As a theater company, Cornerstone pursues an inclusive vision for its productions, not only in terms of its material but also its casting. With a core of consummate professionals and esteemed guest directors, writers, and actors, Cornerstone’s original stories are based in the real experiences across the region’s communities, and it stages its works in unconventional locations within those communities, and actively encourages amateur performers residing there to take part in the performances.
Grounded in the belief in that experience is not the only prerequisite for theatrical triumph, be it on stage or at the writing desk, these collaborative productions involve the people, directly addressing their civic concerns and essential histories.
In their newest production which opens this weekend, the Cornerstone family takes a look at the Watts neighborhood’s Jordan Downs Housing Project. Dating from the 1940s, the site is currently being redeveloped as part of Bridge Housing, and Cornerstone is taking the opportunity to shine a light on its generations of family history, the lives of its current residents, and the neighborhood’s hopes for its modernization.
It’s a close-knit community — and that is above all what comes through with the original production A Jordan Downs Illumination, made with the involvement of local creative-minded residents and a cast of talented actors, under the direction of interdisciplinary artist Nancy Keystone. More than a play, this production is designed as an immersive performance and interactive installation, with participation elements and improvisational surprises.
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The opening night is also a party, featuring a live musical performance by the Watts-Willowbrook Spring Ensemble and food by Every Table and Sweet Lou's BBQ. But folks are encouraged to arrive at least half an hour before every showtime, for pre-show tippling and site exploration.
Jordan Downs Recreation Center, 9900 Grape St., Watts; (213) 613-1700; cornerstonetheater.org; performances May 17 - 26; $20 suggested, all shows except opening night offer pay-what-you-can tickets.
Friday, May 17, 8 p.m. (Preview)
Saturday, May 18, 8 p.m. (Opening Night pre-show festivities begin at 6:30 p.m.). $20.
Sunday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 23, 8 p.m.; Friday, May 24, 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 25, 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 26, 3pm & 7:30 p.m.