Hanks & Wilson Align Stars for Shakespeare Benefit


Star couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson assembled some of Hollywood's finest actors and musician Paul McCartney on Wednesday to read some Shakespeare for a good cause.

Wilson, board member of the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles (SCLA), and Hanks teamed up as co-chairs of the 23rd Annual "Simply Shakespeare" reading, which benefits the SCLA's community arts programs.

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The couple helped bring out actors like Martin Short, Jason Alexander, and Christina Applegate to Santa Monica's Broad Theater for a benefit reading of William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

All the proceeds from the event will be applied to SCLA's arts-based veterans employment program, youth employment program for inner-city youth, and education of the arts in local schools. Wilson said SCLA's efforts are "part of being connected to your community."

"It's a really amazing evening for the company and for all the efforts that we've been putting together to make Shakespeare accessible in Los Angeles to so many different kind of constituencies," said SCLA artistic director Ben Donenberg.

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"...We're working with all different kinds of people with whom Shakespeare can have such an important impact on their lives. It's a real thrill to have the stars come together to support us, to make the work possible."

Having flourished in the arts, the night's celebrity readers explained why they believe the arts to be so important in society.

"I think that the arts are important to everyone. ... One doesn't even know what the arts do, in a way," actor Martin Short said. "They can make you a better parent; they can make you a better neighbor; they can make you understand that it's not just about the grind of money, but it could be the understanding of why something is moving. ... We have to learn about the arts to appreciate the arts."

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actor Stephen Root went a step further and said that the arts aren't just important for understanding but are integral to life.

"The arts are everything," he said. "Without art, there is no human emotion, and human emotion is the end-all and be-all of the people on the planet. Everybody's here for that."