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Celebrity Philanthropy News 2  3
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Black Tie International:
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
25th Annual Simply Shakespeare Benefit

Photos by:  Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging
Honoree Rita Wilson, Ben Donenberg, SCLA Founding Artistic Director and Bette Midler
Honoree Rita Wilson, Ben Donenberg, SCLA Founding Artistic Director and Bette Midler





Star-studded cast included: Tom Hanks, Bette Midler, William Shatner,

Martin Short, Christina Applegate, Eric Idle, Jason Alexander, Glenn Howerton,

Tessa Thompson, Gillian Jacobs and Anthony Mackie

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (right) presented a proclamation to Tom Hanks (left) and Rita Wilson (center) while the Simply Shakespeare cast looks on
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (right) presented a proclamation to Tom Hanks (left) and Rita Wilson (center) while the Simply Shakespeare cast looks on
Jason Alexander and Martin Short:
Jason Alexander and Martin Short
Eric Idle
Eric Idle
Glenn Howerton
Glenn Howerton
Anthony Mackie.
Anthony Mackie


Los Angeles, CA (December 9, 2015) - The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA) presented its 25th Annual Simply Shakespeare benefit reading of “Twelfth Night” directed by Ben Donenberg, Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.  This year’s event honored long-time Shakespeare Center supporters Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks for their 25-year commitment to bringing the works of William Shakespeare at no charge to the Los Angeles community and creating programs for young people throughout the city.  The hilarious evening of impromptu Shakespeare and song featured a star-studded cast including Tom Hanks, along with Bette Midler, William Shatner, Martin Short, Gillian Jacobs, Jason Alexander, Christina Applegate, Eric Idle, Glenn Howerton, Tessa Thompson and Anthony Mackie with a special appearance by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

The evening included a pre-show cocktail reception, followed by a post performance reception with the cast.  All proceeds from the event support the SCLA and its arts based veteran employment and youth employment programs for inner-city youth, arts education in local schools, and professional union contracted productions at the Japanese Garden on the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Medical Center.  

“Without the extraordinary support, commitment and dedication of Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, there would be no Shakespeare Center,” said Ben Donenberg, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles founding Artistic Director.  “They continue to make it possible to bring the magic of the bard to generations who might otherwise miss the enchantment of the theater and in doing so, are building a tradition that enriches the lives of us all.”   


Multi-talented actress/producer/writer and singer, Rita Wilson has achieved success in each facet of her storied career.  Among her many screen credits are roles in It’s Complicated and Sleepless in Seattle, as well as recurring roles on HBO’s Girls and CBS’ The Good Wife. Wilson made her Broadway debut in 2006 as Roxie Hart in Chicago, followed with roles in the New York and Los Angeles stage productions of Love, Loss & What I Wore; the world premiere of Lisa Loomer’s Distracted at LA’s Mark Taper Forum and the Pulitzer Prize winning Dinner With Friends in Boston and New York.  Last March, she returned to Broadway opposite Larry David in the smash hit Fish in the Dark.    Rita first donned her producer’s cap for the record breaking box office hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and will do the same as well as appear in the sequel, due in theaters in March, 2016.  The film captured a Visionary Award from the Producer’s Guild of America for Wilson, as well as a People’s Choice Award and Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.  She went on to secure the rights to and produce the film version of Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. 

In May, 2012, Wilson realized a lifelong dream with the debut of her solo album AM/FM, an intimate, elegant and beautifully sung collection of classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s.   During the past two years she has collaborated with a number of extremely talented and successful songwriters composing original material to be featured on Rita Wilson, her new album slated for release February, 2016.   In conjunction with that release Rita will headline an over 20 city tour beginning with a residency at the famed Café Carlyle in New York City Feb 23-March 5, and conclude the tour on May 4 in Milwaukee. 

One of the most beloved figures in contemporary American cinema, Tom Hanks has made an indelible mark on movies and television through his extraordinary and eclectic performances and as a director and producer. After his breakthrough in the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies, Hanks graduated to the big screen, where he demonstrated a gift for juggling comedy and drama in Penny Marshall’s Big, earning him his first Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. In the ensuing decades, he has played a vast array of roles for some of Hollywood’s leading filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Demme, Robert Zemeckis, Joel and Ethan Coen, Brian De Palma, John Lasseter and the Wachowskis. In 1995, he became the second actor in history (after Spencer Tracy) to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars, for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Hanks’ latest film, Bridge of Spies, directed by Spielberg, debuted on October 16.

On the other side of the camera, Hanks made an acclaimed directorial debut with the musical comedy That Thing You Do! As a producer, Hanks and his company Playtone Entertainment have been behind some of the most important film and television projects of the last few decades, including the indie-movie sensation My Big Fat Greek Wedding plus Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Olive Kitteridge, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Big Love, Emmy winning and Golden Globe nominated The Pacific, and Emmy and Golden Globe winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams and From the Earth to the Moon.

Simply Shakespeare previous all-star casts have included Jason Alexander, Tim Allen, Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Jackson Browne, Billy Crystal, Sally Field, Kelsey Grammer, Neil Patrick Harris, Faith Hill, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kate Hudson, Helen Hunt, Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Steve Martin, Sir Paul McCartney, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Matthew Perry, David Hyde Pierce, Jada Pinkett Smith, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Ray Romano,  William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Martin Short, Will Smith, Robin Williams and Renee Zellweger.



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.  SCLA continues to build community through its innovative outreach programs including “Will Power to Youth,” an academic enrichment program that combines hands-on artistic experience with paid job training and arts education for at-risk youth.  The program has been nationally recognized for its effectiveness in reducing high school dropout rate and delinquency.  More importantly, it instills a lasting sense of creativity and competency in the youth who participate.

SCLA’s “Veterans in Art” program represents an innovation in veterans programming that explores how the arts can contribute in a meaningful way in the efforts to assist veterans to recover and reintegrate into mainstream Los Angeles civilian life.  This summer’s “Shakespeare Under The Stars” professional production of “Romeo & Juliet” incorporated a full veteran workforce supporting the production and continues to offer free tickets to active military, veterans and their families and care givers.  For more information on the Simply Shakespeare benefit performance or SCLA, please visit, SCLA Twitter: and SCLA Facebook:

The SCLA Simply Shakespeare reading of “Twelfth Night” is made possible by the support of its sponsors, The Capital Group and Occidental Entertainment Holdings.


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

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