- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Fabled storyteller William Shakespeare met his match Monday in the fabulous Judi Dench. Dame Judi, as she has been styled since 1988, claims she is no writer, but she certainly can hold the attention of a crowd. Her anecdotes and reminiscences of a long acting life were a highlight of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Will Award in the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Guess who got the award that came well into the evening before some 500 paying guests had even been served their entree? It was delivered with much panache by actor Simon Russell Beale and marked the first time Miss Dench has been in Washington since 1958, when she appeared here with the Old Vic Company. That was the year, she said, she “fell in love with America.”

America returned the favor in 1999 by giving her an Academy Award for “Shakespeare in Love.” She will be seen next in a June release, “The Chronicles of Riddick” with Vin Diesel, and appears regularly on public television in a British series, “As Time Goes By.”

Her career spans 46 years, most of it Shakespeare, she noted.

“This is one evening when the whole company pulls together,” enthusedNicholas Goldsborough, the theater’s managing director, at the program’s start. That was when he announced proudly that the event had garnered $500,000 — $100,000 more than expected — for outreach programs. All’s Will that ends well, as one wag noted.

“The company” on this occasion included Chelsea Clinton, who said a few words about happy times past when her parents recited Shakespeare to her; British Ambassador Sir David ManningandLady Manning; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Aspen Institute head Walter Isaacson; pundit and “Hardball” host Chris Matthewsand TV’sKathleen Matthews; columnist Arianna Huffington; business entrepreneur and philanthropist Nigel Morris(who received a Service to the Arts award); event co-chairman Sen. Ted Stevens; and actors Harry Hamlin, Avery Brooks, Naomi Jacobson, Sabrina Le Beauf, Ted van Griethuysen, Helen Carey, Nancy Robinette, Casey Biggs, Floyd King andKeith Baxter.

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