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Cornerstone Theater Company is moving closer to this fall’s production of SEED: A Weird Act of Faith, the second play in The Hunger Cycle, a six-year series of world premiere plays about hunger, justice and food equity issues. Exciting activities will accompany SEED including: a farmer’s market, community dialogues, and hands-on workshops.

ArtPlace spoke with Paula Donnelly, Director of Engagement for Cornerstone Theater Company, about the unique challenges and learning opportunities sprouting from SEED.

ARTPLACE: Is there a new challenge that engaging in creative placemaking presents for you, your organization and the artists who work with you?

DONNELLY: Cornerstone Theater Company has been creating theater with specific communities, largely defined by place, for 25+ years and every project presents new challenges for our engagement process. A big new challenge with our current Hunger Cycle is that we are striving to offer more than art. Whenever we do a community collaboration, there are many more things going on socially and culturally than simply producing a theatrical production.

This time however we are creating new opportunities to bring community members together by offering them activities and opportunities that go beyond the incredible experience of creating a play together. We as a company are exploring and learning about how food access and security play out in specific places and many of our collaborators are the ones teaching us. So we are expanding our learning circle to include all our participants and our audiences, many who will travel to new neighborhoods to see the plays.

We’re creating workshops to teach folks about growing food and about opportunities right in their neighborhoods. We’re planning experiential opportunities to learn about how to cook and preserve produce from local farms. And for our upcoming play in South Los Angeles, SEED: A Weird Act of Faith, we are putting together a Produce Stand, a mini farmers market, to serve our cast and crew and audience as well as the constituents of our host performance venue and the surrounding neighbors.

Another aspect of this challenge is sustainability. Once the neighborhood gets a taste of farm fresh foods coming to them, we need to assure that healthful opportunities for local residents do not go away when we do.

ARTPLACE: Are there new skills required?

DONNELLY: We aren’t farmers or chefs, though a few of us are becoming better gardeners and cooks. We are not market vendors who understand the permitting systems and all that goes into selling fresh foods and ingredients. It’s a great opportunity for mutual mentorship because some of our community partner organizations are! So we are working with them to make this endeavor successful.

PHOTO: Chucos Justice Center will be hosting our upcoming production of Seed: A Weird Act of Faith.

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