the end of the blogbook cornerstone institute 5

class of 2008 - Los Angeles Art District @ traction


day 30 - evaluation + the staff of i5


Mary on stage management: My name is Mary. I am an Assistant Stage Manager for our show. Stage management is what I do; I enjoy it greatly. I’ve worked on a lot of shows, and this is my first time working on a community-based theatre production. My job varies. I’m in a rehearsal room a lot. I did a lot of work with props, making spreadsheets of which prop goes to which actor, and where that prop needs to be a the top of the show. During rehearsals, I am either on book (reading the script as the actors say their lines so I can help them if they need it) or taking down blocking for Marisa, our stage manager. To keep things simple, I write blocking in shorthand. For example, Darell enSL, x->CS means that Darell enters stage left, and then crosses to center stage. With the help of Zohar, the other ASM, I make phone calls to the actors to let them know of their rehearsal schedule, and if they are late to rehearsal. With a cast of +50 actors, it is great to have someone else working with you! As a team, myself, Marisa and Zohar set up the rehearsal room to make sure there are chairs for actors and the director to sit in, as well as enough clear space for everyone to move in. This job got harder as we got closer to production because there was more equipment and costumes in the back room of Cornerstone. During the show, I live backstage right. I am on the American Hotel side of Traction Avenue. I generally sit next to the phone booth around the corner from Blooms. I don’t get to see much of the show as a result, but my job is important. Zohar, who is on the Zips side of Traction, and I are in charge of making sure actors get onstage when they are supposed to. We keep our backstage areas as calm and aware as we can. Marisa gives us our cues through walkie-talkies. Zohar has all the car traffic during the show (we have a few cars and a motorcycle!). I have a lot of people waiting on my side, as well as people coming in and out of Blooms and the American. I also have the Safety Team on my side. It is definitely the craziest backstage environment I have been in! I love being able to help keep things safe and calm, though, giving positive energy to the actors. I have two favorite moments that I am a part of in the show. The first is Adam’s flashback to 1985 at the beginning of the show. We have a thief who runs off with Adam’s briefcase, and then two guys AND a woman on a motorcycle that chase after the thief! I have to make sure that the sidewalk on my side is clear, and that there is no oncoming traffic. If any of the actors from onstage run into the street, then they could be hit by the motorcycle. My other favorite moment is cueing the Artshare Teens, along with Zach, Adel and Dee, to enter. The Artshare Teens wait at least thirty minutes to go on, and they are so patient! Their stomp routine is so fun to watch, and I love being around their happy selves.

Mary Kimball


day 29 - opening night

from Joseph Fernandez, Community Artist

thanks first of all for being a part of this vibrant and loving community and i guess i answered your first question; to why i am attracted to traction ave. i do allot of traveling and along the way i stopped by ground works to get something to drink, i noticed the commotion at the cornerstone theater so like always i walked a little closer and said if there was any help needed and sure enough. so really it was by chance that i was given the opportunity to be one of the many talented artists to to help beautify this production. let me see from the time i was at the cornerstone theater i was either painting on buildings or giving original henna designs to beautiful people, two of the many things that makes me content in living comfortably. i have never felt challenged more like inspired, i worked along side other talented artists and the outcome was great. i also sat in on a reading which was intense and interesting. i started my career in art as i was wasting my time enlisted in the u.s. Navy, i was left working on diesel engines being the quote unquote greese monkey for eight years. when i left in 04 of aug i went straight to community college, where i am pursuing my degree in fine arts/sculpture. so now i am a sculptor, i've held a job as a bronze caster, i weld bronze alluminum and steele. i make various things from clay pots & clay figures, and i also make figures out of found material (the artsy way of saying trash) i draw, i paint, and i art.  i have had a great experience working with everyone and seeing the behind the scenes mayham of making a play come together. i really dig the vibe and how everything came together artistically, visualy, and hummanly. thank you cornerstone theater for the opportunity to be apart of this beautiful play depicting one of L.A.'s unique communities.


day 27 - management class

I talked with John Joo, who plays Stantin and our praise team leader, at a break during rehearsal the other night.  Becky Dale, fellow Institute student and our music composer for the show, has credited Joo with the idea to sing “God of This City” as the praise song towards the end of the play. Joo's connection to the Traction Avenue community is through his involvement with New City Church, the church Joo (and some other cast members) belong to.  New City Church is one of the congregations mentioned in the play and has been meeting at e3rd Steakhouse for the last seven months, but will soon be moving to another location a few blocks away. Joo volunteers as a music leader as his church and began to go to the church after a period in his life when he was working in the Fashion District for a family business. “Everybody is very business-minded there and I used to drive through Skid Row daily, but didn't really care about the homeless people.  I started thinking about ways to be involved in the neighborhood,” said Joo. Although Joo grew up in the church, he realized a lot of the teaching he grew up with was wrong. “Compassion is community,” said Joo.  “Many people at my church used to be addicted, but they found that when they believed in God, they cleaned up and got jobs.” Joo came to audition for the show after the announcement was made at church that the play needed praise leaders.  He said as an artist, he likes singing and performing and thought that if the invitation was extended and that his own church was portrayed in the play, he could help out. Though Joo originally auditioned with the intention to be part of the praise team, he quickly took on the role of Stantin, a Japanese American man in his 60s from Saint Francis Xavier. “It's scary to play Stantin,” he said.  “But I've always wanted to try acting and this is an easy way.  Page and Michael sat down with me and helped me dissect each line.” Another unexpected benefit is that the play has also given him a chance to know his fellow church members better. Joo has been playing guitar since the 7th or 8th grade and has been self-taught.  He was originally an illustrator but now considers himself more of a songwriter.  He bought himself a four-track recorder and went to Minneapolis for two years to go to school for music.  Joo was also in a band called Cornerstore. Now, Joo is attending Glendale Community College as an English major and wants to be a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, preferably in an underserved community. To hear more of John Joo's music, visit http://www.myspace.com/volleythemusic.

Ching-In Chen

Lyrics from “God of This City” by Bluetree/Chris Tomlin

Greater things have yet to come/ Great things are still to be done/ In this city/ Greater things are still to come/ And greater things are still to be done here. 

I breathe some stuff in, I breathe some other stuff out.  I take in food and drink and expend activity and waste and more.  Our physical beings are created over and over from the environment around us.  We take in some words and ideas and emit others. We are aware of only some of the things we take in and put out. My experience of making music is similar.  Some stuff goes in and music comes out.  Then, after it’s come out I have to get to know it – I have to learn it.  It doesn’t really feel like I made it but more like it passed through me like breath or food or ideas. The other day I was thinking about the ingredients of one of the songs in attraction as if it were a recipe: generous portions of Page Leong’s wonderful prose, the memory of Alejandra Navarro’s lovely voice, a bike ride through Elysian Park, and my tendency toward less common musical modes.   I intentionally read through the part of the play for the music before heading out on the bike ride, knowing that being in motion outside is my prime time for inspiration. I chose some ingredients; I am sure there are thousands of others ingredients of which I am not consciously aware. The larger musical landscape of attraction is a community creation with many musicians passing through (some for longer stays) Traction in this moment contributing ingredients to the production and to one another. I am very grateful for this opportunity to create with so many others.  I have been inspired by the talent and humanity of all I have encountered here. In a couple of days I leave Traction for the far away and foreign land of Minnesota.  My  passing through here was brief. I have breathed in fuel for future use, as well as joy and hope for continuing forward. Bits of all the people and places and sights and sounds I have encountered here come with me, ingredients for future music, interactions, ideas and who knows what? “PI:  Just passing through.  Got my eye on you.”  - from Page Leong's at Traction.

Becky Dale


day 26 - day off/ visiting the neighbors

I had a chance to talk with community cast member Jonathan Jerald (who plays Duke, a Cornerstoner) during some down time during rehearsal. Jerald, with longtime friend Jim Fittipaldi, is starting Bedlam, a new monthly magazine which will cover the urban Los Angeles art scene from the West side to Pomona. Bedlam is a reference to a space that Jim Fittipaldi created and ran for almost 22 years, first in a loft on Molino Street and then in a vast two-story industrial space on 6th Street, which hosted drawing workshops, live theater and music, performance art and an art gallery. “It was a focal point for arts in downtown Los Angeles,” said Jerald. Jerald has taken over the space formerly known as Al's Bar, which will be the editorial offices for the new magazine as well as an intimate performance space (for about 60 people) and art gallery. Jerald was the managing editor of Citizen LA (www.citizenla.com) for the past two years and left that position to start Bedlam; the first issue is slated to come out in mid-August.  Jerald has a background in journalism and wrote Pure Silver: The Second Best of Everything with David Reid in the 80s.  He also has produced many history documentaries for the History Channel, the last being a history of LSD. Although the last time Jerald acted in a play was when he was Colonel Petkoff in George Bernard shaw's Arms and the Man in high school, his parents and his older sister were both involved in the theater (that's how his parents met!) Jerald loves his experience with Cornerstone though he was initially reluctantly sucked in.  He was walking his dog and told that the production needed dogs and then persuaded to audition. “It's great that Cornerstone Theater is so well known for developing theater nationally, but is finally coming home.  It's fun to see the spectacle put together and get to meet people you normally wouldn't hang out with,” said Jerald.  “It's a gift to whatever community it's in.

Ching-In Chen


day 24 - future projects

Interview with community actor Jeanne Sales:

C: What performing experience did you have prior to this play?

J: I sang in high school musicals, playing Bloody Mary in South Pacific.

C: Which part of the AtTraction experience has been the most fun?

J: That’s easy—the wonderful people I am meeting, and the opportunity to take part in all of this. This play is a real blessing for me right now. I would call it the cherry on the pie of my retirement!

At this moment Jeanne had to run off to have her microphone fitted. Thanks for participating, Jeanne.

Cate Wiley


day 23 - tech rehearsal

Rooftop Musings

My feet are planted firmly on the bottom rung of a ladder. My eyelids cowering together from the generous sunlight.  Weight evenly distributed. Breathing. Inhaling the breeze and the rare coolness it affords.

I am standing up here, some twenty or thirty feet up in the air. Here, on this rooftop in Los Angeles. How wonderfully unlikely it all is. Here, I can step back and notice the city, removed like a sometimes-visitor of art museums…allowing myself the ability to engage in observation and criticism of that which I know little to nothing about. Marveling at its beauty. Perplexed by its inconsistencies. Curious about its meaning.

I reach down and grasp the metal frame of a light, striving against the heat to feeling my hoist it up to the lighting designer, helping him to craft his portion of this unorthodox theater…built of rooftops and asphalt and poles and yards and yards and yards of cable.

Again, I let myself enjoy the breeze. And the sensory feast surrounding me in this moment. Our street is wild with activity. The click-click-clicking of spray paint cans.  People laughing. Yelling directions to each other over rooftops and down the road. An orchestra of sounds that signal a tuning up of sorts…a preparation for something unknown.

I watch as paint-covered people slather color onto the landscape of the buildings—bright pink, yellow-greens, turquoise. A man walks by with his dog and glances nonchalantly at what he assumes is yet another film crew setting up. Someone in the American hotel starts to blast music from their third story window and a woman dances around the corner. An ice cream truck rounds the corner with a music box melody as artists sweat into their work, transforming dumpsters into gallery-worthy pieces of art.

I am glad to be so present, here on the roof. Coiling cable and hanging lights. Watching this parade of excitement and activity, of concentrated work spilling out into color. A summer afternoon just sizzling with creativity. Community drawing together. And Cornerstone at the heart of it all. I close my eyes for a moment and let the breeze pass, again, over my sun-scorched shoulders. And I smile.

Abby Jackson


day 22 - closing of traction ave

Interview with Roger Nduku

Roger Nduku, who is in the ensemble, is also a poet who has been writing since he was a teenager in the Congo.  He first wrote in French, but started writing in English when he came to the United States in 1988. I noticed him showing another cast member his chapbook on the way to music rehearsal and found time to talk with him about his poetry and his experience in the play. Nduku hasn't been in a play since high school, but has always been a creative person.  He also paints on canvas, and in San Francisco, met drummer Carlos Aldama who taught him drumming in the Mission. He is a resident of the neighborhood and decided to try out for the play after he walked by Cornerstone and saw the announcement for auditions. “I live in the neighborhood and see the reality of the neighborhood,” said Nduku, who voiced some skepticism about whether the play will change how people react to him in this community.  “Once the play is done, will people say hi to me on the street as a black man?” Nduku mentioned that he thought that community projects were different in Africa because everybody participated in the community with respect to what others were doing.  In contrast, he was bothered by what he viewed as a lack of respect by some people who continue to cross the street even if they see that the street is blocked off because of the play. However, Nduku said that he has appreciated this experience to be part of the group and will try to be in another play after this one. “Human beings are social animals,” he explained.  “The main question is who are you, where do you come from and where are you going.  If you can't answer, you're not doing anything.”

Ching-In Chen


a poem by Roger Nduku Makpaulu

how much time is it left,
for you to go crazy,
fall in love with your own self,
drop your pants for the heck of it,
mooning the sky, the moon
and all lovers alike?

how much time is it left,
for you to get crazy,
feel the love within your own flesh,
drop your guilt,shaking yourself loose,
in a limitless sky,
allowing the lover to awake?

how much time is left,
for love of flesh to be dropped,
for Christ sake!
opening the skies to all lovers alike?

how much time for Anna,the sterile,
To meet with Magdalena, the prostitute,
And in communal union,
melt into Maria,
Virgin matter again...

how much time do you think you got left?


day 16 - the shadow puppet workshop

ArtShare and the American Hotel

or …. letting strangers in 

*Names have been changed for the safety of the participants

I’m sitting in Zach’s window on the 2nd floor of the American Hotel overlooking Traction Ave. We have removed the screen, propped the window open with a metal pipe and a stack of prop books, rearranged his furniture, pulled back his beaded curtain and piled 10 people into his apartment. Zach is sweating and obviously tired and maybe even a little freaked out to have a film crew in his apartment, but he doesn’t complain. Let me reiterate that there are now 10 of us in his apartment and we are all mostly strangers except for our 1 week (and a thousand years) sense of comfort and familiarity. The breeze is necessary, to say the least. I wait in the window. We all wait. Turns out that film shoots require a whole mess of people and a lot of stop and go and check and recheck …. and check again. Wait. Where is the Etch-A-Sketch?

Let me backtrack a little. As you may or may not know, our upcoming production of attraction has several film sequences and on Day 2 of shooting, I was on the crew for the “Myrine and Manny making eggs in a microwave at the American Hotel” scene. We follow Myrine and Manny from the window of Manny’s apartment, out through his wall to wall, floor to ceiling LP and CD collection, other assorted music equipment, stack of hats 4 feet tall, leopard bed, leopard folding chair, room/closet arrangement, out through the hall, through the people who may be hanging out in the American Hotel, up the stairs, into Myrine’s apartment and as she gives us a tour of her room- of her “library and garden” extension on her windowsill, her kitchen, “walk-in-closet”, her bicycle, her badminton racquet and assorted photographs and art pieces, we learn how to scramble eggs in a microwave…This whole process is a funny meeting of worlds. Here we are, albeit relaxed, flexible and ever grateful to be allowed into these intimate spaces and still, foreigners in spaces of comfort – creating a world within a world. Maya’s (the actress playing Myrine) boyfriend is in the hallway constructing her bed so they can loft it and maximize the available space in her tiny room. “This is real life” she tells us. He becomes one of our favorite parts of the film sequence.

We take 5 continuous shots in and out of these rooms and through these halls in the American Hotel and in my 3 hours there of holding a powder puff, the American Hotel meets and surpasses all of my expectations. The smell of piss. Beer. Cats. Heat. We are in a dormitory of sorts for grown-ups. No rules. Graffiti, posters, shared bathrooms, doors are open, music is coming from all directions and is of all incarnations, people are in their doorways or hanging out, beer in hand, slippers on, choosing to interact with us or slink away. It is wild and wonderful and warm. It’s a trip. Dynamic and energetic. I have one of the resident’s keys in my pocket to allow ease of entry for our crew as we run back and forth between the American and Cornerstone gathering all the missing pieces. This is a crucial detail for me. He has known me for one week and he hands me the keys to his home. I promise him I won’t steal his car.

So, that was our evening. A gentle collision of people and place.

My afternoon was similar – not quite the final step of actual filming, but in preparation for it, we went to *ArtShare down the block to retrieve art pieces from the student and professional gallery to use to “dress the space” for our next shoot – turning an outdoor triangle lot into a bohemian nighttime jazzy smoky sort of space. This process was sort of amazing too. The day before, I went in to check things out and the program manager happily let me interrupt his afternoon about 5 times as we brought people in and out to get all of the necessary OK’s and go aheads. We ended up with about 6 student pieces all varying in style from Picasso-esque painting to graffiti to collage and 3 large professional pieces from an artist named Dan Wooster (check him out online). Oversized and colorful faces that jump off the canvas with life and intrigue. The retrieval was smooth, ArtShare volunteers helped us with our trek down the street, and all was completed within minutes really.

Things are moving along. Feels good to know who is in the neighborhood. 

*Art Share Los Angeles is a community arts incubator whose mission is to shape lives through art, education and community action. Operating out of a converted warehouse in the Arts District, Art Share offers free art classes with incredibly talented artists.

Aliya Ellenby


day 14 - the dandelion dance workshop

Follow Your Instinct

At times we all get trapped into thinking too much… into overanalyzing the meaning of an artistic piece whether we are creating it or observing it from a distance. I had the beautiful opportunity to step out of that realm of thought, even if it was only for a couple of hours, when the Dandelion Dance Theater came to the Institute to do a workshop on movement and voice. “Now cross the room with your body embracing the fat!” This line resonates within me as I remember all of the bodies crossing the room at their own paces, with their own rhythms. I remember this from when the workshop leaders encouraged us to move across the room in a way that we “celebrated” the fat on our bodies, in whatever way that meant for each individual. This activity was probably the most memorable because we were celebrating an element that is so often shunned in our society. I was amazed by how simple the movements were, and yet how compelling they were to watch. Additionally, we moved across the room embracing muscle, bone, and so on. Before this activity, we had done some trust building activities. For example, many activities had started with palms touching like a pancake and the assigned “leader” leading the “follower” around the room with various movements. Some people expressed feeling more comfortable as the leader, but also mentioned the pressure they had felt making sure the follower was having a good time. Others enjoyed the opposite role more. Another favorite moment of mine was the vocal exercise which made me feel as though I was in a rainforest listening and interacting with many exotic animals. What was actually happening was a cacophony of Institute students voices rockin’ out. We sat in a circle (very ritualistic), closed our eyes, and volunteered our voices in whatever ways we felt compelled to do. It was wacky, it was soothing… it was definitely fun… The last thing we did was create little improv pieces, based on certain guidelines. We worked off the movements of running, walking, stopping and falling. Later we added the distracting, yet compelling “sound chair”. The improv pieces, although sometimes a little off focus, were so fascinating to watch and to take part in. Again, it wasn’t about the specific meaning you were supposed to get from the pieces. It was art as itself, not trying to be something else. And it was so alive, because it was spontaneous and because there was  lively physical movement. I very much appreciated this workshop and am grateful that the Dandelion Dance Theater Company collaborated with the Institute, for the first time, this year. I hope that future Institutes will be blessed with this opportunity.

Zohar Fuller


day 13 - taiga on "for all time" community reading

Writing exercise working with KJ Sanchez's method of story circle and interview, focusing on punishment and retribution

[Anna is a young woman.  She is a strong presence, playfully serene, but grounded and somewhat earthy.  Her eyes are clear and twinkle with mischief.  She is very contemplative, and tends to choose her words very carefully.  She is a “hand talker.”]


It’s fair to say that most people have seen both sides of punishment.  I mean, maybe not me because I’m pretty much a goody-two shoes [shrugs].  My parents really aren’t too strict.  There was – in the second grade I was talking in class and the teacher was like [her voice deepens and her expression hardens] “Anna!  Go sit in the corner.”  So I was kind of like “eek!” [cringes] and went to sit in the corner.  [looking up at the ceiling]  It was lonely in the corner.

I’m trying to think when I punished someone.  [puts a finger on her chin] I’m thinking of all my camp experiences because there must have been a lot…  I know I must have… Last years some kids – they had this, like, Lego toy that they really liked and [counts off on her fingers] they were playing with it and running.  So I was – I just kind of yelled at them.  Nothing really changed at all.  I mean, I wasn’t the only one yelling, and it seemed kind of pointless, but that’s the rule at camp – no running in the hall.

Most of my experience with this stuff was at my high school.  I was on the judicial board.  The hardest case was the very first one I was on.  We had to decide whether to suspend this kid – he had physically abused someone, but it wasn’t super-serious.  Like, it was significant enough that you couldn’t ignore it, but it wasn’t like – it really wasn’t that big a deal, though.  Like a punch [imitates a punch on her own shoulder].  He had just been accepted to college, and if we decided to suspend him, we would have notified the college and they might have changed their minds about accepting him. [pause]  I really battled with that choice for a long time.  I was kind of the tie-breaker.  It was half and half – to suspend him or not.  And my close friend was involved, and she was totally against it.  She had been punished by the judicial board her freshman year, and she kept saying that since then everyone had been like – like she was devalued, and she had been fighting to reverse that opinion of her ever since then.  She was crying about it and really didn’t want that to happen to this kid. 

Then on the other side, I had all of my teachers telling me he should be suspended.  I went to this private school where we were there from 9-5 and by this time we had been working on this case for something like two and a half hours, and it was 4:55 and everyone was like “Anna, we need a decision now.”  I ended up deciding to suspend him.  And then I left and I just looked at my friend.  Then I went and drove away.  Looking back, I don’t think it was the right choice. [shrugs sadly]  The thing is was that the only things we could do – we had a choice between like [demonstrates on both hands] him volunteering in the school and him being suspended.

I didn’t think volunteering in the school was good.  I mean, what does that have to do with him hitting someone?  So he’s suspended, but then he’s just sitting at home and his parents are mad at him.  And that didn’t really have anything to do with it either, so I don’t know.  It was just like, volunteering wasn’t enough but suspension…  So I think we should have made education a part of it.  Because that had to do with the problem in the first place. 

Punishment?  Punishment to me should be part education, but also kind of a little bit of hurt.  Because that little bit of hurt lets the person know that it’s not ok.  It’s not ok.  The education should be a bigger part though.  Like maybe 40% hurt and 60% education.  I don’t know.  If there’s too much hurt, though, it just leads to resentment.

Molly MacLagan


day 11 - company meeting

Ruthie Fisher’s character writing exercise (edited for length)

I am Agnes Lysanthia Brown. I am an Aries, which is interesting because Aries are meant to be stubborn and I am not stubborn. I am more of a shape shifter. I am about 65. I say about because my age is confusing. . . I know I am an Aries, but not quite sure what day my momma popped me out. Well, ah, well. I live over in the grocery building, but that’s really a secret now, isn’t it? Don’t want to tip Mr. what’s his name officer off. My home is just really a landing for my behind. My home is my possessions, my trinkets. . .  I am not sure why everything is little, but maybe because it is easier to move my things when the po po comes. Actually, that is not even true, because a lot of little becomes something big. . .  My legs are pretty t—A--rrific if you ask me. Well, not that anyone is really asking. I used to have it. I had the moves. I know I may not be the prettiest thing on this block . . . but I got solid gold legs. I am telling you . . . I really think I will be shaking this bootie to the grave.


Cate Wiley's interview with Maria:

Maria has kindly extended an invitation to visit her in Sweden, which I would like to take up since seeing Vikingsholm at Lake Tahoe, a beautiful Scandinavian-style summer home built nearly 100 years ago at Emerald Bay. The lines, the warm combination of wood and stone, and the grass growing on the roof made me want to see the real Scandinavia!

Maria told me about some serious differences among Scandinavian countries, for example, that a new law in Denmark makes it very hard for a Dane to marry anyone outside the European Union. If they do so, the couple must reside in Sweden even if they work in Denmark.

We discussed how theater works in Sweden. There, small theater companies apply almost exclusively to the state for funding, and actors are considered unemployed during rehearsals so they can collect benefits.

Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden’s second city) have two big companies and each  county  (like a state, 24 total ) has at least one regional theater. Remember that the city of Los Angeles has nearly twice the population of all of Sweden!

Sweden has 4 theater academies, admitting only 8-12 people per class, with usually over 1000 applicants each year. Most people apply several times (Maria applied 10 times before her acceptance, and she knows on ly one person who got in her first try).

Maria says of her work that she is grateful to be an actor full time at Teatre Västernorrland (which means western northland)