April

ArtPlace recently spoke with Daniel Penilla, Community Partnerships Associate for Cornerstone Theater Company, about the meaningful experiences that have occurred during their ArtPlace grant period. Cornerstone’s run of Lunch Lady Courage, the third play in The Hunger Cycle was a success and now they preparing for this fall’s production of Love on San Pedro, a collaboration with the Skid Row community. The Hunger Cycle is a six-year series of world premiere plays about hunger, justice and food equity issues.

ARTPLACE: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant? Describe how this came about and why it was special. What lesson did you learn from this success?

PENILLA: We are driving back in a big white van from our Herbs that Heal Workshop at The Growing Home. A woman that was a community actor in our first Hunger Cycle play, Café Vida, is having a conversation with her son.

“So do you think we should start a garden like this where we live?”

“Yeah! Why aren’t there more places like this? We should grow some things that we can eat. Why can’t people do this where we live?”

She turns to the group around her, some of whom were also in Café Vida, and others community actors in our second Hunger Cycle play, SEED: A Weird Act of Faith,

“Look at him. I have tried to get him to eat lettuce and he wouldn’t do it and today he was eating salad with greens and flowers and asked for more. Now he wants to grow things.”

There are nods, smiles and a conversation about what foods are accessible in our communities, what food should be, and how we can grow healthful food.

It is moments like this that have been the most rewarding – seeing new relationships form among our past community participants and old relationships strengthen outside of performing in plays,.The ArtPlace workshops have served as a way for our community members to continue to learn and share after the play has ended. They have helped our community members bond and share in way sthat they would not have otherwise.

The conversations have gradually grown beyond the initial ‘Hi’ and ‘Were you in that one show?’ to conversations about what is new in their lives since the last time they saw each other, how the family is doing, and what projects they are involved in within their own communities. These shared moments allow for continued conversation among members of our community. These conversations are strengthening relationships, creating new possibilities and demonstrating personal growth beyond our theater experiences into everyday life practices and interests.

It is a reminder that the community that is created during the play can continue and be shared with their family, peers, and members of their community. Now, community members are able to see each other in a way that they may not have been able to before. They are talking with gardeners, chefs, community organizers and each other about how they can be a part of creating new experiences for others in their community. They are becoming mentors and leaders with a new network of support. One of the things that we have learned is that our community participants are utilizing these new experiences, owning them and sharing them with others.

Our next workshops will include our cast of Lunch Lady Courage, most of whom are students at Los Angeles High School of the Arts, a pilot community school. We are excited to see what these youth will learn from those that have been a part of our past plays and workshops. What’s more inspiring is what they will teach us.

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