The Hunger CycleLos Angeles, CA
ArtPlace recently spoke with Ashley Walden Davis, Associate Producer for Cornerstone Theater Company, about taking risks on their last production, Seed: A Weird Act of Faith. Cornerstone is now in rehearsals for their next play, Lunch Lady Courage, the third play in The Hunger Cycle, a six-year series of world premiere plays about hunger, justice and food equity issues.
ARTPLACE: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your efforts? How did you get burned, or how did you prevail?
DAVIS: As part of our ArtPlace grant, Cornerstone Theater Company took on the challenge of creating place at each of our Hunger Cycle, site-specific theatrical productions. Our last production, Seed: A Weird Act of Faith dealt with the issue of urban farming and was presented at Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood, California. For this production, Cornerstone hosted a weekly Produce Stand with a partner organization to provide healthy food to community members.
Chuco’s is a community center that houses Youth Justice Coalition, Free LA High School, an alternative high school and youth focused organizations that help guide at-risk youth in a positive direction.
One of the biggest risks that Cornerstone took was creating a play in South Los Angeles in addition to creating programming and a weekly produce stand in an area that would not be considered attractive for this type of activity. This is a huge risk because Inglewood is considered the inner-city with all the stereotypes that come with it. In the past when Cornerstone has produced in South LA, we often suffer from poor attendance and just an over all sense of less enthusiasm from Angelenos living in other areas of the city.
In regards to attendance to the production, supplemental programming and the produce stand, attendance was relatively low. We had hope for more audience to come out of their comfort zone and visit Cornerstone in Inglewood and learn about Chuco’s Justice Center, the community and its people.
Where Cornerstone prevailed was in the impact that we had on Chuco’s Justice center and the young adults who frequent the facility as a student or community member. One of Cornerstone’s goals is always to leave our non-traditional theater spaces better than we found them. In the case of Chuco’s Justice Center, we really transformed their place physically and the students within. Our Production Manager, Lester Grant made a commitment to involve the community members there in the process by hiring them as part of crew and production support.
Additionally, as part of an agreement to use their space, Cornerstone repaired and re-circuited the ceiling lights, installed new lamps, re-circuited and refaced the house right outlets, installed power in the house right storage unit that Cornerstone built, built 2 storage units, created a technical area, installed a projection screen that has transition capability, and primed, painted and sealed the floors of the entire ground level including classroom space. The space was completely transformed to something Chuco’s can use for events to come. Rental for the space is one of Chuco’s major generators of income.
In this way, Cornerstone created place, this will last beyond Cornerstone’s six- week run of Seed and will be enjoyed by folks who will have never met us. One of the things that means the most to me has been for the leaders of Youth Justice Coalition to tell us that we have been the only organization to complete the tasks that we have said that we were going to do and really see it through. Although, there were many challenge in being in a truly urban setting within Los Angeles, creating a space that will have a lasting impact on an entire community makes up for anything lost in attendance. Cornerstone hopes to maintain a relationship with Chuco’s Justice Center for years to come.