Yaroslavsky on Protecting Civil Liberties and Art

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the New York Times about the thriving Theatricum Botanicum located in the Santa Monica Mountains. The theater was started by actor Will Geer in the 1950s as a retreat for blacklisted actors who refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about alleged communist activity. Yaroslavsky, who represented Topanga and helped win the theater arts subsidies when he was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, called the theater a “civil liberties billboard.” Now, the outdoor theater continues to draw crowds in the Topanga area as many seek safe forms of entertainment during the pandemic. “When I think of Topanga Canyon and the Theatricum Botanicum, it’s a constant history lesson of what can happen even in a democracy like ours when people stop being diligent,” Yaroslavsky said. “The whole DNA of that theater is about eternal vigilance.”


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