CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts

Fire prompts evacuation of beloved outdoor theater

“These violent delights have violent ends / and in their triumphs die like fire and powder,” wrote William Shakespeare in act two of the most famous tragedy of all time: “Romeo and Juliet.”

That very show was set to open tonight at Topanga’s renowned repertory theater, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. However, this performance was cancelled, due to the brush fire that has engulfed over 200 acres in Calabasas and the surrounding areas. As people began shuffling in for the much-anticipated 7:30 p.m. show, the staff swiftly and safely evacuated all patrons, cast members, and faculty. The mystical property, which has been around since the mid-20th century, is not in the direct path of the flames, but safety was first priority. There is no doubt, however, that “the show will go on” once the area has been cleared by firefighters.

“All ticket patrons can arrange a time to come for a performance at a later date,” said a theatre representative. The season runs until Oct. 2 and tickets can be purchased at

The show, along with the other five set to rotate on the vine-covered 299-seat outdoor stage this summer, features a handful of L.A. county teenagers alongside respected theatre professionals.

The fire has left approximately 180 homes powerless, and ash has reached as far as Studio City and the Hollywood Bowl. As the sky turned a fairytale red, hundreds of citizens were evacuated from their homes.

As of approximately 10 p.m., the theater is under mandatory evacuation, though surrounding areas are under voluntary evacuation as the fire moves towards Topanga Road.

Company members have been working since the evacuation was issued at 7 p.m. to rescue theater’s valuables, many of which have been bequeathed from generation of actor or director to the next.

“There are decades of company members who have worn these costumes. This place is such a mom and pop shop, there are so many items that have been around for generations,” said Jonathan Blandino, an actor and employee at the theater. “If something were to happen, our main focus is education, so we are focusing on grabbing anything that we use in our education program.”

As company members donate their time and energy to rescuing the theater’s invaluable items, in preparation for the worst, ash has scattered across the stage, and the aroma of smoke is overwhelming.

“Somehow, you can still see the stars in the sky,” said Blandino. “No one is stressed. We just want to do all we can to protect our theater.”

Hopefully, the “violent delights” of attending a play at Theatricum Botanicum will not have “violent ends,” as the immediate actions of the staff have allowed company members and patrons to reach safety.

Evacuations are expected to last until 8 a.m. Sunday morning, and it will be determined shortly whether tomorrow’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will go on as scheduled.

While dueling this scorching hot enemy, the theatre community and the Greater Los Angeles area are banding together to prevent devastation in the face of disaster.