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VALLEY WEEKEND | FOR THE KIDS

Summer Scenes Range From the Bard to Blues

Theatricum Botanicum and the Hollywood Bowl Open House offer outdoor stage shows throughout the week.

July 18, 1996|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The hills south of the Valley will fill with the sounds of music and witty repartee this summer, much of it suitable for families with children.

Conducted in natural amphitheaters at opposite ends of the hills, the Theatricum Botanicum season in Topanga Canyon and the Hollywood Bowl Open House program in the Cahuenga Pass will offer a classy menu of weekend and weekday family fun.

On weekends it is the Theatricum, where director Ellen Geer claims to have overheard some of her younger patrons telling their parents that an afternoon at the theater was like "a trip to an amusement park."

The outing in question involved watching a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which, if you think about it, might strike a kid as a nifty combination of Disney gloss and Simpsons' saltiness. The kids even get a chance to talk with the animal-costumed performers. All in all, it's a great way to introduce them to Shakespeare.

(Does anyone recall that the Valley's first flesh and blood glimpse of this classic was in Burbank, when it was filmed in 1935 with Mickey Rooney as Puck and James Cagney in a donkey suit as Bottom?)

The Saturday matinee performances of "Dream" will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 3 through Sept. 14. Sunday shows at 7:30 p.m. will begin Aug. 11 and run through Sept. 15. Admission for kids under 5 is free; ages 6-12, $4; students and seniors, $8.50; and others $15.

One of the shows already playing in the Theatricum's repertory schedule, "The Tempest," is quite suitable for older kids who are into villainy, foolery and storm-tossed love. It's the regular Sunday matinee feature this summer.

And for jaded teens in the family, a little exposure to Brecht's "Threepenny Opera," the regular Saturday night presentation, might clear the cobwebs from their MTV-cluttered minds. The Weill-Brecht music and lyrics are certainly full of "attitude."

Theatricum Botanicum is at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., parking is free and no reservations are necessary. For further information, call (310) 455-3723.

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For a program rich in variety, the Open House at the Hollywood Bowl is offering Russian musicians, stylized Japanese dancing and Afro-Brazil on summer weekdays. There will be a blues band fronted by 10-year-old harmonica player, Brody Buster, and a Mideast dance ensemble presented by someone with the euphonious name of Boualem Bousseloub.

For the past 24 years, the Open House program has been hosted by the Valley-based theatrical company J.P. Nightingale, and this year it's supported by a special grant from the Johnny Mercer Foundation.

Nightingale performers John and Pam Wood will lead off each Open House event with a rendition of a famous Mercer classic, such as "Jeepers Creepers," "Accentuate the Positive," "I'm an Old Cow Hand," and "Hooray for Hollywood."

The main Open House program today and Friday features the zany Russian musical group Limpopo performing its high-energy music. Fujima Kansuma will offer the mesmerizing beauty of traditional Japanese dance. Shows are at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on the Open House stage located in the Bowl's box office area.

Monday through Friday in the same time slots, the program will feature Brody Buster and a blues band, plus story teller Diane Ferlatte, with her spirited tales of the American South.

The week after that, from July 29 to Aug. 2, Afro-Brazil group Lula will stage a festival of samba music and (are you ready for this?) Brazilian martial arts.

And, for families who discovered Saint-Saens' music when his Organ Symphony played a thrilling role providing the score for the movie "Babe," another big serving of the composer's work will be offered by Jim Gamble Puppet Productions. This time the composition is "Carnival of the Animals" and instead of pigs, the actors will be puppets.

The summer continues with shows running until Aug. 18 and includes more storytelling, more bluegrass, a string quartet and, from Aug. 12-18, the Aves International Dance Theatre with Boualem Bousseloub.

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Every one of these performances is followed by a craft workshop linked to the theme of the performance--such as musical instrument-making, puppet making, drum and dance lessons and kite making. These are held at 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

An added free treat is the opportunity to watch the Bowl orchestra rehearse from 9:30 to noon most weekday mornings.

Parking is also free, but the Open House performances cost $3 per person, with kids under 2 admitted free, and the workshops charge $1 per child for materials. For more information, call the Hollywood Bowl, (213) 850-2000.

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