Radical Community Engagement

with Cornerstone Theater

On November 19 and 20, Shakespeare in Clark Park partnered with Cornerstone Theater in Los Angeles for a two-day immersive training in the rapidly expanding world of community-infused theater. Normally the intensives happen only twice a year and only at Cornerstone Theater's home base in LA. It was a rare opportunity for theater artists and community organizers to learn from some of the most experienced community builders in the field: Paula Donnelly, Cornerstone’s Director of Engagement, and Peter Howard, Founding Member of the Cornerstone Ensemble.

For over 29 years, Los Angeles based Cornerstone Theater 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.

"By combining the artistry of people with many levels of theatrical experience, we act upon the conviction that artistic expression is civic engagement and that access to a creative forum is essential to the wellness and health of every individual and community."

Cornerstone combines their 30 year history and case studies to explore strategies for building authentic relationships within and across communities while creating great theater. This workshop utilized participants’ input and creativity for conversations and exercises giving them the tools for choosing and engaging communities, story gathering, script writing and adaptation, auditions, casting and design.

The workshop will provided a thorough grounding in the specifics of Cornerstone’s signature approach while encouraging participants to draw parallels and contrasts with their own artistic goals


About Cornerstone Theater

For the last 30 years Cornerstone Theater has been making plays with and about communities. Cornerstone acts upon the conviction that artistic expression is civic engagement and that access to a creative forum is essential to the wellness and health of every individual and community.  We want to learn from the best, so we are bringing them to Philly. To find out more about them and their astounding history visit their web site: www.cornerstonetheater.org.

Paula Donnelly (Director of Engagement) Paula Donnelly began working with Cornerstone in 1998 as a stage manager and joined Cornerstone's Ensemble in 2000. As a stage manager she worked with Los Angeles’ Center Theater Group’s Taper, Too, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PCPA TheaterFest and other regional theaters. In 2003 Paula became Cornerstone’s Institute Director, planning and producing the annual Summer Residency and Intensives. As Director of Engagement, Paula teaches and shares Cornerstone’s methodology, works to strengthen community relationships post-production, and works toward the expansion of community-engagement practices in theater. She helps imagine and implement engagement values in all aspects of our work. Paula loves the state of California and her hometown, Los Angeles.

Peter Howard (Ensemble Actor, Playwright, Director, +) is a founding member of Cornerstone Theater Company. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard College with a degree in English and American Literature and holds a M.F.A. from the Department of Drama of the University of Virginia. With Cornerstone, Peter has performed in, written or otherwise collaborated on scores of productions in Los Angeles and around the country. As a playwright, his Cornerstone credits include Zones (an original, audience-interactive play exploring interfaith themes), an American Muslim adaptation of You Can't Take It with You (the first adaptation ever approved by the Kaufman and Hart estate) and a bilingual adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding (Boda de Luna Nueva: New Moon Wedding, created for the small California agricultural communities of Western Stanislaus County as part of the company's 2005 Summer Institute). His regional theater work includes productions at the Mark Taper Forum, Williamstown Theatre Festival, American Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Long Wharf, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Peter has served on staff of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), working as a facilitator, playwright and director in a variety of youth arts programs that use theater as a springboard for dialogue on challenging human relations topics. He has directed the participatory youth script development and performance programs of a number of regional theatres including the Mark Taper Forum (The Speak to Me program) and Shakespeare Festival/LA (Will Power to Youth). Peter is also the author of three plays (collectively known as the Compassion Plays series) now touring southern California high schools, colleges and community groups through ENCOMPASS, a youth development organization based in the San Gabriel Valley: Wheels explores youth attitudes toward immigration; Kick explores the Native American mascot issue in high school sports; Horizon Line explores the root causes and impact of bias-motivated crime.