Shakespeare not a hit with voters in online charity contest


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William Shakespeare would be a front-runner if experts were to vote on the greatest creative artist of all time, but he was just an also-ran in the Chase Community Giving competition, an online charity-by-popular-vote contest that ended Wednesday night.

JPMorgan Chase will donate $3.125 million to the top 25 vote-getters; the other 75 -– including the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, which finished 51st -- get $25,000 each for making the final round of 100. In all, Chase will donate $5 million based on voters’ clicks for the charitable “Big Ideas” posted on its contest’s page on Facebook.

Whatever else the Bard may be, he isn’t Jewish -– and the get-out-the-vote campaign was strongest in some sectors of the Jewish community, which led to five of the top 10 finishers, and seven of the top 15 being Jewish-affiliated organizations, six of them schools. The top prize of $525,000 will go to the New York-based Chabad of Argentina Relief Appeal, whose “Big Idea” is a program to help Argentine youngsters who are at risk of child abuse.


The top Los Angeles-area finisher, the Conejo Jewish School of Thousand Oaks, came in sixth and will get $125,000 for its area-wide initiative against bullying, which includes developing online videos and other teaching materials to be circulated in schools. The foundation that supports the Arcadia Unified School District gets $45,000 for finishing 21st.

Despite some Twitter-based help from Bard-friendly celebrities, including Tom Hanks, William Shatner, Reba McEntire and Christina Applegate, the 1,961 votes the Shakespeare Center mustered left it more than 25,000 behind the winner. Its proposal called for expanding its Will Power program, which provides summer jobs for teens as they learn the ropes of the theatrical trade and also assists Shakespearean learning in city schools. Founding artistic director Ben Donenberg had hoped to extend the job-training to recently discharged military veterans.

That proposal still has a chance: Chase has set aside an additional $500,000 that won’t be distributed according to the popular vote. Five of the final round’s also-rans will be chosen by an advisory board for further review; the board will award $200,000 to one and distribute $300,000 among the rest.

The top arts vote-getter was Pennsylvania-based Youth Education in the Arts, which will use its $225,000 fourth-place money to launch March 4 Music, a nationwide fund-raising campaign for high school band programs. Other arts groups -– apart from four drum-and-bugle corps -- were the National Assn. for Music Education (37th), Music For All (38th), the Wheeling (W.Va.) Symphony (48th), Symphony Silicon Valley (59th), Kansas City (Mo.) Repertory Theatre (75th), Women Make Movies Inc. of New York City (85th) and Architecture for Humanity of San Francisco (95th).


Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ online bid for the Bard


-- Mike Boehm

Photos, from top: Laurence Olivier as Hamlet in the eponymous 1948 film; Marlon Brando as Marc Antony in the 1953 film “Julius Caesar.” Credits: United Press International; file photo.