For over 30 years, Cornerstone has brought together an ensemble of professional artists of the highest caliber with people who would never think of themselves as artists to produce works of excellence based on the stories, concerns and issues of a given community.
Our plays celebrate many voices, and are staged in theaters and in parking lots, in factories, schools and subway stations. We strive to include people who have not been on stage or even seen theater. We’ve taken up residence in small towns and urban neighborhoods, collaborating with locals from start to finish to tell their unique stories through theater.
Cornerstone Theater Company has commissioned more than 100 award-winning playwrights, produced over 150 new plays for the American Theater, trained thousands of students in our innovative methodology, and impacting tens of thousands of community members across the country, many experiencing theater for the first time.
Founded in 1986 as a traveling ensemble, which adapted classic works to tell the stories of both rural and urban communities. We settled in Los Angeles in 1992 to focus on urban collaborations, and launched a series of multi-year play cycles. These included the Watts Cycle, five plays seeking to build bridges between African American and Latino residents of Watts, and The Faith-Based Cycle, seven plays exploring communities of faith in Los Angeles.
In 2006 we embarked on The Justice Cycle, six plays exploring how laws shape or disrupt communities. It launched in 2007 with Los Illegals, written by our Artistic Director Michael John Garcés, in collaboration with day laborers, domestic workers and others on the front lines of the immigration debate. Following its success we seeded a new theater troupe entirely comprised of day laborers called Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders), in partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and funding from the Ford Foundation. Since October 2008, Teatro Jornalero has been developing and performing short plays that educate day laborers about their rights, and touring them to day labor sites across Los Angeles County.
In December, 2017 we concluded The Hunger Cycle, that explored issues of hunger, justice, and food equity. Over six years, we presented nine world premiere plays in collaboration with communities across Los Angeles, including a state-wide tour of California.
With our new body of work, the Change Series, we not only seek to explore the meaning of change happening both locally and globally, in the lives of our communities, but also in the work we do as a theater company, starting with our first production Change: The Watts Residency. We are returning to Watts to work with the community at the Jordan Downs housing development to explore the dramatic changes taking place associated with the redevelopment of a community that generations of its members have called home for nearly 70 years.
Cornerstone has been profiled on CBS, CNN, NPR, the BBC, among many others. We have been honored with Ovation, Drama-Logue, LA Weekly, and NAACP Theatre Awards. Worth Magazine named Cornerstone one of the Top 100 Charities in America. In 2009 we received the inaugural Unsung Heroes Award from the California Community and Eisner Foundations for our innovation and impact in improving the quality of life for low-income Los Angeles residents.