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Gala in Spring Valley to raise funds for Mission 21
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Monday, April 01, 2013 10:28 AM
The cast of "1940s Gala Show" rehearses. From left are Roger Svebakken, Jeff Gillespie, Sierra Kellogg, Suz Eberle (at piano), Julie Mlinar, Craig Cornell and Marcy Capelle. In front are Maria Kujawa Klingsheim and Brett Corson.
Jeff Gillespie and Brett Corson as "Who's on first?" as Abbott and Costello.
Judy, Ella, Billie, Bing, Roy, the Andrews and the snippets can help stop the traffic.
"We will be performing hits from the likes of Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers and the Andrews Sisters, as well as radio snippets from George and Gracie, The Bickersons, Abbott and Costello and many more," said Polly Kellogg Bradley, director of a 1940s Gala Show to be presented on Sunday, April 14, at Valley Christian Center in Spring Valley.
"We are holding the gala to help raise funds for the operation of a safe house located in Rochester for victims rescued from human trafficking," Bradley explained. "This is a show of the heart. Everyone doing the show is doing it because they love the '40s music and want to be part of the fundraising for Mission 21."
Proceeds from the show benefit Mission 21, an anti-trafficking organization with an establishment in Rochester. It is committed to the complete restoration of child victims of sex trafficking. Since 2010, Mission 21 has been working tirelessly to provide services to children being bought and sold in the commercial sex trade in Rochester and statewide. The average age of entry into the commercial sex trade, more commonly known as prostitution, is 12 to 14 years old. Mission 21 helps victims of domestic minor sex trafficking, for children ages 15 and younger, with food, clothing and emergency medical services as well as on-going case management.
Since operating a safe house takes nearly $500,000 every year, Bradley and the cast of the 2012 Wykoff Fall Fest "1940s Gala Show" rose to the challenge of performing the boogie-woogie, the blues, the jokes and all that jazz in hopes of making a difference.
"We will have almost everyone from the Fall Fest gala in this show," Bradley shared.
Local participants include Marcy Capelle, Julie Mlinar, Sarah Kohn, Gaye Stockdale, Craig Cornell, Brett Corson, Roger Svebakken, Maria (Kujawa) Klingsheim, Tasha Bradley and Lynette Kuno.
"We also have employees, graduates and students from Crossroads College joining us," she added. "Crossroads Professor Kimber Schletty works very closely with Mission 21 and will be speaking at the gala. Also, Peggy Blanshan, Polly Blanshan, Emily Holter, Jenny and Greg Karow will all be performing in the show."
Bradley chose to reprise the show she staged last September for numerous reasons, beginning with the excitement the music created.
"The '40s are so diverse, and the music is absolutely contagious," she explained. "We didn't want to start from scratch for this show, but build on the success we had last time. The show was incredibly successful last fall when we did it for Wykoff Fall Fest. People were still coming up to me a week later and telling me how much they enjoyed it, and wondered if we would do it again."
Learning of Mission 21 gave her a reason to reprise the show - as a mother, she saw the opportunity to protect or rescue other people's children by providing an hour of entertainment for people who may not even know the statistics of Minnesota's human trafficking trade.
"These are our sons and daughters...we are all called to protect them," Bradley stated. "Minnesota is in the top 13 states for children being recruited into the sex trade. During a 10-month period in 2010, Internet sales for sex with children rose 166 percent in Minnesota. Minnesota law enforcement says that sex trafficking of girls is happening in every city and every county in the state. My first question was, 'How did this happen? How did Minnesota become a contender in human trafficking?'"
She continued, "And then I got angry. How dare anyone force anyone into prostitution! Not in this county, not in this state, not in this country. So the best way to battle an injustice is to give people the means to be rescued. To give victims hope. To make sure there are options out there for every child being forced to be someone's prostitute."
Bradley predicts that gala audiences will like everything from the boogie-woogie music to the classic blues, and of course, the comedic styles of the great radio shows because the cast has a wonderful time rehearsing.
"This cast enjoys working together. Truly, the rehearsals are more laughter than they are work," she admitted. "Almost everyone in the cast is a seasoned performer and loves the '40s era, so this is a lot of good old fashioned fun for the cast. Everyone just pitches in. That is part of the fun of this show. We all work together so well and are quite a team. We will have a few props, but the majority of the 'magic' comes from the feeling of the music and the incredible talent of the cast. You will feel like you are back in the '40s during this show. The cast will all be dressed like the 1940s stars would have dressed."
Bradley's vision for the gala came before the logistics, she observed, but that's how it always works, and in the end, it works out to be as big and colorful as she first imagined it.
"It's funny, because I am constantly telling Maria and others that I am not a theater person," she explained. "I have an idea in my head and can see the whole show and the colors and lights, and even hear the singers, and so when it all comes to fruition and the show actually looks exactly like the idea in my head, well, then I guess that is success!"
She enjoys building relationships with the cast, putting something together for the greater good.
"I have the best part because I get to share in the moment as each of the cast puts part of themselves into the song, or the script," she said. "It is humbling to see the transformation of an idea into reality all because of this wonderful group of people."
Bradley added, "I would love to put together a traveling cast that would go to different communities and put on a gala show raising money for Mission 21. This would take a large commitment, but I think it would be a lot of fun and would make so many people aware of what's going on. That is a goal for the future. We will see what the interest level is."
She has received local assistance in bringing her characters to the stage, crediting Brave Community Theatre of Spring Valley as being instrumental in lending costumes and props and Valley Christian Center as being incredible about sharing their facility for these kinds of events.
"There are youth from almost every church helping with the serving, setting up and cleaning up," said Bradley. "This is an all-out community event, raising awareness about something horrific happening in our back yards. There was a lot of work put into this show to make it something you will not forget easily. You will be tapping your feet, humming along, laughing, and maybe even shedding a tear. We can help fight human trafficking one community at a time."
The 1940s Gala Show is slated for Sunday, April 14, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Valley Christian Center in Spring Valley, 610 Territorial Road.
Admission to the gala is free, but donations will be taken at the event - the cast and director chose to present it as a gift of the heart.
There are no tickets, but reservations are encouraged because there is limited seating at VCC. Reservations can be made by e-mailing Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (507) 251-0622 and leaving a name, phone number and number of guests. Reservations will guarantee a seat in the main hall.
"This is only the beginning of our fight against human trafficking," Bradley concluded. "If people cannot make the gala but would like to contribute, a donation can be made at www.mission21mn.org."
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