Highland Park Community Project
For over 30 years, Cornerstone has pioneered a model of theater that utilizes community based, peer-to-peer engagement methods to drive social change in communities across the nation. Cornerstone’s methodology is a powerful instrument for motivating change, cultivating connections and prompting new ways of thinking. Our model of community engagement, based on gathering stories from real people and creating plays inspired by those stories, is flexible, scalable and nimble.
Central to the Cornerstone methodology is partnership. Cornerstone does its work in communities, with communities, for those communities; creating space for difficult conversations and providing an opportunity for participants to create their own narrative about who they are. This requires deep engagement by creating partnerships with local grassroots organizations and respected individuals within the community based on trust and respect.
The Cornerstone methodology for making community-based theater is scalable but has three basic components: empathy-building, story-gathering and collaborative creation. In the first phase, we use a variety of exercises to create a safe space, working from a place of inclusion where all voices are respected and valued. Secondly, we engage in a process of peer-to-peer storytelling in which a community builds its own narrative, on its own terms. Finally, Cornerstone’s team of theater professionals work alongside community members to create, rehearse and perform a play for the community. The community participants’ experience of telling their story, being seen and heard, sometimes for the first time, is always emotional, even cathartic. More than one participant has said working with Cornerstone changed their life.