Those attending the current four-week run of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of “Henry IV” at the West Los Angeles VA Campus may immediately recognize Tom Hanks as Falstaff, but what they probably don’t realize is that a crew of Veterans not only built the stage, but are also working behind the scenes to make the production a success.

“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,” said Ann Brown, director of VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “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.”

“Henry IV” performances began June 5 and run through July 1 at the Japanese Garden located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible Veterans and active duty service members free of charge.  To find out more on these tickets, visit to receive information about reservations when they become available.

“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,” said Ben Donenberg, the founder and executive artistic director of The Shakespeare Center prior to construction.  “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 26 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.

“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,” Donenberg said. “Our work with the VA and Veterans inspires personal and community transformation.”

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Published on Jun. 13, 2018

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  1. Joe DiMiceli June 17, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    In the 1980s my play “CASUALTIES” , depicting the combat nurses from Vietnam and their struggle to recover from PTSD (before it had this name) was produced off-Broadway and was also performed at the Bronx VA Hospital. The performance at the hospital was the greatest experience of my life and I have often wondered if I should have pursued production opportunities at the VA. Never too late, could you direct me to the office that would handle theater productions. Thanks.

    • ben donenberg June 24, 2018 at 10:11 am

      Maybe begin with office of public affairs?

  2. andy June 16, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    the VA I do not trust any more. They had me so over medicated I almost killed myself. I would rather die than go there. Every time I would go there I would see a different doctor and he or she would prescribe a medication and never told me to stop all the others. The VA healthcare sucks. They don’t give a dam for us Vets. Sorry but that is how I feel and I am in Grants Pass OR

  3. Richard Hoffman June 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Ann and Ben: What a wonderful project you both have initiated and brought to fruition !!!! MANY kudos to Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks and all the other professionals. who donated their time, effort and talents to you and the production… I second Kelly’s suggestion as to there hast to be a way to ‘SYNDICATE” your project to other major cities where US Department of Veterans centers may be located… or other areas where they are not… You have developed the “embryo” and hope that there is a way to make it grow….. You both, and Rita and Tom and the rest of the cast and crew are to be congratulated for what you have accomplished ……. THUMBS UP !!!!!!! WINNERS ALL THE WAY !!!

    • ben donenberg June 24, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Thank you Richard. Where in the VA system are you?

  4. Kelley L McMahan June 15, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    This is a fantastic idea that so many have worked so hard to breath life into. Is there any way this could be exported to other areas around the country? I feel that this is something that many many more could benefit from.

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