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The Edwin Forrest Society Celebrates Shakespeare’s 448th!

April 26, 2012

Celebrating Shakespeare's birthday at The Lillian Booth Actors Home: Jordan Strohl, Norm Lewis, Edwin Forrest Society Member Gloria Thomas Justin, Wally Munro, and Joe Benincasa.

The Bard turned 448-years-young on Monday, and as is our tradition at The Actors Fund, we marked the occasion with our annual Edwin Forrest Day celebrations.

The Philadelphia-born Edwin Forrest (1806–1872) was America’s first great internationally-acclaimed actor. Incredibly popular (so much so, in fact, that he was one of the two actors whose Shakespearian rivalry spurred New York City’s infamous Astor Place Riot in 1849), he used his fame to help change society’s perception of the people who worked in the theatrical community — who were considered, at the time, to be among the lowest of the low.

When he died, Forrest left his estate to found Philadelphia’s Edwin Forrest Home for retired actors (which merged with The Lillian Booth Actors Home in 1990). Additionally, this great actor and humanitarian requested two other things in his will: That we read The Declaration of Independence every July Fourth, and mark William Shakespeare’s birthday with a reading of his work, which we dutifully do every year in Los Angeles and Englewood.

On Thursday, April 19th, the Los Angeles Edwin Forrest Day event was hosted by Edwin Forrest Society member and new Western Council member John Bowab in his West Hollywood home. Charlotte Rae spoke about The Fund’s Gift Annuity program, and the legendary Michael York honored the guests with a reading of excerpts from Henry V, Hamlet and two sonnets.

From the Los Angeles event: Back row – David Rambo, John Holly, John Bowab, Ilene Graff, Barbara Allyne Bennet, Daniel Henning, Budd Friedman and Keith McNutt. Front row- Danny Goldman, Richard Herd, Jomarie Ward, Charlotte Rae, Dale Olson, Michael York, Wally Munro.

On Monday the 23rd, Norm Lewis led the celebrations at The Lillian Booth Actors Home, reading an excerpt of Antony’s famous speech at Caesar’s grave from Julius Caesar — highlights of which are in our video below:

The name of this great actor and humanitarian also lives on in The Actors Fund’s Edwin Forrest Society, membership in which is granted to those who have included a gift to The Fund in their estate plan. For more information on the Edwin Forrest Society, please call Wallace Munro, Director of Planned Giving, at 212.221.7300 ext. 128, or e-mail wmunro@actorsfund.org.

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