Event to fundraise for Friendship Shelter

At the Laguna Beach Friendship Shelter, those without homes are offered a chance to get back up on their feet again.

On June 16, the nonprofit will hold its second annual "Stories of Home" fundraiser at [seven-degrees] to support its programs, which help the homeless become independent once more.

The production will include actors such as Richard Burgi, formerly of "Desperate Housewives," and Tony-nominated actress Jonelle Allen. Besides professional talent, the individual vignettes will also be performed by locals, such as Laguna Beach High School students and kids from the Musical Theatre University at No Square Theatre.

"Everyone that comes into our program, regardless of their circumstances, wants someplace to call home again," said Mark Miller, associate executive director of the Friendship Shelter. "I think this eclectic mix of stories explores the issue of what home really means and it oftentimes is more than a simple structure. It has to do with an individual fulfillment of feeling safe and welcome, and that's what we want to create for our clients: home."

Allen, who played Grace on "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," jumped at the chance to be part of the show.

"Having lived in Laguna Beach for a long time, I'm totally aware of the Friendship Shelter and the wonderful things that they do," she said.

She is friends with a former resident of the shelter, Terrell Washington Anansi.

Anansi is part of the Artists Collective, a group of professional artists who either lived or are living at the shelter. His art and others from the collective will be on display during the show.

Allen is also part of the faculty at the Musical Theatre University and hopes to get some of its students to be part of the fundraiser.

"I told Mark that I would really love if the kids could be involved in this because there are kids that are homeless and there are children that live in shelters," she said.

Allen's vignettes bookend the show, beginning and end, and are interpretations of Anansi's stories or African folklore. The performance tells the importance of storytelling.

"Everyone is important. You are your story," she said. "That should never be negated."

She felt it hit close to home for the shelter, because many who walk through their doors struggle with the path they've taken.

"Until you walk in someone else's moccasins, you don't know how someone feels inside," she said. "More than anything, it's not so much about what I hope people get from it. It's about giving it to them. Hopefully people watching it will get the urge to give."

Other actors include "Raising Hope" star and Laguna resident Linda Gehringer, and Melissa Denton, the program director for The Unusual Suspects Theatre Co. in Los Angeles.

Jason Farris, of the Laguna Beach Police Department, will be making a cameo appearance in the show, along with other local personalities such as the Rev. B.J. Beu of Neighborhood Congregational Church, Lisa Mansour of No Square, and LBHS drama teacher Mark Dressler, who is directing the high school students in their performance.

If You Go

What: Second annual "Stories of Home" fundraiser

Where: [seven-degrees], 891 Laguna Canyon Road.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 16

Cost: $65 per person

Tickets: Call (949) 494-6928 or visit http://www.friendshipshelter.org.

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