The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is cause for celebration in Beverly Hills with Hollywood celebrities and English Thespians. So the Bard of Avon will be feted at events and festivities surrounding the 10th anniversary of BritWeek in Los Angeles.
BritWeek events are set to observe the creative bond between the United Kingdom and California. And the announcement of all the festivities being held for this year’s BritWeek in Los Angeles was a grand occasion for British performers (including Judy Geeson, of To Sir With Love fame, and Jane Carr, from the BBC’s Upstairs Downstairs) along with American actors (Joely Fisher, ‘Til Death sitcom, and Knots Landing’s Joan Van Ark, among others), to get together to sip a veddy proper cup of tea. They chatted about their love of Shakespeare and also analyzed the Bard’s works at a reception at Beverly Hills City Hall.
BritWeek chairman and co-founder Bob Peirce welcomed everyone, along with Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch, who hosted the tea and press conference to recognize the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and the start of the 10th annual BritWeek.
Michael York seemed to add a spirited touch of heresy to the affair when he brought up the debate about the real authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. The Oxford graduate and Austin Powers star revealed over his long career, “I’ve never played the role of Richard III, and I’m thrilled that I’ll do it for BritWeek.”
About 40 events will be presented around LA. But arguably the crown jewel of the schedule is a star–studded evening of Shakespearean performances titled “Murder, Lust & Madness.” Joely Fisher will co-host the show with Ioan Gruffudd. It’s already sold out for the one night only April 23 show at The Wallis Annenberg Theatre in Beverly Hills, thanks to the impressive mix of renowned actors. Along with Michael York will be Sir Patrick Stewart, Judy Geeson, Joan Van Ark, Jane Carr, Harry Hamlin, Stacy Keach, Jimmy Akingbola (Arrow), Jack Lowe (War & Peace), Neil Dickson (Julius Caesar) , Lexie Helgerson (As Good As Dead), and more. They will perform scenes in the tribute show produced and directed by noted Shakespeare scholar Louis Fantasia.
“Literally, all the world is still Shakespeare’s stage, and I am thrilled that we are presenting the ‘Murder, Lust & Madness’ theme in verse, prose, song and dance with some of the most passionate plays,” Fantasia reported. “Even though this is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we are actually celebrating the life and works of the greatest playwright and poet in the English language. To paraphrase the Bard himself ‘We come to praise Shakespeare, not to bury him’.”
“Shakespeare is every actor’s first love. This wickedly delicious entertainment will show why as we honor the Bard’s understanding of human nature,” said Peirce.
Joan Van Ark, who will be playing Lady Macbeth, noted that “the relevance of Shakespeare’s themes with today’s political climate will not be lost on anyone. Like peeling an onion, there are many layers to be explored with the complex role of someone who is devious and has an agenda.” And Lexie Helgerson, who has the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, told this reporter, “The story of a 13-year-old girl’s passionate experience falling in love for the first time rings true today as it did more than 400 years ago when it was first performed.”
After presenting a proclamation to mark the occasion, Beverly Hills Mayor Mirisch spoke of Shakespeare’s enduring allure and continued relevance 400 years after his death. “So much of life’s wisdom is found in Shakespeare,” Mayor Mirisch said. “We are forever enriched because he saw the world as ‘this great stage of fools’ with all its humor, sadness and desire.”
BritWeek is a non–profit organization, started in Los Angeles in 2007 by Nigel Lythgoe and the then Consul General Bob Peirce, to highlight the creative relationship between the United Kingdom and California. The event has become a global forum that puts the spotlight on British excellence and influence in films television, music, fine art, street art, fashion, cuisine, architecture, design, automotive, computer science and sport. Key events for the 10th anniversary include the BritWeek UKTI Business Innovation Awards on April 27, honoring Simon Fuller as Entrepreneur of the Year. BritWeek’s May 1st gala at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica will also delight Anglophiles.
To learn more about BritWeek events go to www.britweek.org