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Black Tie International:
27th Annual Simply Shakespeare
Photos by:  Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging
Tom Hanks, SCLA Artistic Director Ben Donenberg, Rita Wilson, Jaclyn and Ben Harper
Tom Hanks, SCLA Artistic Director Ben Donenberg, Rita Wilson, Jaclyn and Ben Harper



Star-studded Cast Included:  Alfred Molina, William Shatner,
Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Chiklis,  Evan Handler, David Cross,
Susannah Fielding, Finn Wittrock and Glenn Howerton

with a Performance by Grammy Award Winner Ben Harper

Tom Hanks, Bright Future Awardee Veteran Ariel Bell, Rita Wilson and BBVA CEO Everett Orrick
Tom Hanks, Bright Future Awardee Veteran Ariel Bell, Rita Wilson
and BBVA CEO Everett Orrick
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
Alfred Molina and Kyle MacLachlan
Alfred Molina and Kyle MacLachlan
William Shatner
William Shatner
Evan Handler and David Cross
Evan Handler and David Cross
Michael Chiklis
Michael Chiklis
Susannah Fielding
Susannah Fielding
Finn Wittrock
Finn Wittrock
Glenn Howerton
Glenn Howerton
 SCLA Artistic Director Ben Donenberg with his son actor Sheldon Donenberg
 SCLA Artistic Director Ben Donenberg with his son actor Sheldon Donenberg
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson with  eBAY walk-on role winner Thomas Dunbar of Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson with  eBAY walk-on role winner Thomas Dunbar
of Louisville, Kentucky


Los Angeles, CA (September 19, 2017) – Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks hosted The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA) 27th Annual Simply Shakespeare benefit September 18, 2017, at the Freud Playhouse, on the UCLA Campus. 

The hilarious Forbidden Shakespeare The Tempest offered an evening of improvised Shakespeare and song featuring three-time Grammy Award winner singer/songwriter Ben Harper.  Charles Richard Lester wowed the crowd with his theremin instrument and was joined by an intergalactic star-studded cast which included Rita Wilson (Ariel), Tom Hanks (Stephano), Alfred Molina (Prospero) William Shatner Gonzalo), Kyle MacLachlan (Alonso), Michael Chiklis (Caliban), Evan Handler (Antonio), David Cross (Trinculo), Sheldon Donenberg (Boatswain) Finn Wittrock (Sebastian), Susannah Fielding (Miranda) and Glenn Howerton (Ferdinand) who improvised their way through a condensed version of The Tempest.   Thomas Dunbar of Louisville, Kentucky was the eBAY winning bidder of a once-in-a-lifetime walk-on role.

The evening was sponsored by the Entertainment Industry Foundation and included a pre-show wine reception provided by the Gallo Family of Wines, followed by a post performance reception with the cast.  All proceeds from the event support the SCLA and its arts-based employment programs for chronically unemployed veterans and urban youth, that blend White House award-winning immersive arts engagement for youth living at the poverty threshold, chronically unemployed vets and award-winning professional productions supported by a veteran workforce.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Bright Future Award to US Army Veteran Ariel Bell, SCLA Veterans in Art Programs Coordinator.  The Bright Future Award was proudly presented by BBVA Compass, a Sunbelt-based financial institution that operates 651 branches in the United States, including 61 branches in California.   

Under the direction of SCLA founding Artistic Director Ben Donenberg, William Shakespeare’s endearing tragic comedy not only gave the bard’s words additional hilarity through the on-stage delivery and antics of its all-star cast, but wove in six songs from Ben Harper.  Met with wild applause from the 500 guests, Harper’s renditions included “Glory and Consequence,” “Waiting on an Angel,” “Forever,” “Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating,” “Having Wings,” and “Rock and Roll is Free.”

About the Entertainment Industry Foundation:

Founded in 1942, the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) is a multifaceted organization that occupies a unique place in the world of philanthropy. By mobilizing and leveraging the powerful voice and creative talents of the entertainment industry, as well as cultivating the support of organizations (public and private) and philanthropists committed to social responsibility, EIF builds awareness and raises funds, developing and enhancing programs on the local, national and global level that facilitate positive social change. For more information, visit

About Shakespeare Center Los Angeles:

Since 1985, The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has been a vibrant hub of unique programs, performances and events designed to make Shakespeare accessible and engaging to all.  Veterans In Art, SCLA’s successful transitional veterans employment initiative, provides for unemployed veterans and vets enrolled at Santa Monica College and East Los Angeles College transitional employment in tandem with college accredited technical theater training.  SCLA enrolled 23 chronically unemployed veterans in technical theater training course at SMC while hiring those veterans and providing them on-the-job training backstage.  Will Power to Youth a White House awarded youth employment and academic enrichment program that immerses urban Los Angeles youth living at the poverty threshold in hands-on artistic experience with paid summer jobs, and training in the rigors of theater art making.  The program has been nationally recognized for its effectiveness in reducing high school dropout rates and instilling a lifelong appreciation for Shakespeare and live theater.  For more information on the Simply Shakespeare benefit performance or SCLA, please visit

Gerard Mc Keon and Joyce Brooks.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/

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