebration will begin 9 a.m. It’s sponsored by the Martin Luther King Westside Coalition, a nonprofit group whose missions are consistent with King’s legacy.
It is co-sponsored by Santa Monica College, the City of Santa Monica, the SMC Associates (www.smc.edu/associates), RAND Corporation, CityTV-Santa Monica, and SGI-USA. This year’s theme is “Unity in the Community.”
The multi-ethnic, interfaith program will include inspirational readings, speakers, music, and the MLK Education Awards. A Community Involvement Fair offering refreshments and informational displays by a variety of community organizations will follow the celebration at the SGI Youth Center, 606 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica.
Rivers and Holt have worked together in “Martin & Music,” a stage production, which weaves Dr. King’s words with music and narrative about his life and ideals.
Rivers grew up in Compton, studied theater at Los Angeles City College, and then went on to Morehouse College, is renowned for his portrayals of Dr. King, and is a noted scholar of both the Civil Rights leader’s words and work. A classically trained Shakespearean actor and a member of the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum company, Rivers also does voice-overs for video games and TV commercials and films, as well as a master of the African Djembe drum.
The Center for the Advancement of Non Violence presented Rivers with its 2012 Season for Non Violence Local Hero Award.



January 20, 2014

MLK Westside Coalition Dr. King Celebrations 2014






February 2014

Black History Month Celebrated with Series of Educational Events

Black History Month 2012El Camino College Compton Center celebrated Black History Month in February with a series of events recognizing the historical contributions of African Americans in this country. Several of the events will bring black history to life with dancing, drumming and other musical elements.
Events kicked off with an encore performance by Compton native Gerald C. Rivers titled “Martin & Music.” Rivers, a professional actor and motivational speaker, portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. and was joined by Broadway vocalist Charles Holt.
Sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Associated Student Body, the Black History Month celebration at ECC Compton Center






The Taming of the Shrew-Shakespeare at it’s best in the fairytale setting of Topanga Canyon

By Sandra Plazinic

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum celebrated their 40thanniversary of music, poetry and performance, opening their Summer Season with a tantalizing performance of the The Taming of the Shrew, June 1st, 2013 in the magnificent outdoor amphitheatre terraced into the hillside of the rustic Topanga canyon.

Directed by Ellen Geer this is one of two signature productions, the other being Midsummer Night’s Dream, co-directed by Melora Marshall andWillow Gear that will open this weekend and will continue in repertory throughout the summer until Aug.1st,.

Shakespeare’s “Shrew” story is a wonderful rowdy comedy based on familiar and popular tales and folklore written approximately 1573.
The script is one of his sharpest and funniest. The tale a simple one:
Katharine Minola “The Shrew” is one of two daughters of Baptista Minola, a rich Paduan gentleman. Baptista, Franc Ross, concerned for the future and well being of his brash and intolerable Katharine, Willow Geer, wants to marry her off and will not allow his other daughter Bianca,Christine Breihan, who’s known for her beauty and kindness to marry until Katherine is off his hands.
From the moment we first see Willow Geer as Kate bullying her sister there is no doubt that she needs “taming”. Her aggressive and ill humor is played with such intensity your heart will race. It is clear that her behavior is merely a response to her father’s adulation of his beautiful quiet “pet” Bianca, Christine Breihan, making her feel envious and neglected.
Miss Geer is both passionate and very free in her expressions. It is no surprise she is so comfortable with the Shakespearean language being that she has been part of the company from an early age. She is both poised and tall and switches easily from the shrewd Kate into the obedient maid and loving wife.
Both actresses unlike one another, play their part as siblings with such intensity and passion, one forgets who to route for.
Katherine refuses all the suitors suggested by her father not only to spite him but also her sister Bianca who has fallen for Lucentio, John Maidman, who disguises himself as “Cambio” a tutor to plead his suit pretending to teach her Latin. But Bianca has two other suitors, Grumio,Melora Marshall, and Hortensio, Christopher Jones, who try desperately to gain her father’s interest and go through great lengths to win his consent.
Then Petruchio, Aeron Hendry, a handsome, ostentatious young gentleman from Verona arrives at Padua, looking for a wealthy wife.
Petruchio hears of her wealth and resolves to marry her and tame her shrewdness. Played by Aeron Hendry with such confidence and conviction, the audience immediately takes a liking of his “boasting with humor” character. The constant play and horsing around betweenMr.Hendry and Miss Geer combined with almost acrobatic finesse more than entertain the audience. Ignoring Geer’s abuse and assaults Hendry responds equally aggressively and immediately takes the rains by changing her name to “Kate” and announcing to marry her “on Sunday” against her will. What follows is a delightful but too familiar struggle of the sexes that reminds much on the book “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars”. Petruchio deliberately showing up late to his wedding, leaving the embarrassed Kate fearing she will become an old maid. Funny also is the outfit, consisting of a bare chest and a pair of orange, black puffy tights with a pouch dressing up his manhood with a flower. Mr. Hendry, as Petruchio presents himself gladly as the fool that goes above and beyond to break his betrothed Kate will and make her see him as her equal.
After their wedding they set out to his country home where he sends Kate to bed without food and is consistently subdued and cowed on their way back to her father’s house. Equally wonderful to watch is Melora Marshall as Petruchio’s humble servant and sidekick Grumio. She has truly mastered immersing herself in the period and gives much attention and importance to detail adding fun sound effects while listening to her master or crawling artfully across the stage, or pouring wine out of her wine skin adding much to the life and humor of the play.
Equally enthusiastic are in the role of Tranio played by Jeff Wiesen and Hortensio, Christopher W. Jones, truly impersonating gentlemen of this time period and quickly winning the audience by not only bringing the Shakespearean language but also colorful their character’s alive on stage.
At the final banquet one can’t believe the humiliation Kate has endured for love and the audience is truly touched by her transformation.
There is much merriment and play between the actors on stage, embracing and interacting the audience in so many different ways.
One of the key figures is the musicianLiz Eldrige, also as the widow tucked upstairs overlooking the stage. She is in charge with sound effects and brings the play truly to life accompanying each actor on their journey on stage.
While the company has gone through much transformation since it’s beginnings in the 1950is the philosophy of the company has been preserved. It provides youth, teen and adult actors to learn Shakespeare in an Enrichment program that takes place both in the Summer as well as during the winter providing a training ground for actors and broadening the theater’s community outreach. Today the 299 amphitheater is also one of the few mid size houses in L.A, receiving critical praise and numerous awards for Excellency and Career achievement award for artistic director Ellen Geer. Weekly children’s programming with” Family Fun Days” offered every Sunday offer a creative playground for new generations to come.
While most of the character’s are dressed in period costumes the opening scene is played by actors dressed in modern day clothing, led by the drunken Sly, Gerald C. Rivers, and who facilitates the time travel to Shakespeare’s period. You may also be surprised to see him mingling with the audience in character way before the play starts.
So come and join this summer and bring the whole family and a blanket. You may also consider doing a picnic and bringing some food or drink before the performance start. The grounds provide a fairytale setting where you may find yourself inspired telling tales and sing-along, feeding the soul with joy and laughter.
For more information or to purchase tickets please call 310-455-3723



Another Problematic Woman

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 23, 2013
Taming of the Shrew (Theatricum Botanicum)
Women with problems have been the focus of theatre for ages. "The Taming of the Shrew" As is common with Shakespeare pieces during the summer, it was at an outdoor venue: Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon.
First, a word about the venue. My wife had been to Botanicum back in the 1970s, shortly after it was founded by Will Geer and his wife, during the days he was on The Waltons. Botanicum is in a wooded canyon; the theatres are in little amphitheatres with outdoor stages and bench seating. Actors are anywhere and everywhere — this is very much outdoor theatre of the 1970s, not the enclosed structures of today or the little black boxes. In many ways, this is theatre as it was meant to be: actors honing their craft, using their skill and not technology to tell a story. Batanicum is also very much a repertory company: the cast of actors are doing multiple plays concurrently over the summer —Shrew is just one of them. They are also doing Midsummers Night Dream,The Royal Family, Merlin, and Tone Clusters. It is a joy to watch, and we’ll likely be back for future productions.
Now, on to the show itself. If you are not familiar with Shrew, all I can say is go watch the "Atomic Shakespeare" episode of Moonlighting. You know — Bruce Willis, Cybil Shepard. Oh, right, you’re too young. Go rent Kiss Me Kate. As for me, the last time that I saw Shrew on stage was back in 2008 when it was part of Santa Clarita's Sheakspeare in the Park. I do love me a good production ofShrew, and this one was a fun one.
This production of Shrew established the mood early, with a madrigal group singing outside the line to the theatre. However, there was this annoying drunk wandering around trying to cadge a ticket and get someone to save him a seat. Somehow he succeeded, because as we came into the theatre, so did he. In fact, during the pre-show announcements he waltzed on stage and the house manager had to call security, but before they arrived, he collapsed on the steps. Just then, some hunters showed up (speaking the Bard’s good English), and decided to pull a trick on him. They would dress him as a king, and perform a comedy for him. And thus… the framing of The Taming of the Shrew.
As with much of Shakespeare, distinguishing all of the different characters is difficult (especially when there were some last minute substitutions). I’ll list them all in a minute. First, however, I’d like to highlight some particularly strong performances. In the lead positions were Willow Geer as Katharina and Aaron Hendry as Petruchio. You can see them pictured in the image above. These two leads were perfectly matched to each other. Hendry was athletic and charming, well built, and just fun to watch. Geer was a tiger-cat — able to pull out her claws and purr on demand. These two were just having fun with the role, and just a delight whenever they were on the stage.
Also strong, but not quite as stand-out-ish, were Christine Breihan as Bianca. She was charming, but didn’t seem to acquire a personality to the end. Also strong was the drunk, Christopher Sly Gerald C. Rivers, who was doing a great job of fooling theatre patrons before the show, and was a delight to watch while he remained in character throughout the production.
As for the remainder — it was truly an ensemble. All were wonderful.
The production was directed by Ellen Geer, who did a wonderful job of bringing out the fun in the production — these actors were having the time of their lives, and it showed. Stage management was by Kim Cameron assisted by Brandi Martin. The costumes, which were very inventive, were designed by Val Miller.






"Wreck-it Ralph" Premiere


HOLLYWOOD, CA : Actor Gerald C. Rivers the voice of 'M. Bison' at the Premiere Of Walt Disney Animation Studios 'Wreck-It Ralph' - Red Carpet at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, October 29, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tom Sorensen/Moovieboy Pictures)




Film review: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ starring John C. Reilly

November 2, 2012 Reviews W. Andrew Powell

Bad-Anon from Wreck-It-Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph
Director: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk

We all have our roles in life, but as the movie Wreck-It Ralph points out, it’s important to know the difference between who you are and what you do.
In director Rich Moore’s Wreck-It Ralph, John C. Reilly stars as the voice of the villain, Wreck-It Ralph, from an eight-bit eighties-style game called Fix-It Felix, Jr.
As the villain, Ralph’s job is to wreck the game’s only building, an apartment filled with pixelated characters, so that the player can control Fix-It Felix, Jr., voiced by Jack McBrayer, into fixing everything back up (“You can fix it!!!”).
After the arcade closes, all the happy eight-bit citizens spend their time in the apartment building, but Ralph, as the villain, is definitely not welcome. Ralph’s home is not inside the apartment he wrecks each day–he lives outside on the trash heap of broken bricks across the street.
Annoyed one night though, Ralph decides to join his fellow game villains at their support group, Bad-Anon, where he gets the idea that maybe he can change. Maybe he could even be a hero.
Arriving back at his own game, on the day of the game’s 30th anniversary, Ralph confronts the other characters and makes a bet that he can win a medal, like the one Felix wins every day in their game, and if he can, the other characters have to welcome him into the building.
Venturing out to find a medal, Ralph discovers that the players in another modern game, called Hero’s Duty, win a medal for defeating hordes of vicious bugs, so he decides to try being a hero. Dressing up like one of the characters from the game, Ralph finds a way to sneak in and take the medal, but in taking the prize he also ends up awakening the bugs.
Leaping into an escape pod, he gets thrown out of Hero’s Duty and into the super sweet racing world of Sugar Rush, where he inadvertently lets one of the bugs loose and meets a character–Vanellope von Schweetz, voiced by Sarah Silverman–who needs his help.
The premise of Wreck-It Ralph is fairly original, showing us what life is like for the characters within the games, including what happens to characters like Q*bert who were unplugged a long time ago. As a game fanatic, I also appreciate that Wreck-It Ralph shows some love to these classic game characters, like Bowser from Super Mario Bros., or M. Bison from Street Fighter (voiced by the original actor from the game, Gerald C. Rivers).
Throughout the film, the game details and the thought that’s been put into the world is really impressive, butWreck-It Ralph is just a bit short of greatness because the story is not strong enough to feel really immersive, and the script is just a little light.
Ralph and his new friend Vanellope are lovable characters–Silverman is, in fact, pretty much the star of the film at times–but, the film is rarely hilarious and more often just funny.
Wreck-It Ralph is cute, the film is briefly touching–it’s even a little bit exciting at times–but the film feels shallow, making it likable enough for most kids and some adults, but far from being truly heartfelt.
Generous nods are due to the stars–especially Silverman, Reilly, and both McBrayer and Jane Lynch, who voices the tough-as-nails Calhoun from Hero’s Duty–and the film’s art direction for capturing so many vivid game worlds, but even with the great John Lasseter executive producing Wreck-It Ralph, you’re more likely to walk out of the film and call it sweet or cute, rather comparing it to Lasseter’s best work on films like Toy Story 2.
As a side note, I have to say that the opening short called Paperman is exceptionally cute and well-made. Big credit is due for this skillfully rendered short that packs a lot of heart in a short amount of time.




"Martin & Music" Review:









"Measure for Measure," Shakespeare's dark comic examination of inverted justice and mercy, has seen many approaches through the centuries. But it's hard to imagine another one as audaciously entertaining as this striking revisionist production, which takes considerable liberties and somehow gets away with it.

Resetting the action in 1968 California, director Ellen Geer deploys numerous tactics to make the Bard jibe with her concept. Purists will balk at the inserted 20th-century terms, but they serve Shakespeare more than not.


"Gerald C. Rivers makes hilarious mincemeat of Pompey, here a streetwise pimp, with the textual changes to prove it"

- L.A. Theater Review



"Serious themes notwithstanding, the prevailing mood remains buoyant and fun throughout, thanks to several first-rate comic performances from some of the longtime Theatricum regulars — notably Earnestine Phillips as a soul sister Madame, Gerald C. Rivers as her pimped-out partner."

- LA Times Critics Choice



"Stand-outs include Monschein as he succumbs to the temptation he condemns in others; Gillian Doyle as Escalus, second in command who tries to reason with Angelo; Hendry who turns his dismay over Angelo’s behavior into a plan of action; compassionate Jailor who aids in the plot to save Claudio; Geer in all the interactions with her brother; excitable Elbow (Thomas Ashworth); pimp extraordinaire Pompey (Gerald C. Rivers)"

- Examiner.com






JULY 26, 2012


Ed Rampell of Hollywood Progressive, says of What Do You Dream Of

"Rivers is surely the planet’s greatest purveyor of this prophet of

nonviolence in the entire arts world....Rivers’ uncanny impressions of

the noble Nobel Peace Prize winner seems to bring King back to life."


Read his full review at this link: http://hollywoodprogressive.com/mlk/



JUNE 5, 2012


Great review for the Measure to Measure team. Click the link and read the blog from alittlenightmusing -




BWW Reviews: Theatricum Botanicum Serves Up a Sixties MEASURE FOR MEASURE

by Ellen Dostal

June 13, 2012


This summer, Theatricum Botanicum examines the inequity of a rigid moralistic government and the effect upon its citizens in Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Director Ellen Geer maximizes the impact of the play's themes by moving the time period to the pressure cooker era of the late 1960s, a perfect choice for the Toganga Canyon venue which already feels like you've taken a trip back in time the minute you walk in. With its weathered wooden stage built into the hills of Topanga Canyon, it's easy to picture a be-in, lovefest, or peace march taking place even today.
It is quite fitting then that MEASURE FOR MEASURE's Biblical concept of judging others as you would wish to be judged, and its underlying question of how much involvement the government should have in the moral choices of the people, finds a voice here. During the pre-show, flower children sing songs from the open door of a VW van parked in the driveway. Once inside they wander among guests – a baby on one's hip, a protest sign in another's hand, as a rally swings into motion led by Gerald C. Rivers, preaching from the rooftop with a voice that is a dead ringer for civil rights activist, DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is one of a number of excellent actors that are part of the company for Theatricum's summer season that includes returning favorites and some new faces.
Governor Vincentio (Aaron Hendry) has gone into hiding and appointed Colonel Angelo (Adam Mondschein) to rule in his absence. Vowing to enforce the city's strict moral code as Vincentio has not, Angelo promptly makes an example of young Claudio (Colin Simon), who has gotten his girlfriend Juliet (Crystal Clark) pregnant before marriage, and sentences him to death. Claudio appeals to his sister Isabella (Willow Geer), studying to enter a nunnery, and asks her to speak to Angelo on his behalf. Spurred on by Claudio's friend Lucio (Melora Marshall), she goes to Angelo to intercede but the unexpected radiance of her purity and goodness incites Angelo's lust. He agrees to let her brother go but only if she will give up her virtue to him. Horrified, she returns to tell Claudio she cannot help him.
Meanwhile, Vincentio has been roaming the city disguised as a friar and overhears Isabella and Claudio's tearful goodbye in the prison. Unhappy with the way Angelo has interpreted his laws, he approaches Isabella (still disguised) with a plan that will expose Angelo's villainous conduct and save her brother.
A trio of fine performances forms the center of the production. As you'd expect, Mondschein, Hendry and Geer have created strong, passionate characters that keep the wheels of this bumpy tragicomedy turning efficiently to its inevitable climax. But what I found even more interesting was the way they explored the weaknesses in their characters. Their internal struggles create a dynamic tension that pulsates underneath the scenes and speaks to the vulnerability that is common in us all.
Mondschein's Angelo is not merely an extremist dictator but a man mystified and tortured by his attraction to Isabella and by his inability to control his feelings. You can see it in the way his face softens and his body betrays his intellect, before the bars slam down and he issues his ultimatum. Geer portrays Isabella not simply as an unwavering religious nun, but as a woman who wrestles internally with the meaning of 'an eye for an eye,' and who ultimately offers mercy to her wrongdoer when she could have rightfully chosen vengeance instead. And if Hendry's Vincentio hadn't retreated from his duty as leader in order to study his people without their knowledge in the first place, he would never have found that he was not so immune from the "dribbling dart of love" as he so vehemently states at the beginning of the play. In one of the play's sweetest moments, Hendry lays open his heart and asks Isabella with all humility if she will take him as her husband. It is the loveliest of conclusions and completely satisfying to watch.
Crazy, eccentric supporting characters provide the contrast in Ellen Geer's production and they leap into the hippie-fest with glee. Among them are Earnestine Phillips, loud and proud and ready to blow the roof off in her boisterous turn as Mrs. Overdone, Gerald C. Rivers as the flamboyant pimp Pompey, and in the juiciest switch of the night, Melora Marshall as the eccentric, guitar-playing, pot smoking, cad-about-town, Lucio. So detailed, cavalier, smug, changeable, and funny is she in the role that I swear you'll want to go back and see her in that mustache again….and again.

Ellen Geer enhances the play with iconic music from the sixties and other signs (quite literally) of the times, making MEASURE FOR MEASURE a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking production, and one heck of a righteous good time. Don't miss it.



Much has been made of the difficulty in classifying the Bard's notoriously challenging send-up of moral absolutism and hypocrisy. When the laughs are elusive, it is written off as a so-called "problem play." When the delicate nuances of its characters' risible flaws are fully illuminated and Shakespeare's satire flares into view, only then is it recognized as a comedy. Director Ellen Geer's lively modern-dress version lands somewhere in between. Set against the California counterculture of the 1960s -- replete with hippies, reefer smoke, riot cops and engaging renditions of 1968's protest-song hit parade -- Geer's production never lacks for rousing spectacle. As Angelo, Adam Mondschein's compelling portrait of puritan intolerance corrupted by power and ungoverned desire is both suitably chilling and all too familiar. Willow Geer's Isabella, the untouchable object of that desire, takes incorruptible chastity to its absurd and equally blinded extreme. The show's comic heavy lifting is left to the capable shoulders of Melora Marshall's deliriously dissolute and ingratiating male-drag Lucio and Gerald C. Rivers' slyly punning Super Fly pimp Pompey. Earnestine Phillips shows off remarkable pipes as the song-belting, dashiki-clad Mrs. Overdone and Erica D. Schwartz's costumes lend the proceedings the surreal frisson of a DMT-demented revelry at Burning Man. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga; Sun., July 1, 15, 29, Aug. 19 & 26, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 7 & Aug. 11, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 22, Aug. 5 & 12, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Aug. 4, 18 & 25, Sept. 1, 8 p.m.; through Sept. 1. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com (Bill Raden)




Los Angeles Actor Gerald C. Rivers - The Voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is honored to receive the 2012 Season for Non Violence Local Hero Award.

On April 4, 2012 Gerald C. Rivers was honored by Common Peace - The Center for the Advancement of NonViolence and Agape International Spiritual Center receiving their 2012 Season for NonViolence Local Hero Award which recognizes individuals who through education, inspiration and cooperative action create an environment that honors the dignity and worth of every human being, someone who truly makes a difference in a noticeable way.

Los Angeles Actor Gerald C. Rivers is considered by many to be a student and scholar of the words and works of the late, great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is an Actor, Inspirational Keynote Speaker and The Voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and has for the past 30 years been inspiring people of all ages with the uplifting and powerful words of Dr. King. He grew up in Compton, California in the 70's and 80's and as of late, people have been interested in hearing his personal story of triumph from the violent gangs of the inner-city to national and international recognition for his work in bringing Dr. King’s messages to schools, prisons, homeless shelters, halfway houses, churches, colleges, universities and corporations.


He was invited in August last year to perform in Washington D.C. to speak the words of Dr. King for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication celebrations. He spoke recently this year at a special event for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and also for Assemblyman Mike Davis at The California African American Museum. He performed at the University of Utah for their 75th Anniversary of the College of Social Work, and at Wichita State University as well as the 6th Annual Unity Festival at Virginia Ave Park in Santa Monica.

Mr. Rivers groundbreaking One Man Show titled “What Do You Dream Of?” which highlights some of Dr. King’s known and lesser known speeches will be shown for one night only at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon at 7pm on July 27, 2012. Info and tickets at www.theatricum.com



WEBWIRE – Monday, February 06, 2012


6th Annual Unity Resource Festival “A Cultural Infusion”


Experience “A Cultural Infusion”

This year’s festival celebrates the many cultures represented in the City of Santa Monica through music, dance and culinary arts. It also highlights information on city, business, and non-profit agencies that strengthen the community.


Community Resources, Entertainment and Unity Awards


Presented by the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica College and the Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council, the 6th Annual Unity Resource Festival takes place on Sunday, March 11th from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at Virginia Avenue Park, 2200 Virginia Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404.


This year’s festival theme, A Cultural Infusion, celebrates the many cultures represented in the City of Santa Monica through music, dance and culinary arts. The festival will also highlight information on city, business, and non-profit agencies that strengthen the community with supportive resources.


Free entertainment will be featured throughout the day including live dance music by the well-known “gotta dance band”, The Bonedaddys (world-beat, blues, zydeco); and widely acclaimed Very Be Careful (Columbian vallenato and cumbia); a multi-media theatrical presentation by actor Gerald C. Rivers and MOA dance, featuring jazz saxophonist Cal Bennett, will stir our memories and imagination on the theme of “unity” as expressed by Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. Teen poet and hip hop artist, Miles McAliley will also rock the stage.


The annual “Unity Awards” will be given to an outstanding individual, community organization and faith based group for making a difference in the quality of life in Santa Monica through activities that promote diversity in cultural education and cultural awareness.


Free bike valet services will be provided and gourmet food trucks will be on hand to delight the palate.


For the latest entertainment and event updates, visit Virginia Avenue Park’s website at www.vapark.smgov.net or call (310) 458-8688. Virginia Avenue Park is located at 2200 Virginia Avenue. The park is wheelchair accessible and welcomes persons of all abilities.


CONTACT: Betty Macias at 310-458-8688, City of Santa Monica

Marcia Fierro at 310-434-4290, Santa Monica College









in celebration of Black History Month


‘Solofest 2012’


This play announces the coming of one of the greatest leaders of our time. Seen through the eyes of an Ancient African Griot. Dreamawonde literally takes the audience on a mystical journey transcending time. Experiencing the past, present and future all at once, as he transforms into the late great Civil Rights Leader REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.


For over 30 years Actor Gerald C. Rivers has been performing his stunning and powerful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. renditions to audiences of all nationalities and ages, now he has put together a special compilation of Dr. King speeches and incredible character reflections. This show is designed to inspire, uplift and motivate audiences to live their own dream. Look at the power of what one man can do. What can you do? “What Do You Dream Of?”


The story speaks to our oneness, unity, peace, love and universal connection. The show is poignant, funny, touching, educational, informative, uplifting and truly inspiring. It is appropriate for all ages and includes the beauty and grace of a traditional Indian bellydancer, live speedpainting demonstration, the transformational sound of world music as well as original songs written especially for the show.


SATURDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2012. 7pm show.

THE WHITEFIRE THEATRE, 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks CA 91423

Tickets: $20.



January 16, 2012








August 28, 2011

Gerald C. Rivers has been invited to speak the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Dr. King Dedication Week for the unveiling of the King Memorial in Washington D.C. He will speak at the Washington D.C. Convention Center at 2:45pm on Friday August 26, 2011.



June 16, 2011



Theater review: 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' at Theatricum Botanicum - L.A. Times


Low on cash yet confident of his sexual appeal, Falstaff (Alan Blumenfeld) plots to seduce the wives of well-off Windsor residents and sends identical love letters to Mistress Page (Karen Reed) and Mistress Ford (Elizabeth Tobias). After comparing notes, the two friends conspire to humiliate him. Through Mistress Quickly (Melora Marshall again — I liked her better here than as Titania), the town’s matchmaker-for-hire, they invite Falstaff to a series of assignations. Each time, the arrival of Master Ford (Ted Barton) forces Falstaff into a preposterous and painful escape — hidden under laundry in a wheelbarrow and dumped into the river; dressed in women’s clothes and beaten with a cudgel.

Our sense of humor has not deteriorated as much as we might think in 400 years. Elizabethans made fun of fat people and foreign accents. (Doctor Caius, a Frenchman, offers to “make the third” in a group of duelers— pronouncing “third” without the “h”). “Wives” contains one-liners that would not be out of place in an Adam Sandler movie. Watching Falstaff flee in drag, Sir Hugh Evans (a charming Gerald C. Rivers) solemnly remarks, “I like it not when a woman has a great beard.”

Falstaff’s final humiliation, when he is terrorized by the gleefully howling townspeople, has always struck me as creepy. All right, the guy thinks too highly of himself. No need to go all Manson family on him. Fortunately, director Ellen Geer (the company’s artistic director and a daughter of its founder) gets through this scene quickly, focusing on the happier themes of reconciliation and a community restored.

Blumenfeld is an excellent Falstaff. But he’s actually the straight man. The real star is Master Ford, the jealous husband desperate to catch his wife in flagrante. Barton plays up poor Ford's maniacal rage with an empurpled complexion and bulging eyes. The word that kept occurring to me was “apoplectic.” It works.

Both productions are unpretentious, high-spirited, and fun. Don't forget the kids, cushions for the wooden bleachers, and sweaters.

-- Margaret Gray




Theater review: 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' at Theatricum Botanicum


-- Margaret Gray
June 16, 2011


Midsummer Night's Dream_1NC-1
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect set for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” than the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. You don't have to suspend even an iota of disbelief to see the rustic stage, nestled in a woodsy hollow in Topanga, as the enchanted forest where Athenians and fairies get all mixed up one night.
The actors make their entrances along winding paths and down staircases as nimbly as mountain goats. This “Midsummer,” directed by Melora Marshall, who also plays Titania, is the company’s bread and butter, served almost every season.
The current cast has its strengths and weaknesses. For a successful “Midsummer,” as somebody once pithily told me, “You need a good Puck and a good Bottom.” Thad Geer gives this show a solid Bottom. Yes, the character is a conceited blowhard, but Geer's energy and charisma make it clear why the other tradesmen look up to him. Samara Frame’s Puck has a fixed grin and exaggeratedly elfin movements that grow tiresome. The best moment is the “rude mechanicals’” hilariously incompetent production of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” mocked by the watching aristocrats. This brilliant and poignant scene sums up the entire theatrical enterprise: No play can compete with reality, but there is magic in even the clunkiest effort.
“The Merry Wives of Windsor,” a new production running in repertory with “Midsummer,” with some of the same actors, provides an interesting counterpoint. “Midsummer” is admired as one of Shakespeare’s best works, filled with his most flowery poetry, while the prosy, farcical “Wives” doesn’t top anybody’s list. Legend holds that Queen Elizabeth so enjoyed the character of Falstaff, who dies at the end of “Henry IV, part 2,” that she asked Shakespeare to resurrect the decadent knight. Transplanted from the 14th to the 16th century, this Falstaff retains the original’s vigorous sensuality and apple shape but none of his profundity.
Low on cash yet confident of his sexual appeal, Falstaff (Alan Blumenfeld) plots to seduce the wives of well-off Windsor residents and sends identical love letters to Mistress Page (Karen Reed) and Mistress Ford (Elizabeth Tobias). After comparing notes, the two friends conspire to humiliate him. Through Mistress Quickly (Melora Marshall again — I liked her better here than as Titania), the town’s matchmaker-for-hire, they invite Falstaff to a series of assignations. Each time, the arrival of Master Ford (Ted Barton) forces Falstaff into a preposterous and painful escape — hidden under laundry in a wheelbarrow and dumped into the river; dressed in women’s clothes and beaten with a cudgel.
Our sense of humor has not deteriorated as much as we might think in 400 years. Elizabethans made fun of fat people and foreign accents. (Doctor Caius, a Frenchman, offers to “make the third” in a group of duelers— pronouncing “third” without the “h”). “Wives” contains one-liners that would not be out of place in an Adam Sandler movie. Watching Falstaff flee in drag, Sir Hugh Evans (a charming Gerald C. Rivers) solemnly remarks, “I like it not when a woman has a great beard.”
Falstaff’s final humiliation, when he is terrorized by the gleefully howling townspeople, has always struck me as creepy. All right, the guy thinks too highly of himself. No need to go all Manson family on him. Fortunately, director Ellen Geer (the company’s artistic director and a daughter of its founder) gets through this scene quickly, focusing on the happier themes of reconciliation and a community restored.
Blumenfeld is an excellent Falstaff. But he’s actually the straight man. The real star is Master Ford, the jealous husband desperate to catch his wife in flagrante. Barton plays up poor Ford's maniacal rage with an empurpled complexion and bulging eyes. The word that kept occurring to me was “apoplectic.” It works.
Both productions are unpretentious, high-spirited, and fun. Don't forget the kids, cushions for the wooden bleachers, and sweaters.



April 26, 2011 - Gerald can be heard on regional radio and TV commercials in Florida as the voice for the www.tobaccofreeflorida.com campaign.



April 6, 2011Atlanta viewers see Gerald live tonight 9pm on Cable Channel 24 People TV as he discusses with other distinguished guests why we still commemorate April 4 as the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


March 29, 2011

Contact: Samantha Rosen (818) 681-9474


Actor Gerald C. Rivers has been invited to speak the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center in Atlanta, Georgia under the direction of Bishop Barbara L. King this coming Sunday April 3, 2011. Mr. Rivers will be presenting a collage of speeches at both services at 8am and 10:30am in honor of the end of the Season for Nonviolence and to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the passing of Dr. King on April 4. Having lived in Atlanta while attending Morehouse College in the 1980’s, Mr. Rivers is honored to be returning to one of his favorite cities.


Special musical inspiration at both services is Saxophonist Cal Bennett. Mr. Bennett has been in the entertainment industry since 1971 when he was a featured soloist on Isaac Hayes “Shaft” LP. He has since worked with legends such as Stevie Wonder, Angie Stone and George Clinton just to name a few. He has performed on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles.

Services may be viewed via live streaming on the internet at 5am and 7:30am Pacific Time or in the archives at a later time. Go to www.hillsidechapel.org and click on “Vibes & Visions” to sign up to view the live broadcast of what promises to be a spiritually uplifting and very special event.




February 17, 2011


Gerald's One Man Show "What Do You Dream Of?"


For over 30 years, Actor Gerald C. Rivers has been performing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. renditions, making it his life's word to uplift millions of people all over the world. Now he has put together a special compilation of Dr. King speeches and incredible character reflections on the man. The show is titled "What Do You Dream Of?" and is co-written by Samantha Rosen.


This play announces the coming of one of the greatest leaders of our time. Seen through the eyes of an Ancient African Griot. Dreamawonde literally takes the audience on a mystical journey transcending time. Experiencing the past, present and future all at once, as Mr. Rivers transforms into the late great Civil Rights Leader REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. This show is designed to inspire, uplift and motivate audiences to live their own dream. Look at the power of what one man can do. What can you do? What Do You Dream Of? Come find out Wednesday February 23 at 11am and 6pm at El Camino College Compton Campus, 1111 E. Artesia Blvd, Compton. We invite you to join us on this international journey. Gerald intends to take this show all over the world. This performance includes special guest Artists: Indian Belly Dancer Renuka Gupta, Vocalist Jeffrina Oakes, 12 year old songwriter/rapper Miles McAliley and Raul Cardona in a special tribute to Cesar Chavez.


Contact Samantha Rosen - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (818) 681-9474







February 1, 2011

Gerald C. Rivers recently signed with Coast to Coast Talent Agency in Los Angeles. He is now officially represented by Director of Voice Over Portia Scott-Hicks. The Agency has over 25 years in the industry and as Gerald looks to expand into the Film and Television market we know this will be a powerful and successful partnership.



January 10, 2011


Acting is such a thankless task.

Everyone knows the obstacles when entering the theatre. Visuals of the darkened alleyways, littered with trash, includes one more element to a sense of being as one enters the performing space. And in the dressing room a three-legged chair becomes an impediment as one struggles to put on makeup in front a broken mirror with a nasty flickering light. Usually this event is shared with other actors, some with bad personal hygiene, who have no sense of modesty and gossip about you even when you are in the room.

Putting those events aside, one realizes this is a short termed project and one needs to make the very best of the situation. After all, this is a small theatre where the work is mostly without pay. And that work is done all for the sake of turning a small roll into magic and spinning the small notice into a career.

It is during the curtain call, one’s heart grows stronger when a culmination of events makes one realize the concentration was spot on and the dream could not have gone any better.

It is a dream they all have. To work hard, day in and day out, and pray for the paying opportunities so that they may provide for themselves and their families.

I have thought long and hard about this list. The Last Straw Awards 2010 are given to those actors who were outstanding in their field. Some of the actors listed below have huge careers, others are just starting out, and all deserve to be working regularly in this industry.

The actors are listed in order of the review, There is no plaque or sheepskin to place on the mantle. Ultimately, when the day is done, you can’t take it with you and besides it only takes up space. Know this; that people are watching and taking notice of your outstanding contributions to theatre in Los Angeles.



Gerald C. Rivers (Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.) - Carry It On - Theatricum Botanicum




January 2011


Carry It On! premiered at Topanga Canyon’s Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, co-founded by the blacklisted actor who co-starred in 1954’s classic “Salt of the Earth” and eventually played TV’s Grandpa Walton. A sort of people’s history of America told largely through protest songs, progressive whites are portrayed in “Carry It On!”, including Woody Guthrie, Mark Twain, Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, Lillian Hellman and Cindy Sheehan, as well as notable Blacks, like Harriett Tubman and Martin Luther King (vividly depicted by Gerald C. Rivers).




Kwazi Nkrumah:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. /213-884-5190

Coalition of Community and Social Justice Groups to Infuse Martin Luther King Parade with the Spirit of Dr. King


January 15 - 17, 2011 by Sarah Jones


King Celebration at the California African American Museum. Join the California African American Museum for this special celebration on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as they open their doors on the only Monday of the year – January 17th, 2011! At 11am, they’ll have film screenings and a hands on workshop led by Teresa Tolliver. At 1pm Victoria Burnett will be performing songs in the Gallery of Discovery honoring Dr. King’s legacy. Or stop by CAAM following the “Kingdom Day Parade” and at 2pm join them for cake and cupcakes celebrating the birthday of Dr. King. At 2:45pm there will be live excerpts read of past Dr. King’s speeches by Gerald C. Rivers highlighting Dr. King’s leadership in the American civil rights movement. More information: www.caamuseum.org




Children Released from the Juvenile Justice System

Unmask their Authentic Voices to Reveal their Deeper Selves


3rd Annual Fundraising Event for the Spirit Awakening Foundation

Los Angeles: On Dec. 4th, actors Esai Morales (NYPD Blue), Carmine Giovinazzo (CSI:NY), Debra Wilson (Mad TV), Frances Fisher (Titanic), Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith (The Secret) and Gerald C. Rivers (The Voice of Dr. King) will join with recently paroled inner-city youth in dramatic readings of the young people's stories and those of their still-incarcerated peers.




CARRY IT ON! by Ellen Geer – Theatricum Botanicum – Los Angeles (Topanga) Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on August 22, 2010
Post image for CARRY IT ON! by Ellen Geer – Theatricum Botanicum – Los Angeles (Topanga) Theater Review


If you are into political rallies that are jam-packed with guilt-inducing inspiration, then bundle up your harmonica, washtub bass, guitar, picket signs, seat cushions, and picnic; call forth a sense of injustice, and march to the hippie hills of Topanga. No, you’re not on your way to a fundraiser for Utopians United. Rather, compiler and editor Ellen Geer and the Theatricum Botanicum invite you to Carry It On!, a human slide show of ‘Great Moments in American History’: a compendium of prose, speech, and music by (mostly) famous Americans.
At first, it appears we are watching Children’s Theatre, but instead of The Brementown Musicians, we get a slavery theme, something like The Jamestown Slaveholders. Actors sing folk songs, and then speak in unison with a tone that is ominously close to passive-aggressive finger wagging; in a blink of an eye, we are transported to American Independence and plopped directly into the Civil War, when a youthful, unaffected Abe Lincoln (Mark Lewis) begins to offer snippets on the injustice of slavery, and magnificent William Dennis Hunt offers up a droll Walt Whitman. All told, there will be more than 50 Americans on display, some presented with astounding authenticity and others merely representational, which makes one long for a deeper interpretation.
This is a Geer family tradition, started by blacklisted actor Will Geer when his daughter, Ellen, was young, and introduced to workers’ rallies and union songs. You will be hard-pressed to encounter a more well-intentioned, intelligent, and talented actress than Miss Geer (in fact, her portrayals of Eleanor Roosevelt and Bella Abzug are phenomenal), but the idea to spur the audience into action by offering up American notables who fought the system backfired in Act One. The choice of material presents a liberal and sentimental overview – Carnegie is the villain, the worker is the victim; Ford is Satan and the assembly-line workers angelic, etc.; it leaves the audience with a stupor of culpability (in fact, I haven’t felt so uplifted since I saw back-to-back productions of King Lear).
The result is that Carry It On! becomes a palatable, left-leaning education more than a theatrical experience. I’m as anti-war as the next guy, but America’s history is not so cut-and-dried and the audience is not schoolchildren; freedom would seem like a nobler goal if we could relate to the complexities of the issues at hand by hearing from those voices that weren’t so one-sided. Notably missing are topical subjects such as gay marriage; no doubt Miss Geer has her hands full of other material, but what a missed opportunity to delve into all sides of an issue: pro, con, and those who wonder why marriage is legalized for anybody. Perhaps it’s still too taboo a subject; future Theatricum spectators can wonder why they allowed such inhumane treatment against fellow Americans, especially if they’re Lefties.
That said, the speeches often blazed into misty-eyed motivation in Act Two, especially the civil rights section, starting with the effective Rowena Johnson as Elizabeth Eckford (of Little Rock Nine fame), the stunning and powerful Gerald C. Rivers as MLK,and into the Vietnam War. The section on Farm Workers (with Daniel Chacon’s really, really angry Latinos) and Immigrants began to back-slide a bit into Miss Geer’s clear agenda: propaganda.
Praise goes to some wonderful overall singing; also, the performances of both Michael Keith Allen and the constantly amazing Earnestine Phillips (her Sojurner Truth speech, ‘And Aint I a Woman,’ will not be soon forgotten).
Although Carry It On! may not melt the heart of a cynic, it should be noted that some (especially kids) could be inspired to appreciate the freedoms that we do have, which, if this was Miss Geer’s intention, is to be duly noted. Just bring those (heavy duty) seat cushions for the wooden benches. You don’t need to feel like you’re on a slave ship.


Los Angeles - January 15, 2010
A broad spectrum of progressive community and labor groups have joined forces in the newly formed Coalition for Jobs, Justice, and Peace. The Coalition’s first task will be to gather in strength and numbers in the Los Angeles Martin Luther King Parade, which has an overwhelming presence of military recruiters. In contrast, the group will re-assert the presence and spirit of Dr. King's life and words by bringing together community groups working to fulfill his dream of peace and opportunity. On January 17, 2011 at the annual Martin Luther King Parade, the Coalition will demand jobs, justice, and peace, as articulated by the Civil Rights movement. Dr. King’s historic "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, had a two-issue focus: jobs and justice. The Coalition will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 's legacy by marching under the banner, "Jobs, Schools & Healthcare, not Jails, Poverty and Warfare: Justice For All."

The Coalition’s parade presence will highlight actor Gerald C. Rivers giving a stirring rendition of Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," a speech delivered by Dr. King on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. Rivers has dedicated his life's work to keeping alive the spirit and inspiration of the great Dr. King, seeming to literally become the man in his awe inspiring and passionate renditions, which the LA Times calls "uncanny".


From Progressive Culture - Review for "Voices: A Legacy to Remember" at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre

By Ed Rampell

Oct 6, 2010

"Gerald C. Rivers as Dr Martin Luther King (whom Rivers also movingly portrayed in 'Carry It On!' and is likewise in fine form here)."



From Stage and Cinema - Review for "Carry It On" at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

By Tony Frankel

August 22, 2010

"the stunning and powerful Gerald C. Rivers as MLK"



From Jesther Entertainment - Review for "Carry It On" at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

By Ed Rampell

August 19, 2010

"Gerald C. Rivers, who steals the show with his towering, uncanny performance, if not impersonation, of Dr Martin Luther King. Just as K.B. Solomon captures Paul Robeson in his one-man show, Rivers movingly distills the essence of Rev. King; the actor's voice, like the civil rights leader's, mellifluously flows like honey, reminding us of King's poetic, moral grandeur."



From LA TIMES - Review for "Carry It On" at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

By Charlotte Stoudt

August 13, 2010

"Gerald C. Rivers offers an uncanny impression of Martin Luther King."



From LA SPLASH MAGAZINE - Review for "Carry It On" at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

By Joseph Jaafari

August 9, 2010


"Finally, Gerald C. Rivers as Martin Luther King Jr. blew my mind. I was looking down at the program when Rivers started his MLK monologue and I swore to God I thought it was a recording."


From Joe Straw


"Gerald C. Rivers does a mind-blowing impersonation of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."




From Goldstar - July 2010

"Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer has carefully compiled some of the greatest American works of writing and music to be performed by special guest artists. James Cromwell (Babe), Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams), Michael O'Neill (The West Wing), Jordan Belfi (Entourage), and Christina Pickles (St. Elsewhere) perform great American songs, speeches, and poetry from historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln; with Gerald C. Rivers as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Mark Twain; Walt Whitman; Rosa Parks; Mother Jones; and others who helped shape our country."



Nominees for the 19th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards follow:



Of Equal Measure - Christopher O'Neal Warren

Of Equal Measure - Joseph C. Phillips

As You Like It - (Pisanio) - Gerald C. Rivers






By Andrew Gans
21 May 2008

Jurnee Smollett, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Eva Marcille and Henry Simmons announced the nominees for the 18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards May 20 at a press conference in the Hollywood Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.

Nominees for the 18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards follow:

2006–2007 Equity Nominees

Lead Male
Michael A. Sheppard – Master Harold… and the boys
Robert Manning, Jr. – Defiance
Cedric Sanders – A Matter of Honor
Michael McFall – The Tempest
Gerald C. Rivers – (Stephano) - The Tempest

Kimberly Elise and Anthony Anderson will host the annual awards ceremony, which will be held June 30 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Performers will include Grammy winner Stephanie Mills, seen on Broadway in The Wiz, and R&B recording artist Mario.

The theme of this year's awards is "Salute to Black Theatre," which "celebrates the evolution of the portrayal of African Americans in theatre, from unrealistic, stereotypical caricatures to a more balanced and honest reflection of the Black experience as a whole."



Backstage West

“The Play’s comedic impulses, however, are met with brilliant performances. Gerald C. Rivers brings a swank charisma.”


The Royal Gazette – Bermuda

“Actor Gerald C. Rivers took the crowd back to the 60’s by reciting Dr. King’s “Drum Major for Justice” speech in a voice eerily similar to that of the civil rights leader.”


Easy Reader

“Gerald C. Rivers is…… powerfully brilliant and funny too.”


W.L.S.I. Productions

Mr. Gerald C. Rivers, who has studied the life, speeches and mannerisms of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “As a minimum he will give an added dimension to this show; as a maximum he will give you goose bumps.”


Compton Bulletin

“Gerald C. Rivers gave a stirring rendition of excerpts from Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.”


Los Angeles Collegian

“Rivers held the audience spellbound with his impersonation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He recited a brief collage of King’s speeches.”


“Gerald really gets into it. If you close your eyes while you’re listening to him speak you’d swear it was King himself!”


The Oak Park Report

Detroit City Arts and Cultural Commission – “The tribute will also feature narration and readings from the works of Dr. King by Gerald C. Rivers, an actor in Atlanta. A graduate of Morehouse College, he is a specialist I linguistics and a recognized expert on the writings of Dr. King. He tours extensively, performing dramatic readings of the civil rights giant’s works.”