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Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Join HENRY IV at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles


Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Join HENRY IV at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA), under the artistic direction of Ben Donenberg, returns to The Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus with a new production - "Henry IV" - condensing two of Shakespeare's plays and staged by Tony Award winning director Daniel Sullivan. The world-class acting company includes Tom Hanks as Falstaff and Rita Wilson; with additional cast members to be announced shortly, as confirmed. Tom Ware is the executive producer.

Sullivan has distilled the exploits of Falstaff - "the villainous and abominable misleader of youth" - and his ne'er-do-well protégé Prince Hal from "Henry IV Parts One and Two," into one evening of Shakespeare's finest comedy and most touching drama.

"Henry IV" will only have four weeks of evening, outdoor performances beginning June 5 (press opening June 8) and ending July 1. The Japanese Garden is located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus, which may be entered at 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90073.

Interested patrons may enter their names into an online email list at, and will be notified when tickets become available.

The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, has also arranged to set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible veterans and active members of the military free of charge; they may enter their names to an email list also found at to receive information about reservations when they become available.

Artistic director Ben Donenberg said, "We're grateful to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the leaders of the West LA VA for this opportunity to bring our company to the Japanese Garden at the VA." Donenberg continued, "We're hiring and training 40 veterans to work on this production alongside consummate theater professionals to tell a riveting story about the forging of a Shakespearean hero. We're proud to bring the vision of one of the American theatre's most esteemed Broadway directors and the talents a world-class cast lead by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, our long-time supporters, to this very special venue."

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, have been long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through their twenty-six consecutive years of hosting and participating in Simply Shakespeare, a no holds barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness.

Others who have performed in the Simply Shakespeare series, staged by Donenberg, have included Sir Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kenneth Branagh, Will Smith, Steve Martin, Cedric the Entertainer, Dule Hill, Helen Hunt, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Martin Short, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Tim McGRaw, Ewan MacGregor, Jack Browne, Tracy Ullman, and Eric Idle.

Noted theatre director Daniel Sullivan has directed over 30 Broadway productions, and at least as many Off-Broadway, including 10 for The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. In the current Broadway season, Sullivan is represented by "Saint Joan" at Manhattan Theatre Club, and "John Lithgow: Stories by Heart." Among his Broadway credits are "The Little Foxes," "The Homecoming," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Julius Caesar," "Morning's at Seven," "I'm Not Rappaport," "A Moon for the Misbegotten," "The Heidi Chronicles," "Conversations with My Father," "Ah, Wilderness!", "The Sisters Rosensweig" and "Proof."

Among his Off-Broadway credits are "The Merchant of Venice," "The Night Watcher," "Twelfth Night," "A Midsummer's Night Dream," "Intimate Apparel," "Stuff Happens," "Far East," "Spinning into Butter," and "Dinner With Friends." He has served as Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre from 1981 to 1997. He is the Swanlund Professor of Theatre at University of Illionis, Urbana-Champaign.

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles and VA Campus

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has 37 years of award-winning history in Los Angeles. For "Henry IV," an intimate stage with cushioned theatrical seating will be constructed on the meadow at The Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus by a veteran workforce. Dozens of picnic tables are available for pre-show picnic dinners. No alcohol is permitted at the West LA VA, as it is federal property with specific regulations. SCLA has produced critically acclaimed plays in this location between 1991-93 and 2011-2014.

Ben Donenberg, SCLA's artistic director notes, "The VA location speaks to our mission to present Shakespeare in urgent, vital, relevant, and accessible ways that reflect the history, landscape and people of Los Angeles. Our work with the VA and veterans inspires personal and community transformation.

Ann Brown, Director, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said, "It's exciting to partner with The Shakespeare Center to provide our Veterans incredible opportunities like the chance to work alongside professional actors, and to view live entertainment right here on the West LA VA campus. Partnerships like this one are vital to bringing the vision for this campus to life and to transform it into a vibrant, welcoming, Veteran-centric community."

Of past Japanese Garden productions, Don Shirley wrote in LA Stage Times, "This brings us to the biggest Shakespearean news of the season - the return of the Shakespeare Center to summer activity. The venue is the Japanese Garden ... a great place for a summertime idyll, with an accomplished cast." Les Spindle on wrote, "A joyously entertaining outdoors staging of Shakespeare's rollicking romantic comedy under the summer stars. Sarah Spitz said in the Santa Monica Daily Press, "There's no delight quite like Shakespeare performed in a magical outdoor venue on a summer's night. The mark of terrific Shakespeare is the ability of the actors to breathe fresh life into it. This cast of actors does that masterfully. A truly enchanted evening."

In 1986, The Shakespeare Center, then operating as Shakespeare Festival/LA, presented the first Summer Festival, with performances of "Twelfth Night" in Pershing Square, where it launched a 'Food for Thought' admission policy that generated more than $2 million in non-perishable foodstuffs for the needy in lieu of admission. In 1993, SCLA expanded to offer outreach programs such as Will Power to Youth and employment and enrichment program that combines hands-on artistic experience with paid job training, specifically created to provide an arts immersion for at-risk youth. In January 2000, SCLA purchased and moved into its permanent downtown headquarters.

In recent years, SCLA has been a national leader and innovator in the field of arts and human services. Partnerships have included the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Mental Health, US Department of Veteran Affairs, Arts and Healthcare, Volt Workforce Solutions in Anaheim, and the Linked Learning office of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

This year, SCLA has expanded partnerships with Linked Learning to serve even more students with our youth employment initiative and Santa Monica College, host for the educational dimension of Veterans In Art.

WHY SHAKESPEARE: Inspirational documentary created by the National Endowment for the Arts features the award winning programs, people and staff of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles and is available by clicking on YouTube.

Ben Donenberg is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA). As a director of award-winning populist interpretations of Shakespeare, Ben has received local awards and national recognition from two United States Presidents, Actors' Equity Association, NAACP, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, California Educational Theatre Association, and the Mayor of Los Angeles. He held a six-year Presidential appointment to the National Council on the Arts, and in 2012, he was selected by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to participate in the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, where he had the great privilege of a brief immersion in the training rigors, simulated combat conditions, and after-math of combat experienced by military personnel from all five branches of the United States Armed Forces. He has lectured on theatre aesthetics at University of Southern California, the Huntington Library, and SCLA's award-winning Will Power teacher training seminars.

Among his credits as a director, his "Much Ado About Nothing" at Center Theatre Group starred Helen Hunt, Tom Irwin and Lyle Lovett. There were also two memorable productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" one featuring Natalie Cole Tom Hanks, William Shatner, Tracey Ullman, Geoffrey Rush, Christina Applegate, Rita Wilson, Zack Braff, and Kate Hudson and the other for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Tom Ware (Executive Producer) has over 200 theatrical productions to his credit. In the course of his 20-year tenure as Producing Director at the venerable Pasadena Playhouse, Tom produced 26 World Premiers including development of Broadway's "Accomplice," book by Rupert Holmes; Solitary Confinement, book by Rupert Holmes; Jonathan Tolins' "Twilight of the Golds"; Mathew Lombardo's "Looped;" "Baby It's You," book by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott; and "Sister Act" the Musical with book by Cheri & Bill Steinkellner, lyrics by Glen Slater and music by Alan Menken and the Off-Broadway production of "Vanities: the Musical" with book by Jack Heifner and music & lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. As Senior Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, Tom led the development of the live entertainment program on the seven live-performance stages at Shanghai Disney Resort, China.

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