Theatre on a Mission (TOM) held its annual gala fundraising show on July 31, 2017 at The Alhambra Theatre & Dining. This is the third year the Alhambra has hosted this annual benefit. Team Coordinator Shelley Cain, who has been instrumental in the group’s formation and growth, appeared as Master of Ceremonies. She introduced the group, provided information about its formation, and kept the festivities moving along smoothly.

Shelley’s daughter, Chelsey Cain, and Danielle Glenn started the group while students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. In 2012, they raised the funds to take a trip to Bondo, Kenya, and invited other interested students to join them. Once there, they offered a theatre camp experience to children from local schools and orphanages. In addition to classes in theatre arts and productions, they used the arts as a vehicle to raise funds, awareness, and resources for the children’s needs. Their work was both well-received and needed. The group has returned to Africa twice, and has also visited Costa Rica. This year they will be heading south to Haiti, a country hard hit by an earthquake and hurricanes in recent years; they will be working in Fond Parisien with the children of the Hope House Orphanage.

TOM’s membership is growing. Although it began with Douglas Anderson students who are still very active, students from Episcopal High School, Jacksonville University, and the Universities of North and Central Florida will be going to Haiti. The group’s goals also continue to expand. In addition to involving children in the wonderful world of theatre, they have helped an orphanage in Bondo purchase a new water system, and are planning to construct a new school there once they are successful in obtaining the necessary land.

This year’s show at the Alhambra was once again penned by TOM founders Chelsey and Danielle; they have written all the scripts for previous productions and the shows keep getting better and better. This year’s show, set on an ocean liner, was about the wonderful world of cruising, and was hilarious. It reminded us of “Love Boat” reruns, which can be seen from time to time on local channels. The playwrights involved the audience, who played bingo (for actual cash prizes), and a couple from the audience agreed to join the cast on stage in a delightful version of The Newlywed Game.

Seventeen local businesses contributed fabulous items to the silent auction held in the Alhambra lobby and library. In addition, seven VIP sponsors made generous donations.

TOM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and welcomes involvement and contributions from the community. Visit for photos of past trips, details about upcoming trips and events, and information about how to make a donation. TOM can also be reached at [email protected]

One of the on-stage highlights of the evening was the appearance of Purity Gikunju, who founded the Growers Alliance Café & Gift Shop in St Augustine. Martin Kabak is a co-founder. The company imports gourmet organic and fair trade coffees from Kenya, along with tea and nuts. She expressed the appreciation of the people of Kenya for the remarkable contributions Theatre on a Mission has made to their county.

The fantastic cast of “Sailing the Night Away” included: Sarah Stepp and Mary-Jean Dodge (Pirates), Craige Cain (Captain), Chelsey Cain and Danielle Glenn (Cruise Directors), Chloe Cuff (Child Passenger), Charlotte Fisher (Mom Passenger) , Logan Smith (Dad Passenger), Rachel Harris and Emma Yeoman (Old Grandmas), Nick Palmieri (Husband Passenger), Brittany Young (Wife Passenger), Karina Gonzalez and Kayee Snider (Shark/Cruise Staff) and Gena Heylock as an audience member.

The crew included Shannon Driscoll (Stage Manager), Lauren Conran (Props Mistress), Carly Brown (Sound), Spencer Yeoman (Light Master), and Ellen Milligan (Pianist).

Thanks go to the Alhambra Staff for their assistance. The evening was fun and interesting. Food trucks in the parking lot provided an extensive menu of pre-show dining choices, while fine Kenyan coffee and homemade baked treats were available in the lobby. And the entertainment was excellent. We are already looking forward to next year.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.