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.”