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Actors Fund Celebrates Shakespeare's Birthday and Breaks Ground on Actors Fund Home Expansion

For Immediate Release

ACTORS’ FUND OF AMERICA CELEBRATES SHAKESPEARE’S BIRTHDAY AND BREAKS GROUND ON ACTORS’ FUND HOME EXPANSION

April 3, 2006, Englewood, NJ – The Actors’ Fund will celebrate Shakespeare’s 442nd birthday at noon on Monday, April 17, with a birthday party and groundbreaking ceremony at The Lillian Booth Actors’ Home, the New Jersey residence for retired entertainment professionals.  The celebration will feature a reading from Shakespeare by renowned actor James Earl Jones and the official groundbreaking for the renovation and expansion of The Fund’s assisted living and skilled nursing care facility.

The first retirement home for “theatricals” in this country was established by the late, and legendary, Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest.  In a verbose will, the flamboyant actor left the bulk of his vast estate to establish “an institution that shall be for the support of actors and actresses decayed by age or disabled by infirmity.”  In 1872, his country home near modern-day Northeast Philadelphia was transformed into the Edwin Forrest Home for Indigent Actors. The home moved to Philadelphia's Parkside Avenue during the 1920's and again in the 1980's to Englewood, New Jersey, when it became part of The Actors’ Fund assisted living facility.  Forrest’s will dictated that the Declaration of Independence be read to the home’s residents every Fourth of July and that an annual celebration be held in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday.  These traditions live on at The Actors’ Fund Home in New Jersey.

The annual Shakespeare’s Birthday celebration has been graced by performances such as Actors’ Fund Trustee Lynn Redgrave performing selections from her one-woman show, Shakespeare For My Father, Rosemary Harris (with selections from Henry VIII), Zoe Caldwell, Simon Jones, Corin Redgrave and Tony Randall.  This year, the legendary James Earl Jones will read The Quality of Mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice.   

Jones possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices in entertainment history.  His performances as Lear and Othello are towering achievements, and as the voice of Darth Vader he is evil incarnate to millions of Star Wars fans.  He is recognized by theatergoers as one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary playwrights such as August Wilson and is adored by a generation of children who know him as the voice of Mufasa in Disney’s animated film, The Lion King.  This celebrated actor has received numerous awards, including two Tonys, four Emmys, a Golden Globe, two Cable ACEs, two OBIEs, five Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy.

The reading will be followed by an official groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation and expansion of The Lillian Booth Actors’ Fund Home hosted by Actors’ Fund president Brian Stokes Mitchell.  Mitchell will be joined by Actors’ Fund executive director, Joe Benincasa, and members of The Actors’ Fund Board of Trustees.  The celebration will continue with a lunch reception and the cutting of Shakespeare’s birthday cake.  For more information on the event, please call 212.221.7300, ext. 128.

The Actors Fund is a nationwide human services organization that helps all professionals - both performers and those behind the scenes - in performing arts and entertainment.  Founded in 1882, The Fund serves those in film, theatre, television, music, opera, and dance with a broad spectrum of programs including comprehensive social services, health services, supportive and affordable housing, emergency financial assistance, employment and training services, and skilled nursing and assisted living care.  Administered from offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, The Actors Fund is a safety net, providing programs and services for those who are in need, crisis, or transition.  Please visit The Actors Fund website at www.actorsfund.org.