Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cornerstone Day 5

Day 5! Busy Busy. Woke up, ate breakfast, and it was my day to lead the warmup. I taught them Samurai--OF COURSE! Then I did two Boal games. First, I led The Bear of P. (can't remember the town's name..) and then I led The Vampire of Strausburg. It was a blast, and I think everyone liked it.

After warmup, Laurie taught a class entitle "Community Based Theater." We started with writing on two sheets of paper what communities we belong to, and then what communties we want to work with. Our sheets looked like this:

The following are just some of my own personal notes from the class that I want to remember:

1. Push yourself our of your comfort zone.
2. Community-based theater lets community do the art-making. Sometiems this means less structure and more chaos.
3. Cornerstone's 4 Key Values: Respect, Diversity, Flexibility, Mutual Mentorship

4. We received a sheet called "Guidelines for Dialogue" that I loved. It had basic rules for having good dialogue, which is essential to the community based theater process. I thought it was a great tool to have for any situtation that requires communication. The following are the guidelines:
Listen with an open mind
Participate honestly and openly
Respectful active listening--one person talks at a time
Encourage all voices
Respect confidentiality
Appreciate the viewpointso f others
Experiences enlighten--share them
Be present
Ask permission of a colleague before sharing his/her stories, opinions, and perspectives outside of this meeting
Recognize your communication style
Expect to learn something about yourself and others
Speak clearly and use perosnal examples when making a point
Engage in the process by listening as well as speaking
Take responsibility for yourself and what you say
Permission is given for others to do what they need to do
No whining (whining defined as shrill, self-centered, complaining)
Don't restate--move forward
Be specific
Ask clarifying questions to increase understanding and knowledge
A clarifying question:
--comes from gneuine curiosity and addresses the specific or core issue unclear to you
--seeks information and understanding (replaces assumptions with information, adds insight about the speaker's intent)
--reserves judgment until idditional info is obtained
Trust others expertise--not everything is a group devision
Don't save it for the parking lot--share the hard questions where they can be resolved

5. We were all asked to write down a question we had about community based theater. Mine was: Does community-based theatre HAVE to be done with communities who are clear minorities in race, wealth, and class, or who have clear problems that can be seen?
I think this questions was important to me because I felt like none of the communities Cornerstone specifically had worked with in the past related to me, and it just got me thinking about my place in community based theater. As an upper-middle class white, mormon girl, where do I fit? Do my communities not need community based theater? I guess I was just getting stuck in thinking about myself as an outsider (more on that later).

6. SAY YES!!!
7. Some questions about community based theater to think about: Do you think all art is community based? How much involvement does the community have in this theater? What work have you done or know about that excited you? What draws you to this work?
8. Cornerstone likes switching up people's roles in their plays. For exampe, they will have hte patrol officer play that incarcerated, etc.
9. The idea of an insider/outsider is important in doing community-based work. You do not need to be an insider to tell someone's story. The advantages of being an insider that my class came up with are:
confidence in knowing
know language and context
built in invenstment
aware of complexities

The disadvantages of being an insider are:
too close
tunnel vision
your story is the only story
authenticity cop
too accomodating
fear of representing

The advantages of being an outsider are:
new perspective
view group as individuals
notice things
provide structure
healthy detachment
knowing more about self/others

The cons of being an outsider are:
fear of losing voice
fantasy others
fear of perception of exploitation
doing work that is nonsustainable
not knowing boundaries
superiority complex

What I took from all the insider/outsider stuff was that there is an insider and outsider in all of us. This was very important for us to talk about, I felt, as we have been walking around the community trying to get people to audition. I'm not going to lie, I felt like an outsider a LOT. Who am I to just come in and convince people that they should be in a play that I, a young white chick, am participating in? Many of the students here have been expresing concerns of ethics and concerns about what exactly the goals of this community based theater project are. Is it even right for us to be here? I think a lot of these concers of mine and other have been dealt with slowly, through classes and interactions with the community.

10. We did a wagon wheel activity where we had an inner circle and an outer circle. There was a person A and a person B. The facilitator (Laurie) would as a question and the pair would decide who went first. They would have 3 minutes to share their answer and then the other person would go. Then the wagon wheel turned for the next question, and you would have a new partner. The three questions Laurie asked were:
Talk about a time where you, as an audience member, were changed
What is an issue you're passionate about, and how can you change in with theatre?
What is a community you belong to and how does it affect you?

11. My favorite exercise of the class (which was 3 hours), was the value statement exercise. According to Laurie, we need to figure out what is important to us so that it can influence our work. We need to figure out what we would go down fighting for. We were given this list:
intellectual status
working with others
personal development
job tranquility
working alone
my country
personal tranquility
fast-paced work
living up to my potential
ecological awareness
supervising others
change and variety
financial gain
physical challenge
public service
health and fitness
helping others
fast living
social change
quality relationships
close relationships
inner harmony
ethical practice
self expression
meaningful work
___fill in the blank___

We were asked to pick our top ten things on this list we value. I picked: living up to my potential, family,honesty, compassion, passion, truth,love, beauty, accountability, and religion.

Then, we had to pick our top five. Mine were: living up to my potential, family, compassion, accountability, and religion.

Then, we had to pick our top three. Mine were: Living up to my potential, family, and compassion

Finally, we had to put them in order of most important to less important. My final list was:
1. Family
2. Compassion
3. Living up to my potential

Our assignment is to write a mission statement for either ourselves/peronsally or our work we want to do. I think I'm going to write one just for myself. A common theme for me in this experience so far has been figuring out what is important to me, which is definitely not what I was expecting out of this experience. For whatever reason, being around people who don't believe and think the same way I do has, I think, made me put my priorities straight, and I have become even stronger and more confident in what I believe.

After this long but amazing class, we had lunch. After, we were back to audition canvassing. Then dinner and more auditions! From 6:30-7:30pm I did recruiting. From 7:30-8:30pm I worked the lobby, and from 8:30-9:30pm I checked people in. Auditions were held this day at the Maclay Community Center, which looked like this:

Some of my peers (Jose, Liz, and Courtney) waiting for the rooms to get unlocked:
We still didn't have a ton of people audition, but definitely more than the first few days combined, which was great! After the auditions, we had our end of day meeting and BED. HALLELUJAH! What a day!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cornerstone Day 4

Day 4 was the Fourth of July! It was our first day off. We normally don't get Sundays off (it's usually Mondays), so it was nice. I mostly just hung around in the morning and caught up on some sleep. After lunch a few girls--including myself--went to the Hansen Dam water park to get some sun. Unfortunately, it was closed because that's where they would be setting off the fireworks in the evening. Bummer. Still, we would not be shut down, so we went over to Humphrey park (where we had the auditions the day before) because we saw they had a pool. When we showed up, nobody was there so we assumed that it was also closed. Luckily, we decided to ask and it was open! It had a diving board, and a water slide, and a lot of rules. You had to check in everything in the locker room and could only take a towel and a book or whatever out with you. No beach bad full of awesomeness or anything! So weird. You also had to go out in your swim suit or at least show that you had a swimsuit on underneath what you were wearing. We had a good time imagining what had happened in the past to make them have so many rules!
Anyway, it was still a lot of fun. We sunbathed, swam, and just enjoyed the relaxation after a few hard days. Here are some pics!
Beach babes...well, pool babes...

One major thing they were missing was lawn chairs...

Me and Caitlyn...

When we got home, Cornerstone had a huge barbecue that was delicious! There were veggies of all kinds, watermelon, shrimp kabobs, beef and chicken kabobs, tofu (at every meal for all the vegetarians and vegans!), guacamole, salsa, chips, dip, etc. It was so delicious! A bunch of Cornerstone friends came and it was great to just socialize and chillax.

Our evening consisted of fireworks at the Hansen Dam, which was quite the event. Cars were parked all over for miles. It was CROWDED. People were setting off illegal fireworks all over the place and one kid got hit by a ricochet one and his shirt caught on fire. Crazy. Here is a pic of the ladies who went!

Cornerstone Day 3

Day 3! This day started off with breakfast and then our auditions. We were all required to audition for the play so we would know what the community members would be going through. It was really easy and fun, and I think it was a great audition idea for inexperienced actors. They had us pick a short sentence from the newspaper and read it to them (memorized if you wanted to). Then, the director (Juliette) had us say that newspaper line in many different ways and in several different situations. It was pretty fun.

After that, we had a meeting about how auditions would be run that afternoon and how to canvass on the streets to get people to audition. The process would be as follows:
1. Arrive and sign in.
2. Fill out audition form
3. Take their picture
4. Have them choose sentence from newspaper
5. Escort them in.
6. They will be told if they get a callback.
7. Sign them up for a callback time.
8. Give them a callback slip.

That afternoon after lunch, we went to set up auditions and do our assignments. I was assigned to Humphrey Park. Here are some pics:

Here we are waiting for them to open the audition room:

There were these awesome clown murals that are reflective of the clowns in our show (the gang members in our play wear clown costumes):

Auditions were for three hours and we were each given different assignments for each hour. The first hour I was an escort, which basically meant I was supposed to bring people from the sign in table to the audition room. This was incredibly unneeded, so I mostly just hung out. I think we had five people audition total--in three hours. This wasn't really what we were expecting, but oh well. For the second hour I went recruiting. Holy cow--tough work! I finally felt a little taste of what it's like to be a missionary! I had to go up to random people I found and try to convince them to come audition. I got to use a lot of spanish, which was great but challenging. It was a lot of walking and a lot of talking basically. Plus, it is DANG HOT! I love it. The third hour I was assigned to help people fill out their audition forms. There wasn't really anybody to help, so again that was pretty easy.

After auditions we met back and had a meeting to see how the auditions in the two different locations went. It sounded like the other auditions were about as successful as ours. I was seriously hoping we had some major recruiting success in the next few days or else we wouldn't have a cast!

After the meeting we had a class about the intro to Cornerstone. We learned about how Cornerstone got started and got to see a lot of pictures and videos from their past productions. I've gotta say, they do some awesome work. It gave me a much better idea about what our final product will look like. I'm really thinking that this is something I could go back to my own community and do, which is great. They fed us popcorn during the meeting, and as you could expect, I enjoyed it.

At the end of incredibly long day #3, I was exhausted. All the heat and walking and then sitting made me ready for BED! On to day 4....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cornerstone Day 2

So, day 2 of my Cornerstone Internship. I woke up, had breakfast (every morning our co-company managers set out a spread of food like cereals, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, granola, fruit, toast, cottage cheese, etc.), and went to warmup. Each morning we have a warmup lead by a different student. Since this was the first day Laurie (one of the staff) did the warmup. I know some of these things won't be very interesting to read about, but it's for my own documentation, so oh well haha. For the warmup we first walked in the space in many different ways and situations. Then, we got in a circle and took turns walking up to someone, looking at them, and then replacing all of them (so taking upon ourselves their being, their way of standing, carrying themselves, etc.).

After warmup, we did what they call cultural mapping with Michael (Cornerstone's artistic director). Our first exercise was to place ourselves on an imaginary map on the floor, with the center being Pacoima. Then, we did what I call the "four corners" exercise. Michael labeled each corner with something, and then we all went to that corner if it applied to us. Each corner group had to find three commonalities among the people in the group and then share it with everyone. Examples of the 4 corners are: only child, oldest, youngest, middle...monolingual, bilingual, multilingual, and can't master any language...text, music, image, and movement. The next activity we did was what I call the spectrum. Michael would make one side of the room veggie burger and the other side sirloin steak. We then had to place ourselves in a line between these two points wherever we think we fall. You would have to converse with your neighbor to see why they placed themselves there to figure out where you fall on the spectrum. Other binaries he used were: wealthy and unwealthy, art and social justice, most likely to get arrested and least likely. Clearly I got put on the end of least likely. Score.

After Michael's cultural mapping activities we had a meeting with Paula Donnely (the Institute director) about the Pacoima community and hte history of community enegagment that has been done so far. We learned about all the different organizations that are working for good here in Pacoima, which was pretty amazing to me. It's too bad this place has such a bad reputation when there are so many people here striving to make a difference.

In the afternoon we went on a Pacoima scavenger hunt, which was a ton of fun! Here are some of the sites we saw:

Hansen Dam: This is the huge dam here that keeps the valley from flooding.

This part is called "The Mile." It's a mile from this point to the middle of the dam and back I believe. Lots of people run and walk it:
The Dam has a huge park and water park as well:

Hansen Hills. This is where the family our play centers on lives. It's never specifically stated, but the playwright got the inspiration from the houses on these hills:

The view from the hills:

Some sites around town we saw while driving on the scavenger hunt:

This is where we had some of our auditions:

Bobos Burgers is a staple in Pacoima. It's mentioned in the play:

These are two carwashes that are also mentioned in the play:

Those are all the pictures I took that day. One of the places on our scavenger hunt was Costco, which I thought was pretty funny, but apparently it made a massive impact on the community. It was big drama about who got hired from Pacoima and who didn't, and it has begun to bring different kinds of people to the area. It's not quite gentrification, but it has still created a different dynamic in that part of Pacoima.

In the evening I met with Alejandra, the stage manager for the show to learn about my assignment as assistant stage manager. It looks like I'll be recording the blocking and the other ASM (Raquel, who is awesome by the way) will be making calls to late people and other random things. It will be interesting to see how this will all pan out!

This amazingly long day ended with a community engagement meeting where we brainstormed ways to get in touch with the community and get them involved in the process as well as ways to get them to audition, since auditions are on day 3. This is a picture of our whiteboard post brainstorming meeting:

As you can see, my days are filled to the brim and each day literally feels like a week. It's CRAZY, but awesome.

Cornerstone Day1

OK, so as usual I have a little catchup here. I'm writing this on day 7 of my internship here in LA with Cornerstone Theater Company. I am participating in their Summer Institute program, which lasts four weeks. I am living and working in Pacoima, which is a northern neighborhood of LA in the San Fernando Valley. Cornerstone is a community-based theater company based in LA that lives with a community for about a year and tries to learn more about that community. A playwright, who is present for all this, then writes a play about the community and community members are invited to be in it along with a few professional actors and a few institute students like me. My job here is assistant stage manager, but I haven't got to do a whole lot with that yet. Anyway, those are the extreme basics, more details to come!

I left Salt Lake City on July 1st and got into LAX in the afternoon. Then, I took the FlyAway bus to Union Station where I was picked up by Cornerstone staff.
I felt like this:
Throughout the day I got to progressively meet more people as we picked them up from various locations. If there is one thing I have experienced so far it's diversity! There are 18 students all together, as well as many staff members, and we are from all over the place. There are people from different countries, people with masters degrees and phds, a grandmother, and several members from the LGBTQ community (one gay man, one lesbian, one butch lesbian, one queer girl, and one transgender girl (now man...). I seriously love them all. These people are amazing and I can't wait to learn all I can from their personal lives as well as how they make theatre. I can definitely say I'm not in Kansas (Provo) anymore. Consider the bubble POPPED! And I'm happy about it. Here are some pics from where I'm living. It's a charter school called Discovery Prep and it sits on the main street of Pacoima behind the First United Methodist Church of Pacoima:

My room is C2, in one of the school's classrooms:


This is my favorite place to read and relax. The roses and flowers in Pacoima are seriously GORGEOUS and so well taken care of. The irony is that they're usually growing through these huge gates. The image is very beautiful though:

This is the kitchen:

This is where we eat, sometimes called the "before"

This is where we have classes. We call it the "after"

We have a normal school bathroom with toilets and sinks, but as you know most schools don't have showers. So, they had to make showers for us. You warm up your water in a solar bag throughout the day in the sun, and then put it on the wood shelf. The bag has a hose that you wash yourself with. My post for day 2 will contain the saga that was my first shower experience:

This is behind the showers where you have to get up on this ladder to put your shower bag on the shelf:
Essentially, day 1 was exhausting, but so fun. I was just so dang excited to be here!!! We had a meeting in the evening once everyone had arrived, which mostly concerned how day to day business would be conducted. We also had to learn what not to do in Pacoima. Pacoima is known for its gang culture and gang violence. So, we were given the following tips:
1. Do not go outside at night by yourself.
2. You should be fine in the day by yourself.
3. Don't throw gang signs even in jest.
4. Bald men must wear hats.
5. No NY Yankees hats.
6. Dodgers hats are fine. They are universal among all gangs.
7. No hats or shirts with a P on them.

I think those were all the major ones. Clearly, none of those clothing things really apply to me and I don't plan on going out at night alone. Duh. Anyway, that's about all for day one. If I think of anything else I'll add it!

PS--I think I just felt my first earthquake while writing this....whoa.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our 1 Year Anniversary

Sorry, still playing catchup here. On April 25, 2010 we had our first anniversary! Since it was on a Sunday we chose to celebrate the day before. Daniel surprised me with beautiful flowers, a nice card, a cupcake from the Sweet Tooth Fairy, and a Golds Gym Pass! I've been wanting one for forever. I got him a nice pair of designer jeans and he was super happy! To celebrate we went out to dinner at The Melting Pot in Salt Lake City. It was AMAZING! It's a fondue restaurant where like literally everything but your salad is fondue. We started with a cheese fondue appetizer where they brought out yummy things like vegetables, breads, and apples to dip in the cheese. The second course was a salad. The main course was a variety of meats and seafood uncooked. You then cook all the meat one piece at a time in the fondue pot. It was quite the adventure. Dessert was my favorite. They brought out tons of dessert goodies on a plate and we dipped them in chocolate that was drizzled with marshmallow and topped with oreo cookie crumbles. It was a fabulous 1st year anniversary and I cannot wait for many many more! Here are some pictures!