Dressing in costume proved natural for those attending the 16th anniversary dinner for Stop-Gap, a theater company that uses drama to address social problems such as child abuse and racial prejudice.
Many of the 250 guests at the gala Friday at Le Meridien in Newport Beach sported costumes, capes or masks instead of the traditional black-tie attire. The $150-per-person gala raised about $40,000 for Stop-Gap.
Black Cape Preferred
Because the Stop-Gap gala falls so close to Halloween, organizers decided to turn the event into a costume party.
"Stop-Gap is theater, and we wanted to play off that," said Ann Crane, gala co-chairwoman, dressed head-to-toe in black.
Bill Wood, gala co-chairman, showed up in a black-and-white striped shirt and whistle. "I'm refereeing the live auction," he said.
Mad Hatter David Price wore a towering, multicolored top hat with his tux, while wife Alicia played the Queen of Hearts, sporting a cape and a headpiece adorned with red hearts.
"We got married on Halloween night--this is our 20th anniversary," David Price said.
Chris Sheldon, board president, came as Sherlock Holmes in a heavy wool cloak, while wife Debbie wore a long plaid dress and straw hat befitting a 19th-Century English lady.
"It was a 15-minute job. These were the first costumes we saw," said Sheldon, with pipe in hand.
Act of Healing
After a silent auction, guests adjourned to the ballroom decorated in white with large crystal bowls filled with floating gardenias, where they enjoyed a dinner of roast sirloin and grilled salmon, herbed mash potatoes and a "death by chocolate" torte.
Stop-Gap's mission is twofold. First, the Santa Ana-based theater troupe performs original dramas in classrooms to educate young people about issues such as sexual assault, AIDS prevention and alcoholism.
The group also offers therapeutic drama programs, working with the elderly, abused children, battered women, recovering drug abusers, children with life-threatening illnesses and other groups to help them work through problems.
"These are people who have had power taken away from them," said Don Laffoon, executive director of Stop-Gap, who founded the group with Victoria Bryan. "We try to empower them by allowing them to act out in different roles."
Also in the crowd were honorary co-chairmen Roger Embrey and H. Fred Mickelson; Mary Ann Schulte, Philip Luecht, Peter Fiek, Barbara Frost, Jay Gabriel, Grace Songolo, David and Susan Stary-Sheets, Sophie Hall, Mary Hendrickson, Marcia Jager and Lynne Vodra.