Tom Hanks leads a benefit for 'Simply Shakespeare'
Tom Hanks called the reading of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” a “comedy of errors,” referring less to the genre than to the Monday production, played strictly for laughs by event chairs Hanks and Rita Wilson, along with Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Martin Short, Christina Applegate, Arte Johnson, Eugene Levy, William Shatner, Tracey Ullman, Eric Idle, Richard Kind, Blake Silver and Kenneth Branagh, whose directing credits include not just the Shakespearean films, “Henry V” and “Hamlet,” but also “Thor.”
Taking place at UCLA’s Royce Hall, the 21st annual “Simply Shakespeare” show benefited the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. At the dessert reception, which followed a standing ovation for the actors, McIntire admitted, “I think we had more fun than the audience.”
According to Hanks, attracting such a prominent cast is merely a question of availability, naming Applegate, Shatner and Short among the regulars. Branagh said in his case, after "Thor's" opening weekend, the timing was ideal. “I thought if ("Thor") doesn’t go well, it’s a nice thing to do and if it does go well, it’s a very nice thing to do,” he said.
“For most actors worth their salt, Shakespeare is a touchstone,” said Ben Donenberg, the center’s founding artistic director. “It’s in their DNA.”
-- Ellen Olivier
Photo: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Credit: Ryan Miller / Capture Imaging