The audience arriving for the opening night of the 8th Topanga film festival at the Theatricum Botanicum are greeted by a veritable wooded wonderland. Think Sundance in the Shire, with drinks in front of the Hamlet Hut, a dusty brook and musicians strumming acoustic guitars under giant oak trees.
A trio of belly dancers perform on the wooden stage of the majestic open-air auditorium before the first night screening of Kyle Ruddick's One Day on Earth, while the half moon throws out a glowing silvery light.
"It's beautiful here, just perfect, " says festival director Urs Baur, to a cheering crowd, who in deference to the festival's wolf logo, collectively howl at the moon.
The Theatricum Botanicum, nestled deep in Topanga canyon, which sits east of Malibu, in the Santa Monica mountains, is a Pandora for actors. But the lush campus, which includes Woody Guthrie's tiny wooden cabin (his home for part of the Fifties), belies a painful inception.
Actor Ellen Geer, the theatre's artistic director, was only 10 years old when her actor father, Will Geer, best known for his role as Grandpa Zeb Walton in The Waltons television series, was hounded out of Hollywood for refusing to testify at the investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in New York, in 1951.
Her mother, the actor and activist Herta Ware (best known for her role as Rosie Lefkowitz in Cocoon), found the land which they purchased for $10, 000, and it soon became a refuge for a community of blacklisted actors, including Virginia Farmer, Anne Revere, Jeff Corey and John Randolph, who had nowhere else to go or perform.
Will Geer, an enthusiastic botanist, had earlier graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in horticulture before heading to Broadway. Theatricum Botanicum means theatre of plants, and the actor made it his mission to grow every plant mentioned in a Shakespeare play. (Figus carica; "O excellent! I love long life better than figs." Charmian, Anthony and Cleopatra, says one inscription in a flower bed). Ellen and siblings were taught the plants' Latin names, but while this seems charming, Walton-esque even, the hearings cast a pall over the family that tore them apart, and took almost 20 years to heal.
"Pop had been big on Broadway but he came to Hollywood and made a lot of money working as a supporting actor, " explains Ellen, who is currently appearing in the theatre's production of The Women of Lockerbie.
Closing Night Film&Gala @ SF ASIAN AM FILM FEST!
2005 SAN FRANCISCO INTL ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL
Presented by Asia Street on International Channel
San Francisco | Berkeley | San Jose
March 10-20, 2005
Closing Night Film and Gala!
USA 2005, 76 mins, Dir: Michael Kang
THU 03.17 | 700PM Kabuki | MOTE17
Toiling in his familyâs sleazy suburban motel, chubby Ernest befriends bad-boy tenant Sam, who sets out to show him a thing or two about becoming a man. Problem is, his newfound mentor may be more played-out than player.
GLOSING NIGHT GALA: 9:30-midnight (following screening of THE MOTEL)
San Francisco War Memorial Green Room, 401 Van Ness Ave
Celebrate the screening of Michael Kang's THE MOTEL, with Kang and cast, and close the curtain on this yearâs festival at the spectacular Green Room
I want a guy who'll do this to me on a plane...
(sorry, this is a guy speaking. but i want to meet this man! will you do this to me?)
Last year I flew from LAX to Tokyo for the Tokyo International Film Festival (long story). I don't know for what reasons, but the flight was not totally booked, leaving some empty seats. I was by the window and there was an empty seat next to me. While walking around on the airplane during midair, I caught sight of a familiar face. SoftyTX, the 30-something blonde I met through a friend in Colorado. She was alone so I invited her over to my nearly-empty row. We sat there for hours talking about where we've been, what we've done