GLENDALE–The Armenian National Committee of America — Western Region announced his week that well-known French Armenian actor Simon Abkarian will be the Master of Ceremonies for the ANCA-WR Annual Banquet on November 12, 2006. The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet regularly draws over 700 dignitaries, prominent Members of Congress and state legislators, as well as Armenian American community leaders and political activists. The annual event is the largest of its kind and helps raise funds to operate the nation’s largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots and political advocacy organization. The Annual Banquet includes an awards ceremony, during which the ANCA-WR recognizes individuals who have contributed to the awareness and advancement of Armenian issues. This year, the ANCA-WR will honor Bob Collins, Chief Instructional Officer for Secondary Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, with the Man of the Year Award. Mr. Collins will be recognized for his leading role in implementing the Armenian Genocide curriculum in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The awards ceremony will be emceed by actor Simon Abkarian. Abkarian was born in Gonesse, France. He spent most of his early life in France and Lebanon and was an active member of the Armenian Youth Federation. He was trained as a dancer with the Lori Dance Ensemble in Beirut and the Antranik Company in New York. He also studied mask work at the Commedia dell’ Arte with Georges Bigot in Los Angeles. He had a lengthy collaboration with Ariane Mnouchkine and the Theatre du Soleil, playing leading roles in Greek tragedies, where he became known for his charismatic performances. In 2001, Abkarian received the Moliere, the highest honor in French theater for an actor, for his performance in Une Bte Sur La Lune. He has also directed several theater productions, including Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor Lost at the Bouffes du Nord, The Last Song of Troy of Aeschylus at Bobigny, and Titus Andronicus at Theatre National de Chaillot. In YES (2005), a Sally Potter film recently released in the US, Abkarian plays his first leading film role in the English language. He also played in Aram (2002), Le Voyage en Armnie (2006), and Ararat (2002), in which he played Arshille Gorky. Audiences will soon see Abkarian in his most recent role as Alex Dimitrios in the latest James Bond movie, Casino Royale, produced by Sony Pictures/MGM. Casino Royale will premiere in theaters nationwide on November 17. Abkarian was also most recently a member of French President Jacques Chirac’s delegation to Armenia last month. The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet will be held at the Downtown Marriott Hotel located on 333 S. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles, California. The banquet will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction, with the formal program beginning at 7:00 p.m. For more information on this year’s Annual Banquet or to reserve a table, please call the ANCA-WR office at (818) 5001918. The ANCA is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues.