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WASHINGTON, D.C.— Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) will award DAME EILEEN ATKINS the prestigious William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (Will Award) for her exceptional contributions to the classics through her performance of Shakespearean drama, adaptations of modern classics and period-set television series. The celebration will take place at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 27th annual Gala at Sidney Harman Hall and will be hosted by Shakespeare Theatre Company’s new Artistic Director SIMON GODWIN. STC will also honor MICHAEL R. KLEIN with the Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts, in recognition of his generous support of STC and his philanthropic leadership with local, national and international reach.  SENATOR CHRISTOPHER COONS (D-DE) and CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY) will each receive the inaugural Shakespeare Theatre Company Arts on the Hill Award. This newly minted award recognizes a member from both the Senate and the House who have a demonstrated belief in the central importance of the arts in American life.

Dame Eileen Atkins will receive the Will Award in recognition of her outstanding career on the stage in classical theatre and as a writer and performer of historical dramas. “Dame Eileen Atkins is one of our most remarkable classical actors,” Godwin declares. Early in her career, Atkins performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (1957–1959) and Old Vic (1961–1962) theatres, playing roles such as Viola, Miranda, St. Joan and Elizabeth I. She has performed in theatres throughout the United Kingdom, winning four Olivier Awards and three more nominations, two Drama Desk Awards and three other nominations, two British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, as well as Emmy and Tony nominations. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on her birthday in June 16, 2001.

The beloved British series Upstairs, Downstairs and The House of Eliot were co-created by Atkins with her writing partner, Jean Marsh. Virginia Woolf’s tumultuous life and tragic end inspired some of Atkins’s most famous works, such as the screenplay for the 1997 film Mrs. Dalloway, her award-winning, one-woman show Vita and Virginia, and her distinguished turn as Woolf in the stage and television adaptations of A Room of One’s Own.

“I have followed her distinguished career with delight and awe, and I am so proud that Shakespeare Theatre Company can honor her achievements in this way,” Godwin continues. “Eileen embodies so many of the values of STC—her belief in the classics made popular, her total commitment to the actor’s craft and her dedication to the life-changing power of the stage. This will be an unforgettable moment in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s history.”

Atkins joins notable theatre artists and creators who have previously received the award, including: Annette Bening, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Charles Dance, Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Morgan Freeman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Hurt, Jeremy Irons, Stacy Keach, Kevin Kline,  Laura Linney, Sir Ian McKellen, Christopher Plummer, Phylicia Rashad, Dame Diana Rigg,  Fiona Shaw, Dame Maggie Smith, Kevin Spacey, Sir Patrick Stewart, Julie Taymor, Christopher Walken, Sam Waterston, the late Joseph Papp and Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn.

For his dedication to Shakespeare Theatre Company’s mission, including his twelve-year tenure as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Shakespeare Theatre Company, and his commitment to and leadership of many arts, environmental and public interest nonprofit organizations, the Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts will be presented to Michael R. Klein. In June 2018, after serving several years as its Vice Chairman, Klein was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the nation’s leading summer program for advanced education of succeeding generations of classical musicians. In the non-profit world, Mike has been involved in a wide array of organizations, including The American Himalayan Foundation and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

“From the moment I met Mike, I was humbled by his grace, charisma and intelligence,” Godwin recalls. “Not only has Mike demonstrated astonishing generosity in supporting STC during his tenure as Chairman of the Board, he also been an inspiration to the staff, sharing his wisdom on so many levels—from his strategic vision to always to nurturing the next generation of artists and audiences. STC is only one part of Mike’s wide-ranging philanthropic projects, which extend as well to education, science and the environment. Mike makes the world a better place for us all. I am so looking forward to honoring and celebrating his transformative influence.”

Senator Christopher Coons is being recognized for his prominent support for Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Engagement and Education Department, which serves students in every D.C. Public and Public Charter High School, providing in-school workshops, free supplemental material and free or deeply subsidized tickets and transportation to theatrical performances. Since 2015, he has participated in STC’s annual benefit Will on the Hill, an event that welcomes Members of Congress and distinguished Washington influencers onto the Shakespearean stage for a one-night-only bipartisan comedy performance. The Shakespeare Theatre Company reaches nearly 20,000 students, teachers and community members every year through education and community programs, and Will on the Hill remains vital to its continued success and scope. The Senator’s daughter Maggie Coons has appeared alongside him in Will on the Hill performances. Senator Coons is also a staunch supporter for arts and arts education within his home state of Delaware.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik champions the importance of supporting creativity and innovation for practical applications in the sciences through her role as a co-chair for the Congressional STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) Caucus. She has co-introduced the bills Building STEAM Education Act and STEM to STEAM Act of 2019. In these bipartisan bills, co-led with Congresswoman and co-chair of the Congressional STEAM Caucus Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman James Langevin (D-RI), Congresswoman Stefanik argues for the inclusion of arts education alongside STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She understands the centrality of the arts to the redevelopment of urban centers and to economic vitality and innovative growth within rural communities. She also co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-MA), buttressing her commitment to arts funding and arts education. 

“Senator Coons and Congresswoman Stefanik epitomize the best of public service and promotion of culture. They brilliantly demonstrate how integral the arts are to American identity, ingenuity and innovation,” states Simon Godwin, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s incoming artistic director.

“This Gala marks my first as STC’s new Artistic Director,” explains Godwin. “It’s a chance for me to meet many of the people who make Washington the amazing city it is, and to celebrate the theatre’s glorious past and golden future. I can’t wait to open the house and welcome everyone in.” Godwin will host the awardees, performers, and over 500 influential arts, business, political and philanthropic leaders who will attend this annual event. The evening will begin at the National Building Museum with a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by a dinner, and then onto the Gala performances and dancing at Sidney Harman Hall.

Performances at this year’s Gala will be themed around STC’s family-friendly winter holiday production, Peter Pan, and audiences are sure to be delighted as Godwin leads the festivities at the theatre Where Classics Never Grow Old.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact or KayCee Tucker, Director of Development Events and Operations, at 202.547.3230 ext. 2330.

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Dame Eileen Atkins joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1957 and married fellow actor Julian Glover. From the late 1950s Eileen starred in BBC TV dramas along with Judi Dench, and earned numerous BAFTA nominations. She made her Broadway debut in 1966 in The Killing of Sister George for which she landed her first (of four) Tony Award nominations for Best Actress. With Jean Marsh, she created the award-winning drama series Upstairs, Downstairs (1971) and The House of Eliott (1991).  Starring again with Judi Dench in the TV drama Cranford (2008) she won a Bafta and an Emmy for the role of Deborah Jenkyns.  Her first love is the theatre and she has appeared on Broadway many times to great acclaim.  She starred with Maggie Smith in the play A Delicate Balance (1997) which earned her an Evening Standard Best Performance Award. With Maggie again, they appeared in Robert Altman’s film Gosford Park in 2001. Americans will have seen her most recently playing Queen Mary in The Crown on Netflix as well as appearing—alongside her friends, acting partners and fellow Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright—in the recent documentary Tea with the Dames.


Chris Coons was elected to the United States Senate in 2010 following terms as New Castle County Council President and New Castle County Executive. In the Senate, he sits on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Foreign Relations, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Ethics Committees.

Before entering government, Chris worked as an attorney for W.L. Gore & Associates, an advanced materials manufacturer in Delaware. As a law student, Chris founded the Delaware chapter of the national “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which helps low-income students make the academic journey from elementary school through college. Shortly after receiving his law degree and clerking on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Chris began working at the organization’s national office, where he launched and ran its AmeriCorps program in 15 cities.

Chris graduated from Amherst College with a BA in chemistry and political science, and earned a law degree from Yale Law School and a Master’s in Ethics from Yale Divinity School. A longtime New Castle County resident, Chris lives in Wilmington with his wife, Annie, and their three children, Michael, Jack and Maggie.


For the past dozen years, Michael R. Klein has chaired the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. From the opening of the Harman Center for the Arts to the recruitment of Simon Godwin as a successor to Michael Kahn, Mr. Klein has been a model steward of this institution. For that alone, he deserves recognition—but his contributions to STC are only a small part of his commitment to the arts writ large.

Mr. Klein is currently also the Chairman of the Board of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the nation’s premier summer classical music festival and education program. He served as President of the Pen Faulkner Foundation, the creator of the nation’s premier literary prizes for new fiction. He was the Chairman and co-founder of Zenith Gallery.  In the arena of culinary arts, he was the Chairman of two of D.C.’s finest, indeed legendary, restaurants—Le Pavillon and Le Paradou—and is currently a partner and director of José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, with more than 30 restaurants in D.C. and around the world. Finally, Mike is a Vice Chairman of the American Himalayan Foundation, which supports cultural restoration as well as general health and educational programs throughout Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and the Indian Himalayas.

Mr. Klein’s philanthropy has extended beyond the arts.  He founded and has funded three ongoing public interest projects: the Sunlight Foundation, which led the way to using IT to enhance transparency in politics and oversight of government; the Gun Violence Archive, an online website that researches, stores and makes available to all information about every verifiable use of guns in America; and the Keeling Curve Prize, designed to recognize and encourage the best innovations to reduce the causes of global warming. In addition, he is a major supporter of the Berkman Klein Center on the Internet and Society at Harvard University, where he also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Law School.

Business successes have been a motivator and facilitator of Mr. Klein’s philanthropic activities.  Principal among these is CoStar Group, Inc., a D.C.-based, publicly traded company that he co-founded and still chairs, which provides the basic information and software system services to the commercial, retail and multi-family sectors of the real estate industry in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. He is also Vice Chairman of Tutor Perini Corporation, the nation’s largest publicly traded construction company.


Congresswoman Elise Stefanik proudly represents New York’s 21st District in the House of Representatives in her third term in office. She is a Member of the Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Education and Labor, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. On the Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Stefanik serves as Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and is a Member of the Subcommittee on Readiness. On the Committee on Education and Labor, she serves on the Subcommittees on Higher Education & Workforce Development and Civil Rights & Human Services. Additionally, she serves as Chair of the House Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force.

Congresswoman Stefanik is proudly the youngest Republican woman ever elected to Congress in United States history.

Prior to winning her election to Congress, Congresswoman Stefanik worked at her family’s small business called Premium Plywood Products that was founded in Upstate New York over twenty years ago. Growing up in her family’s small business, she learned, lived and understands the values of hard work, perseverance, challenges and risk that go along with building, operating and growing small businesses that provide jobs in today’s Upstate economy.

Congresswoman Stefanik was born and raised in Upstate New York. She graduated cum laude from Albany Academy for Girls, the oldest continuous all-girls school in the country. She lives in Schuylerville, NY, with her husband Matt.


Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is the nation’s leading premier classical theatre company. Today, STC is synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theatre more accessible to audiences in and around the nation’s capital. Under the leadership of retiring Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Executive Director Chris Jennings, STC’s innovative productions inspire dialogue that connects classic works to the modern human experience. The Company focuses on works with profound themes, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the playwrights he influenced in order to preserve and promote classic theatre—ambitious, enduring plays with universal themes—for all audiences. With the arrival of new Artistic Director Simon Godwin, the Company’s mission expands with a three-year initiative to produce family-friendly theatre during the holidays, and an expansion of the definition of “classic” to include playwrights previously excluded from the canon to produce high-quality, exciting, inclusive theatre.

A leader in arts education, STC has a stable of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages, from school programs and adult acting classes to accessible community programming like play-relevant discussion series and the Free for All. For the past 27 years the Free For All program has offered an annual remount of a popular production completely free of charge to all audience members.

Located in downtown Washington, D.C., STC performs in two theatres, the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre and the 761-seat Sidney Harman Hall. In addition to STC productions appearing year-round, these spaces also accommodate presentations from outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. The Company has been a fixture in the vibrant Penn Quarter neighborhood since 1992.

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