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Cornerstone Theater Company, Inc.
March 11, 2013

I am most impressed with Cornerstone Theatre Company.
Cornerstone brings the power of theatre to people who have never (or rarely) been exposed to it. When I was in college I had the fortune of taking an acting class with an extraordinary couple who completely opened me up to the possibilities of life. I was a shy kid with a severe stutter. The fact that I have gone on to have a career in theatre is almost beside the point. They, through theatre, opened all sorts of doors within me. The act of creating theatre is a very empowering experience. It breeds confidence. It fosters self expression. It encourages us to step outside the boundaries that we tend to draw around ourselves. It lends us a voice when we thought we had none. It can be a magical experience for someone who has never set foot onstage before. And most in America have not.
I am most impressed with the quality of Cornerstone plays. All are completely original. Established playwrights are commissioned and sent into a community to investigate a particular issue of great concern to the community. Many interviews throughout the community take place. All sides of an issue are investigated and woven into the scripts. Community members often see their concepts, words and opinions wind up in the finished plays, again, a very empowering experience for somebody who has never been heard. Playwrights use their skills to shape the various facets of the issue into compelling drama. Questions are raised rather than answers given. Factions of a community are often brought together through the play production process. Barriers get dropped, future bonds formed.
I am most impressed with the level of production that Cornerstone regularly achieves. The directors and designers are top professionals. Full professionalism is brought to the rehearsal process, though many involved have never been onstage before. I love the way that Cornerstone sprinkles the community cast with Cornerstone ensemble members, all top professional actors themselves. The ensemble members usually play the more difficult roles, as well as teaching, mentoring, coaching and being role models for the first-time actors. I am amazed at how good the community performances can end up being. It's really fun to see the glow, the excitement on their faces as they participate in an endeavor this accomplished. The excitement of the audience is likewise fun to see. Many are of the community. It's their people on stage, their issues, their voices being laid out in a public forum. It is most empowering. The power of theatre.
I am most impressed with the staff and organization of Cornerstone. There is a lot at play here. Many, many people are usually involved in any one project. Other projects at different stages of development are usually happening at the same time. Managing communities of people unschooled in the ways and means of theatre with all of their real life issues added in can be a huge challenge. The Cornerstone ensemble members and all their needs have to be attended to, as well. The commissioned playwrights working on future projects have to be guided and monitored. There are always workshops going on, the training of Cornerstone techniques and the development of new ones. Relationship building with institutions, theatrical and otherwise, are always taking place. This, along with the normal hustle and bustle that it takes to run a theatre company keeps staff members extremely busy. Cornerstone is a unique and invaluable institution. They know what they are doing, and what they do, they do very, very well.

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