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Black Tie International:
26th Annual Simply Shakespeare Benefit
From left, Tom Hanks, Smokey Robinson and Ben Donenberg, Founding Artistic Director, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles arrive for the opening night of the Simply Shakespeare performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" for the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles at UCLA's Freud Playhouse on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
From left, Tom Hanks, Smokey Robinson and Ben Donenberg, Founding Artistic Director, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles arrive for the opening night of the Simply Shakespeare performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" for the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles at UCLA's Freud Playhouse on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)






Star-studded cast included:  Tom Hanks, Smokey Robinson, Christina Applegate, Martin Short, Patrick Warburton, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Jon Tenney, Phillipa Soo, John Lavelle,

 Kimberly Scott, Glynn Turman, Michaela Watkins, Fred Melamed,

Brett Dalton, Nick Few and Baron Vaughn


Los Angeles, CA (September 20, 2016) – Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks hosted The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA) 26th Annual Simply Shakespeare benefit, September 19, 2016, at the Freud Playhouse, on the UCLA Campus.  Hosted by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, the hilarious evening of impromptu Shakespeare and song featured a Motown soundtrack provided by Smokey Robinson and a star-studded cast gallivanting their way through a very condensed version of Much Ado About Nothing.   They include: Tom Hanks (Dogberry), Smokey Robinson, Christina Applegate (Beatrice), Martin Short (Verges), Patrick Warburton (Conrade), Finn Wittrock (Claudio), Hamish Linklater (Benedick), Jon Tenney (Don Pedro), Phillipa Soo (Hero), John Lavelle (Borachio), Kimberly Scott (Ursula), Glynn Turman (Leonato), Michaela Watkins (Margaret), Fred Melamed (Friar Francis), Brett Dalton (Don John), Nick Few (Messenger, Hugh Oatcake) and Baron Vaughn (George Seacole).


The evening, sponsored by Creative Artists Agency, Pacific Western Bank and Sony Pictures Entertainment, included a pre-show wine reception, 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.  These programs blend White House award-winning immersive arts engagement for youth living at the poverty threshold and chronically unemployed vets with award-winning professional union contracted productions supported by a veteran workforce.


“Our organization is fortunate to have such extraordinary and dedicated supporters,” said Ben Donenberg, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles founding Artistic Director.  “We are thrilled with this year’s event, and grateful to Rita and Tom for providing us the opportunity to showcase SCLA’s work and raise funds to support our life-changing programs for at-risk youth and veterans in our community.”


Simply Shakespeare previous all-star casts have included Sir Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, Lyle Lovett, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Kenneth Branagh,  Jason Alexander, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Mackie, Tim Allen, Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Billy Crystal, Sally Field, Kelsey Grammer, Neil Patrick Harris, Kate Hudson, Helen Hunt, Eric Idle, Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Martin,  Matthew Perry, David Hyde Pierce, Jada Pinkett Smith, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Ray Romano,  William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Martin Short, Will Smith, Sam Waterston, 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 enrolled 23 chronically unemployed veterans in technical theater training course at Santa Monica College while hiring those veterans and providing them on-the-job training backstage. Veterans In Art, SCLA’s successful transitional veterans employment initiative, provides for unemployed veterans and vets enrolled at SMC transitional summer employment in tandem with college accredited technical theater training.  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


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

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