Tom Hanks at the Hanna' benefits GLTF

August 31, 2009


Cleveland, Ohio -- Cleveland, a city perennially desperate for something to cheer about, can now let loose three hip-hip-hoorays, for Great Lakes Theater Festival, PlayhouseSquare and Tom Hanks.

The world's most bankable movie star will return to his Buckeye roots on Monday, Oct. 12, to perform "Tom Hanks at the Hanna" at PlayhouseSquare's historic Hanna Theatre as a fund-raiser for his alma mater, Great Lakes.

Top tickets, priced at $250 and including dinner with Hanks, go on sale today. Cheaper seats, at $75, will be available later. Proceeds will go toward raising the last $600,000 in Great Lakes' $18.3 million campaign to pay for the Hanna's renovation.

Hanks is bigger than big, according to boxofficemojo.com and imdb.com.

The Internet movie-tracking sites say that Hanks' films have earned a record $3.5 billion, that he personally made up to $49 million for "Angels and Demons," and that he has two films for 2010 (including "Toy Story 3"), with another dozen projects in development.

But Hanks has never been too rich, too famous or too busy to help out the place where he got his first acting job fresh out of college in 1977 for $45 a week, at the theater then called Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival and housed at Lakewood Civic Auditorium.

Calling himself the "generalissimo" of the campaign in a Plain Dealer interview when he signed up last August to be the honorary chairman, Hanks has allowed Great Lakes to publish a letter and a statement he wrote endorsing the campaign.

Now he's following through on a promise to perform at the Hanna, Cleveland's storied 1921 Broadway touring house that reopened last September as Great Lakes' state-of-the-art new home. If it sells out, "Hanks at the Hanna" alone could generate just shy of $73,000.

While he's in town, Hanks has also agreed to appear at several private fund-raising events and to be interviewed before an audience of students by NPR's Scott Simon for "Backstage With . . ." an education series sponsored by PlayhouseSquare and WVIZ Channel 25.

But that's not all, said Charles Fee, producing artistic director of Great Lakes.

"It's not only about him raising money at the events, it's about Tom coming back and saying, 'This is really important to the city and to the theater,'" Fee said.

"It's about him saying how much Great Lakes means to him, what a theater means to a community. It's about him cheering us on to the finish line."

Hanks served as an intern and earned his Actors' Equity Association card at Great Lakes, became a local star there in 1978, and returned for a third summer the following year before departing for TV's "Bosom Buddies."

After Great Lakes moved to PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre in 1982, Hanks came back twice - in 1991 and 1993 - to perform at benefits aimed at bailing the theater out of perennial debt.

He raised a lot of money, but the company remained mired in debt until sometime after Fee took over the company in 2002 and helped form a partnership with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Thanks to theatergoers curious about the Hanna, the classical theater company saw an increase in ticket sales last season while many theaters around the country declined.

That adds to up to the Hanna-Great Lakes-PlayhouseSquare collaboration being "a stupendous project," Hanks said in last year's interview.

The movie star's enthusiasm for Great Lakes is no act, said Cleveland actress Lucy Bredeson-Smith, who appeared opposite Hanks when he took on one of the title roles in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in 1978.

"Everything you hear about him is true," said Bredeson-Smith, who stays in touch with Hanks. "He's lots of fun, he's incredibly good as an actor, and he's a really nice guy."

By Tony Brown

Source : Cleveland Live