Tag Archives: Cornerstone Theatre Company

Creative Community: The arts in LA is an inspiring world unto itself

1by Victoria Montecillo

On June 29, I, along with 131 other LA County Arts Commission interns, attended an arts summit held in Pasadena. Having never before attended a professional-type conference before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It seemed like a great opportunity to meet other people in the intern program at different organizations, and learn more about the arts world in LA. I was excited, mainly, to attend my first conference! It all felt very grown-up and professional, and I was excited to learn. 

After checking in at the Pasadena Playhouse and picking which workshops I wanted to attend, I spent the first part of my morning nibbling at a blueberry mini muffin and avoiding small talk. As a naturally introverted person, I’m not one to comfortably strike up casual conversation with strangers; it takes me a little bit to warm up the gears of my social side. Eventually, we all migrated inside the Playhouse for a lovely welcome from the Playhouse’s artistic director, as well as some from the LA County Arts Commission and the mayor of Pasadena. It was certainly very inspiring to be so warmly welcomed and encouraged by people who had found fulfilling work in the arts; they spent the morning encouraging us to follow our passions, and work to create real change. 

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Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps welcomes the interns.

Afterwards, we split into smaller groups and headed to separate locations. My group headed to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, where we got a private welcome and got to explore the work of California artists. We then got a backstage tour of the Pasadena Playhouse, where Playhouse volunteers told us all about the green room, the costume shop, the scene shop, and the library. As someone who absolutely loves seeing the backstage areas of any theatre, I was absolutely thrilled. After that, we walked over to First United Methodist Church, where we saw a beautiful site specific piece by the Jacob Jonas Dance Company. Essentially, we spent the morning being exposed to the different corners of the LA arts world, where we got to meet and talk with artists that were working towards their passions and were excited to share it.

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Victoria Montecillo

For lunch, we got together with our peer groups, a group of other LA County interns from the same geographic area. I got to meet some wonderful people working at a lot of different organizations. Some were working at theaters like me, while others were working for music non-profits or arts-based community outreach organizations. Even though we were in a crowded, noisy room, it was interesting to go around and hear everyone’s stories and where they came from, and how they ended up in this intern program. Some of the people I met were not necessarily interested in working in the arts world, but they were incredibly passionate about working in social justice and reaching out to Los Angeles neighborhoods. Everyone had a different perspective to bring, and different stories about their experiences to share. It was nice to hear about everyone’s experiences as interns, and the kinds of work they were doing. A few people were interested in pursuing graphic design, some were interested in music and arts education, and others were interested in theatre. I liked that we were a good mix among our group of various interests, because it gave us a wide range of perspectives. Alma Villegas, our wonderful Peer Group Leader from artworxLA, led us along our discussion and made sure to check in with all of us on whether or not we were enjoying our internships so far. It was comforting to feel that (other than my Fountain family of course) I had another community to fall back on, that would offer me help and support if I needed it. 

3After lunch, we split up from our peer groups to attend a workshop of our choosing. I attended a workshop on Public Engagement in the Arts, led by some truly inspirational people from Cornerstone Theatre Company and the Ford Theatres. They started off by keeping us on our feet, moving to different corners of the room for different things (e.g. “Move to this corner if you’re the youngest in your family, this corner if you’re the oldest,”), gradually picking more thought-provoking topics before ending with creating a line with one end being “art for art’s sake”, and the other end being “art for social justice”. This made us all think about why we were there, and what drives us. 

We then got to hear from Cornerstone and the Ford Theatres, and more specifically, the kind of work that they do in community engagement. My experience with community engagement from theaters is still quite limited, so it was certainly very educational to hear about the new and original ways other theatres were working to stay engaged with the communities around them. It was amazing to hear about Cornerstone, actually casting and creating shows with members of their community, and going out to neighborhoods and to the people to collaborate on creating a piece of art. And to hear from the Ford Theatres, and their work in spreading cultural awareness through free interactive workshops on dance and song. It was beautiful to see and hear about people in the community excited about the arts, and sharing it with the younger and older generations. 

Afterwards, I went to a session on Equity & Inclusion in the Arts, where we were told about the LA County Cultural Equity and Inclusivity Initiative. It was essentially a “town hall” meeting, where we were invited to share our comments, stories, and suggestions in order to help make change in policies. While it was not exactly what I expected, I learned a lot simply from listening to my peers discuss the challenges and obstacles they had all faced as people of color pursuing the arts. One suggestion that I found incredibly valuable (and, seemingly, somewhat intuitive) was the suggestion to offer opportunities to regularly have open discussions like the one we were having, where people had the chance to express their feelings in a safe environment. Sometimes, the first step to making change is creating the opportunity to discuss these issues openly, where people can feel they are being heard. 

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I want to thank the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and their wonderful internship program, as well as the Fountain Theatre, for giving me such a unique opportunity to meet other inspiring people pursuing fulfilling and meaningful careers in the arts world. I am learning so much more this summer than I ever anticipated.

Victoria Montecillo is our 2016 arts intern this summer at the Fountain Theatre, made possible through the support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Internship Program.  

Launching a New Platform for Latino/a Theatre

The Fountain Theatre is dedicated to producing new plays that reflect the cultural diversity of Los Angeles and the the nation. To serve Latino/a audiences, we launched our 2012-13 season  earlier this year with the West Coast Premiere of El Nogalar by Latina playwright Tanya Saracho.

“El Nogalar” (2012, Fountain Theatre)

Playwright Anne Garcia-Romero reports on the current state of Latino/a theater and the dream of creating a Latino/a Theatre Commons:

by Anne Garcia-Romero

Anne Garcia-Romero

In May 2012, Karen Zacarías, a playwright in residence at Arena Stage asked the Center for the Theater Commons to host an intimate conversation about the state of theater for U.S. Latino/a artists. A group of us met in D.C. It was a small gathering of theater artists from across the country representing diverse voices, but in no way intended to be representative of the breadth of the Latino/a theater scene. In the twenty-four stretch of the gathering, we talked about community, history, and action. We dreamed up a plan.

Celebrating Contemporary Latino/a Theater
Theater can function as a reflection of our contemporary national narrative. The character journeys on a stage often help us better understand the complexities of our society. U.S. culture in the twenty-first century continues to move from a mono-cultural to a multi-cultural experience. However, U.S. theater currently does not always reflect this reality and therefore can perpetuate an outdated narrative. Contemporary Latino/a theater updates the U.S. narrative through presenting diverse cultural worlds that allow theater audiences to more fully understand the U.S. experience in the twenty-first century.

In 2012, Latino/a is a heterogeneous term that includes the diversity of all Spanish-speaking and indigenous cultures existing in the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, Central and Latin America, in addition to the complexities which arise from the intersections of these cultures with non-Latino/a cultures. This definition highlights the globalization of the U.S. Latino/a community and mirrors the fact that life in the U.S. is now an intercultural reality. According to the 2010 U.S. census, 308.7 million people resided in the United States, of which 50.5 million (or 16 percent) were Latino/a. The Latino/a population hails from over twenty-two Latino/a cultural groups and was the fastest growing population from 2000 to 2010. U.S. theater production historically has only reflected a fraction of this diversity. Twenty-first century Latino/a theater artists are creating works that amply reflect this complexity. By embracing the current landscape of Latino/a theater, U.S. theaters not only present a view of contemporary Latino/a culture, they also provide their audiences with ways in which to more fully understand our multi-cultural U.S. experience.

Playwright Tanya Saracho

Creating a Commons
A Latino/a Theater Commons acknowledges the gifts that Latino/a theater artists can share with each other by connecting Latino/a theater artists from across the U.S. to create a platform and promote the latest developments in the field of Latino/a theater. From artists who began their professional careers in the 1970s to those who recently completed their MFA training, a commons facilitates a vibrant, intergenerational conversation that reflects contemporary U.S. Latino/a theater. Building upon the foundation of the past and highlighting the realities of the present, a Latino/a Theater Commons creates new models of engagement and presentation of Latino/a theater that will not only illuminate the wide expanse of the field but will allow audiences to update the U.S. narrative by experiencing multi-cultural worlds on stage that reflect an ever-diversifying national reality.

Highlighting our History
From the success of Luis Valdez’ 1978 production of Zoot Suit in Los Angeles to Maria Irene Fornes’ Obie-Award winning New York City production of Fefu and Her Friends in 1977, U.S. Latino/a theater continues to grow and thrive from coast to coast. Through the support of organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Fund, several U.S. regional theaters have provided platforms for the continued development of Latino/a theater artists. The INTAR Playwrights Workshop in New York City, South Coast Repertory’s Hispanic Playwrights Project in Costa Mesa, California and The Mark Taper Forum’s Latino Theatre Initiative in Los Angeles became centers of training, collaboration and conversation from 1978 to 2005. These programs helped launch the careers of a generation of Latino/a theater artists including Pulitzer prize winners Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, Academy-Award nominee José Rivera, Obie award winners Caridad Svich and Kristoffer Diaz and MacArthur Genius grant winner Luis Alfaro.

INTAR, founded in 1972 by Max Ferrá, is one of the longest-running companies producing Latino/a theater in the United States. Maria Irene Fornes created the INTAR Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory (1978-1991) and trained some of the most widely produced Latino/a playwrights in the U.S. including Cruz, Svich, Alfaro, Cherrie Moraga, Migdalia Cruz and Octavio Solis. Svich states,

Fornes, leading by example, did not require that the playwrights in the Lab address any ethnically specific subject matter or theme. Through daily visualization exercises, the writers were asked to discover the work within them, to create the forms that suited their visions, and under Fornes’ rigorous, watchful eye, to speak the truth about their worlds.

Under the current leadership of Lou Moreno, INTAR continues to produce new work by Latino/a playwrights.

José Cruz Gonzalez

Hispanic Playwrights Project (HPP), 1985-2004, created by José Cruz Gonzalez and later directed by Juliette Carrillo, featured a yearly summer festival of new works at South Coast Repertory bringing together new plays written by Latino/a playwrights. For many playwrights, HPP provided a first professional theater development opportunity. The annual gathering launched the careers of many Latino/a theater artists including Octavio Solis, Rogelio Martinez, Karen Zacarías, Kristoffer Diaz, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Anne García-Romero.

The Latino Theatre Initiative (LTI), 1992-2005, at the Mark Taper Forum, was designed to diversify the Taper’s audience base by offering theatrical programming relevant to the Latino/a community while also providing access to emerging Latino/a artists who reflected the diversity of the city of Los Angeles. Founded by José Luis Valenzuela and later co-directed by Luis Alfaro and Diane Rodriguez, LTI developed new works through in-house readings, festivals and yearly writers’ retreats.

Playwright Luis Alfaro

An Action Plan: Generating New Models
In our dream for a Latino/a Theater Commons, we build upon the foundation of the past and the momentum of the present to create four initiatives that will continue to advance the field of U.S. Latino/a theater.

1. The Los Angeles Theatre Center, under the direction of José Luis Valenzuela, will produce a festival of ten Latino/a plays over the course of the 2014-15 season. This festival seeks to present ten diverse plays that will mirror the complexity of the U.S. Latino/a community.

2. Latino/a Theater Commons will pilot a bi-annual conference of new Latino/a work hosted by the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago. The Festival will honor and be inspired by previous programs such as the Hispanic Playwrights Project, but be reconceived for the twenty-first century to allow for live and online participation and new methods of collaboration through workshops and focus groups on specific theatrical disciplines.

3. Latino/a Theater Commons will launch an online platform, Cafe Onda (Wave Cafe). This platform will be created as an online community and conversation about the current state of the Latino/a theater in the twenty-first century. Cafe Onda will contain articles, blogs and live streaming of theater events and will be linked to HowlRound, an online journal of the Theater Commons.

4. Latino/a Theater Commons will broaden the conversation by working with an expanded national cohort of Latino/a theater artists to convene in 2013 and solidify our efforts in implementing these plans that will generate a new national narrative for U.S. theater. Members of the Steering Committee who will be involved in planning this meeting include as of this publication:

  • Christopher Acebo (Designer; Associate Artistic Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland OR)
  • Luis Alfaro (Playwright, Assistant Professor, USC, Los Angeles CA)
  • Juliette Carrillo (Stage Director; Former Artistic Associate, South Coast Repertory; Ensemble Member, Cornerstone Theater Company, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Sandra Delgado (Actor; Company Member, Collaboraction Theater Company; Company Member, Teatro Vista, Chicago IL)
  • Kristoffer Diaz (Playwright, New York NY)
  • Michael John Garcés (Playwright; Artistic Director, Cornerstone Theater Company,Los Angeles CA)
  • Ricky J. Martinez (Artistic Director, The New Theatre, Coral Gables FL)
  • Anne García-Romero (Playwright; Assistant Professor of Theater, University of Notre Dame, South Bend IN)
  • Lisa Portes (Stage Director; Head of MFA in Directing, DePaul University, Chicago IL)
  • Tlaloc Rivas (Stage Director; Assistant Professor of Theater, The University of Iowa, Iowa City IA)
  • Anthony Rodriguez (Artistic Director, Aurora Theater Company, Atlanta GA)
  • Diane Rodriguez (Playwright; Associate Artistic Director, Center Theater Group, Los Angeles CA)
  • Olga Sanchez (Artistic Director, Miracle Mainstage, Miracle Theater Group, Portland OR)
  • Tanya Saracho (Playwright, Chicago IL / Los Angeles CA)
  • Octavio Solis (Playwright, San Francisco CA)
  • Antonio Sonera (Stage Director; Producing Artistic Director, Badass Theatre Company, Portland OR)
  • Enrique Urueta (Playwright, Minneapolis MN)
  • Kinan Valdez (Stage Director; Producing Artistic Director, El Teatro Campesino, San Juan Bautista, CA)
  • José Luis Valenzuela (Stage Director; Artistic Director, Los Angeles Theater Center, Professor of Theater, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles CA)
  • Patricia Ybarra (Theatre Studies Scholar; Assistant Professor of Theatre, Brown University, Providence RI)
  • Karen Zacarías (Playwright; Resident Playwright–Arena Stage, Washington DC)

These projects will provide a multifaceted view of contemporary Latino/a theater. Through exploring, developing and advocating for new Latino/a plays, all four initiatives generate necessary conversations about the diverse make-up of U.S. society. We respectfully share this plan in the hopes that a Latino/a Theater Commons will advance the state of Latino/a theater while also allowing audiences to update the U.S. narrative at the start of the twenty-first century.

Onward!

Anne Garcia-Romero’s plays have been developed and produced most notably at the NYSF/Public Theater, Summer Play Festival (Off-Broadway), The Mark Taper Forum, Hartford Stage, Borderlands Theater, and South Coast Repertory. Her newest play, Provenance, was part of the 2012 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. She is currently writing a book on contemporary Latina playwrights. She’s an Assistant Professor of Theater at the University of Notre Dame and an alumna of New Dramatists.

Laurie Woolery and Luis Alfaro to Team Up at the Fountain for West Coast Premiere of New Play

Laurie Woolery

Acclaimed LA Theatre artist Luis Alfaro and director Laurie Woolery will lead the artistic team for the West Coast Premiere of Tanya Saracho‘s El Nogalar, the next production opening at the Fountain in January. Woolery will direct the new play, Alfaro will serve as dramaturg.

Laurie Woolery is the Associate Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles. Recently, Ms. Woolery directed The Language Archive by Julia Cho at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She has also directed Amor Eterno – Six Lessons in Love (an anthology by six Latino playwrights) for the grand opening of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, Bryan Davidson’s Reflecting Back at the Los Angeles Central Library as part of the National Tour of the American Originals exhibit and Richard Coca’s solo piece The Day I Flipped Off Jimmy Carter for SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project.

As a director, educator and actor, Laurie has worked at South Coast Repertory (former Director of the Theatre Conservatory), Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Inge Center for the Arts, Denver Center, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Ricardo Montalban Theatre, Deaf West Theatre, fofo Theatre, Highways Performance Space, A Noise Within, Bonderman, Sundance Playwrights Lab as well as the Sundance Children’s Theatre.

Luis Alfaro

Luis Alfaro is a Chicano writer/performer/director known for his work in poetry, theatre, short stories, performance and journalism. He is also a producer/director who spent ten years at the Mark Taper Forum as Associate Producer, Director of New Play Development and co-director of the Latino Theatre Initiative.

Luis is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, popularly known as a “genius grant,” awarded to people who have demonstrated expertise and exceptional creativity in their respective fields. A Rockefeller Fellow and University of California Regents Chair Fellow, he is the only artist to have won two awards in the same year from The Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays. He is also the recipient of awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, Theatre Communications Group and PEN USA, among others. He is featured in over 25 anthologies, has an award-winning spoken word CD, and was nominated for a local Emmy for his short film, Chicanismo.

His recent plays include Oedipus El Rey (Magic Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Theatre@BostonCourt) and  Electricidad (Teatro Vision-San Jose, Mark Taper Forum-Los Angeles, Goodman Theatre-Chicago, Borderlands Theatre-Tuscon).

World premiere production of "El Nogalar" at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago.

El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard) by Tanya Saracho is inspired by Anton Chekhov’s classic The Cherry Orchard and charts a Mexican family’s experience as their way of life is threatened by encroaching drug cartels, violence and economic upheaval. Set in present-day Northern Mexico and infused with Spanish, Spanglish and Espanglés, it’s a comical and moving story about the choice between adapting to the changing world or being left behind.

Video Trailer from the Goodman production:
El Nogalar at the Fountain Theatre will begin previews Jan 14, opens Jan 21 – Feb 26. (323) 663-1525