Board of Directors
Neetu S. Badhan-Smith
Neetu is an attorney for Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office where her criminal law practice includes defending indigent citizens accused of serious felony crimes. Before criminal law, Neetu was a Staff Attorney at the Southern California Housing Rights Center, where she initiated state and federal civil rights complaints. Originally from Sacramento, Neetu grew up participating in local theater, music and dance. Now an Angeleno for 17 years, she has a B.A. in both Anthropology and Psychology from UCLA (Class of ’99), and a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law (Class of ’02). She stays active in the community by volunteering at the law school and working with local organizations such as the South Asian Network. Neetu first became involved with Cornerstone Theater as a community member actor and participated in 3 Justice Cycle plays; as Rachel in Someday (2008), the fiddling, dancing, and singing raccoon in Touch the Water (2009) and Leila, the public defender, in 3 Truths, (2010). She is also active on Cornerstone’s Community Advisory Committee. Last year, she performed in UCLA’s 2010 Vagina Monologues. When not in the courtroom, or at Cornerstone, she enjoys Irish fiddling, the twelve bar blues on her guitar, and she sings back-up and plays the violin in the local reggae blues band, Al.’s Peace.
Yule grew up working as a child actor, studying at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and starring in the PBS series UP AND COMING. He graduated from Harvard College and earned his M.F.A. from UCLA’s School of Theater Film and Television, where he won numerous awards, including the 2006 Sidney Sheldon Award for Screenwriting and the NAACP/NBC Fellowship in Screenwriting. His award winning short films, SHOES and BOYS’ NIGHT OUT, have played festivals worldwide. He also wrote and directed the feature film comedy, SWISHBUCKLERS. Yule was a member of the writing staff on the hit television show HEROES, and prior to that was a New Media producer and director of the show’s webisodes and online content. In 2008 his work and contributions won an Emmy Award for Interactive Media Programming for The Heroes Digital Experience. He has traveled extensively, and lived in various countries around the world.
Margaret Leong Checca (Treasurer)
Margaret retired from Shapell Industries, Inc., a major California homebuilder, in 2010 where she served as Vice President, Financial Services, for 28 years. She is a native Angeleno. She graduated from California State University at Los Angeles with a degree in business administration. She resides with her husband, Michael Checca, in Pasadena, California and is an active board of director for Pacific Asia Museum, Descanso Gardens, and Planned Parenthood Pasadena San Gabriel Valley.
Michele DeRosa is a passionate Career Development professional with extensive experience working with individuals and groups in colleges, consulting companies, organizations, and private practice. Currently, she is a contractor for Kaiser’s Workforce Development initiative providing career services to union employees. She also facilitates job support groups at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction recovery center, and teaches part time at California State Univ., Northridge and Antioch Univ., Los Angeles. Michele worked in recruitment and career management for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then for DBM where she designed a career development program for a major airline, webinars for a high tech firm, and leadership workshops for USOC coaches, and consulted with hundreds of diverse clients in career transition. Michele’s B.A> is in English and Theatre form Univ. Of California, Santa Barbara; her M.A. is in Educational Psychology from California Polytechnic State Univ. San Luis Obispo. Michele’s fascination with performing arts began during childhood with frequent outings to summer stock musicals in Bucks County, PA, followed by participating in community and children’s theater, then college productions, and more recently studying and performing with the Galli Theater in Germany. She is founding and current board member of the Los Angeles Dance Foundation. Michele has been an avid supporter and community partner with CTC since 2001: participating in story circle, performing in “Faith” and “Justice” cycle shows and “Creative Seeds” mini –performances, facilitating dialogue processes, and serving on the Community Advisory Council. She is active on the Board of Temple Beth Israel (TBI) of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, the 2nd oldest continually operating synagogue in L.A., during an exciting time of growth, resurgence and community outreach.
Paula Ely has worked in the film, television, and media business for 22 years. In 1991 she joined the television division of Carolco Pictures, then Hollywood’s largest independent production company. After Carolco’s closing, Paula joined Kazmark Entertainment Group, a firm which creates television advertising and programming trade opportunities in collaboration with major advertising agencies. Paula oversaw the creation of the Kazmark subsidiary Springbok Films in 2002, and has served in producing roles for several films under the Springbok banner. In 2005, Paula produced and directed the documentary “Vanishing Cultures: Bushmen of the Kalahari,” an official selection at nine national and international film festivals. The film was named “Best Documentary” at the Gulf Coast Film & Video Festival, and Paula received the “Best Producer” award at the La Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles. The documentary was also selected to partner with Peter Gabriel’s human rights organization WITNESS in a Movies That Matter project in association with jaman.com. In 2009 Paula managed production administration for the PBS pledge drive special “The Answer is You,” featuring Michael Bernard Beckwith. Paula received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2004 from the non-profit organization PAWS/LA, and produced and directed their fundraising videos and public service announcements in 2006 and 2009. Paula served on the awards committee for the 2009 IDA Documentary Awards and has been a panelist for four years for the Roy W. Dean Los Angeles Film Grant. In 2012 Paula completed UCLA’s Certificate of Archaeology in the Department of Humanities, Anthropology, which she received with the designation “earned with distinction.” She has also taught as a volunteer adult literacy tutor with the Los Angeles Public Library literacy program and has worked as a volunteer with service programs in Cartago, Costa Rica and Prampram, Ghana. She is currently at work producing a new documentary entitled “The Money Stone,” directed by Stuart Harmon, which explores the little-known world of illegal gold mining in Ghana. “The Money Stone” has received a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts, a Brooklyn Arts Council grant, and the Roy W. Dean Los Angeles Documentary Video Grant. Paula is an avid collector of fine-art photography, and in 2012 was invited to serve on the board of the Photographic Arts Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. After LACMA’s council reorganization in 2013, she joined her fellow board members in the creation of the independent organization PAC/LA, dedicated to fostering individual and community-wide appreciation for the photographic arts.
Michael John Garcés
Michael has been at Cornerstone since 2006. Directing credits at the company include Plumas Negras by Juliette Carrillo, Café Vida by Lisa Loomer, Making Paradise by Tom Jacobson, Shishir Kurup and Deborah Wicks La Puma, 3 Truths by Naomi Iizuka, Someday by Julie Marie Myatt, attraction by Page Leong, and The Falls by Jeffrey Hatcher (at the Guthrie Theater). For Cornerstone he has also written Consequence, out of story circles with students, teachers, administrators and parents in South Kern County, and Los Illegals, created in residence with communities of day laborers and domestic workers. Los Illegals was subsequently produced by Teatro Bravo in Phoenix; it is published in Theatre Magazine (Yale School of Drama/Duke University Press - More info on this Publication). Directing credits at other theaters include, most recently Wrestling Jerusalem by Aaron Davidman (Intersection for the Arts), We Are Proud to Present… by Jackie Sibblies Drury (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), The Convert by Danai Gurira (Wilma Theater), Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherfucker with the Hat (South Coast Repertory) and red, black and GREEN: a blues by Marc Bamuthi Joseph (REDCAT and The Brooklyn Academy of Music), and he has worked at many theaters across the country. His full-length plays include THE WEB (needtheatre), points of departure and customs (INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center) and Acts of Mercy (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater); a solo performance, agua ardiente (The American Place); short plays include Grief (Active Cultures), hymn in three parts (Chalk Rep), inhabited and in the Zone (Red Fern Theatre Co.), tostitos (EST Marathon of One-Act Plays), on edge and the ride (Humana Fest.), audiovideo (The Directors Project) and sandlot ball (Mile Square). He collaborated with composer Alexandra Vrebalov on the oratorio Stations, which received its premiere at the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra and was also performed at the NOMUS Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia. Michael is on the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. He is a recipient of the Rockwood Arts and Culture Fellowship, the Princess Grace Statue, the Alan Schneider Director Award, a TCG/New Generations Grant, the Non-Profit Excellence Award from the Center of Non-Profit Management and is a Southern California Leadership Network Fellow. He is a company member at Woolly Mammoth and a proud alumnus of New Dramatists.
Ellen Gavin is currently working as a writer/director in Los Angeles. She is the author of numerous screenplays, teleplays and plays that have garnering national awards; she has received numerous travel and residency fellowships nationally and internationally. Recently she was a staff writer on a eighteen-episode Nicaraguan drama entitled Contracorriente, currently broadcasting on major networks throughout Latin America. Her feature romantic comedy, G.P.S. I Love You will be produced and directed by British filmmaker Pratibha Parmar (Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2008), Khush (1991), Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (2013) of Kali Films. Ellen’s last play Stardust and Empty Wagons, chronicled the experience of 25 Katrina survivors and was accompanied live by the renowned Hot Eight Brass Band of New Orleans. Gavin was one of the first female firefighters in the San Diego Fire Department, inspiring her first play, The Roof's on Fire! and a one-hour dramatic pilot, Walk Under Ladders. She spent three years as a professional municipal firefighter/EMT, working at one of the busiest stations in the city. For over two decades, Gavin was the Founding Artistic Director of the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco, a nationally-recognized theater serving women and playwrights of color. She led a $6 million capital campaign to purchase and renovate the historic vaudeville York Theater in San Francisco's Mission District into a state-of-of-the-art theater complex (with 400 and 100 seat theaters) serving a broad audience. She collaborated on the renovation design in two phases with modernist architects Mark Cavagnero and Anne Fougeron. The completed Brava Theater Center won numerous awards including the AIA No. California Design Award and the International Neon Competition for marquee designer Fernando Duarte; it was featured on the cover of Contract Magazine. Over more than two decades of her artistic leadership, Gavin acted as producer for hundreds of World Premiere productions including premieres by Suzan Lori-Parks, Cherrie Moraga, Culture Clash, Gillian Slovo, Eve Ensler, Diana Son, Joan Holden, Kate Rigg, and many others. She presented internationally-recognized musicians such as Lesley Gore, Trio Los Panchos, Ojos de Brujo, Teague and Sarah, Lila Downs, Ely Guerra, Ritchie Havens, Janis Ian and Ismael Serrano. The Brava Theater Academy’s educational activities were groundbreaking–including DramaDIVAS, the first LGBT youth theater in the country, S.F. Running Crew, which taught at-risk youth technical theater skills, and Brava! for Literacy, which used theater as a tool to improve reading. Gavin was the recipient of the LAVA Award, Focus Magazine’s Artistic Achievement Award, the Bay Guardian Local Hero Award and GOLDie Local Discovery Awards, numerous national awards and travel fellowships to Cuba, Mexico and Central America. In 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom declared Ellen Gavin Day, in honor of her two decades of service to San Francisco’s cultural life.
Elizabeth Gonzalez is currently an associate at Loeb & Loeb LLP, focusing her practice on employment and labor defense. Her practice comprises both counseling and litigation on employment and labor matters. She graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 2009 and was admitted to the State Bar of California the same year. While in law school, Elizabeth was heavily involved in student activities, including the law school’s Public Interest Law Foundation, serving as an Auction Co-Chair; the Legal Aid Alternative Breaks Project, serving as the Institutional Liaison; the La Raza Law Students Association, servings as its Recruitment Chair; and Law Students for Reproductive Justice, serving as its Community Outreach Chair. She was also a member of the Student Bar Association, serving as its Admissions Representative and worked with the law school’s Immigration Clinic. Prior to law school, Elizabeth worked as a Development Associate at the ACLU of Southern California. She served as Cornerstone’s founding Director of Community Partnerships from 2001-2003, organizing community members for the first half of Cornerstone’s Faith-Based Cycle. After serving as an Altvater Fellow with Cornerstone in 1999, Elizabeth studied community-based theater at New York University while working as a Development Associate at Manhattan Theatre Club. Elizabeth graduated from the University of Southern California in 1999 with degrees in Philosophy and Humanities with an emphasis in Theater and a minor in history. She studied directing and community-based theater with Bill Rauch.
Byron Gross (Secretary)
Byron recently "retired" after 20 years as a health care lawyer at Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, representing providers, such as hospitals, doctors, labs and adult day health care centers, in matters relating to government regulation of health care. Byron is now working on health reform policy at the National Health Law Program, a nonprofit organization that works to increase the rights of low income persons to health care. Byron started his legal career with the Legal Foundation of Los Angeles, where he worked for many years in South Central Los Angeles and the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles. Byron did his undergraduate work at Yale University and has a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to his legal career, Byron worked in various theater management positions. He is thrilled to be on the Cornerstone Board and to be able to combine his interest in social justice with his love for the theater.
Julie is an award-winning writer and director of television, film and theater. She worked with Cornerstone during the Justice Cycle, writingTouch the Water, a play about the Los Angeles River and its communities. Her play, Tree, premiered to critical acclaim at the John Anson Ford, produced by Ensemble Studio Theater in fall 2009. Tree also ran at Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago in April, 2011, where it received rave reviews. Other plays include The Knee Desires The Dirt, Ruby's Bucket of Blood and True Beauties. Julie has received grants from the NEA, TCG, AT&T New Plays, the Rockefeller Foundation and the California Arts Commission for writing, directing, and inter-disciplinary arts. Playwriting honors include the PEN Award for Drama, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, first runner-up, the Bay Area Critics Circle Best Play, NAACP nomination, several Drama-Logues and a cover article in American Theater magazine. Most recently, Julie received her second PEN Award for Tree and was honored as Playwright of the Year by EST-LA. Her plays are published by Dramatic Publishing, Plays in Process, and in the Best Of The West anthology. Julie is an alumna of New Dramatists, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and Alternate ROOTS. Additionally, Julie has written and directed for hit shows ER, The West Wing, Third Watch, Numb3rs and Blue Bloods. She has also written the screenplays for Ruby's Bucket of Blood, based on her play Female Perversions, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Lying Awake, based on Mark Salzman's best-selling novel. Her television work has been honored with a George Foster Peabody Award, a Prism Award, and an Environmental Media Award. Recently, Julie received a commission from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation to write and direct a new play with Bay Area choreographer Deborah Slater. The new work entitled Night Falls premiered at ODC Theater in San Francisco in October, 2011. More information at juliehebert.com
Rob Hurlbut is President and founder of Attune Foods, headquartered in San Francisco, California. Rob has over 20 years of experience in the food industry distinguished by his passion for innovation, value creation and team building. In October 2006 Attune introduced the world’s first Probiotic chocolate bars - a delicious and effective way to support a healthy digestive system. Attune expanded the product line added two heritage brands firmly rooted in digestive health to the company’s portfolio – Uncle Sam and Erewhon. Today the company leads the natural digestive health category by focusing on a core belief – that what matters most is what’s inside. Inside the box and inside your body. Prior to launching Attune Foods, Rob was CEO of Niman Ranch, where he built the nation's leading brand of premium, natural meat. He created an innovative supply chain that allowed sustainable family farmers access to the burgeoning market for artisanal foods thereby adding value to both the consumer and producer experience. Rob's consumer branding skills and food industry expertise were honed at Nestlé where he excelled in a number of positions including purchasing, financial risk management and brand management. Rob launched his career in the financial side of the food world trading coffee futures, options and derivatives. Rob is a graduate of Harvard College and lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.
Miriam Moses has 11 years of banking experience. She has been working with the Prospect Management Program at U.S. Bank for the past 4 years. She has been instrumental in helping the program in its various growth opportunities. Prior to her current role at U.S. Bank, Miriam worked for a lead generation firm in West LA for 8 years doing similar work. In addition to having a passion for banking, she has a true passion for the theater, having participated in several stage productions as Actor, Producer, Writer and Director. For the past 12 years, Miriam has actively volunteered with a Non-Profit community theater in Boyle Heights, dedicated to providing vital arts, cultural, and educational programs to the local community through theater, digital filmmaking, art, and dance.
Matthew Rowland (Vice-Chair)
As Co-President of Incentive Filmed Entertainment, Mr. Rowland shares responsibility for oversight of all operating activity for the company. IFE has produced five films including, THE OTHER WOMAN, BLUE VALENTINE, AREA 51, SHARK NIGHT 3D, and PARKER. As Head of Production for Screen Capital, Mr. Rowland has worked primarily on the structured financing of independent films. Prior to joining IFE/SCI in 2008, Mr. Rowland produced and executive produced a number of independent films, including ROMANCE & CIGARETTES, MEET BILL, BALLS OUT, SLOW BURN and JUST A KISS. Mr. Rowland began his film career as a general factotum for the Academy Award winning producer Ismail Merchant, working on all aspects of the production of Merchant Ivory films including A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MAURICE, THE DECEIVERS, SLAVES OF NEW YORK and MR. & MRS. BRIDGE. He left MIP to join the DGA/AMPTP Assistant Director Training Program in New York City and after completion of the program joined the DGA. Mr. Rowland had a long career as a freelance Assistant Director and Production Manager working on over thirty feature films, with directors like Rob Reiner, Diane Keaton, Jonathan Lynn, Woody Allen and Jim Abrahams. His films include, among others, A FEW GOOD MEN, HOT SHOTS, THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, UNSTRUNG HEROES, STICK IT and FLUBBER. Mr. Rowland graduated from Harvard College with a degree in English History & Literature.
Yosi Sergant has worked in community organizing, communications, marketing and business development for over 15 years- integrating art, music and culture into his work whenever possible. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Sergant engaged artists from across the globe in a vast viral movement in support of then candidate Senator Barack Obama, the most prominent of which is the now ubiquitous "HOPE" campaign he managed with artist Shepard Fairey. Following the election, Sergant served in the White House Office of Public Engagement before accepting an appointment to the National Endowment for the Arts as the Director of Communications. Sergant recently launched TaskForce, a pro-social media and marketing outfit headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. TaskForce engages leaders of the creative community in systemized and strategic initiatives designed to raise awareness and build momentum for organizations and businesses tackling our worlds most pressing challenges. Sergant holds a degree from The University of California, Los Angeles where he studied World Arts and Cultures.
Leslie Tamaribuchi (Chair)
Leslie is the Director of Advancement and Enrollment at the School of Theater at California Institute of the Arts where she teaches students in the M.F.A. programs in Management. She is a Director of the CalArts Center for New Performance. Leslie works as a consultant on behalf of artists and art organizations’ strategic and professional development. As the managing director of Cornerstone Theater Company from 1995 to 2001, Leslie produced dozens of community-engaged and site-specific new theater works. She collaborated with the board and consensus-run ensemble to advance a strategic vision for the company that established a cash reserve and endowment fund and the Cornerstone Institute. She worked with the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center and the New Opera Theater Ensemble in Massachusetts, and studied in Japan at Kyoto University where she collaborated with and learned from shogekijo and butoh practitioners. Leslie earned a M.A. in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Leslie is a founding board member of the Watts Village Theater Company and serves on the Cornerstone Theater Company board. Leslie has been a panelist for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Creative Capital, National Endowment for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group, the California Arts Council, Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department among others.
Nicole Yorkin, along with her partner Dawn Prestwich, is currently a Co-Executive Producer on the new AMC series,The Killing. Prior to that, she was an Executive Producer on the FX series The Riches with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, and writer and Co-Executive Producer on Showtime's Brotherhood (a 2007 Peabody Award winner) and two seasons of HBO's Carnivale. In 2003, Nicole and Dawn won the Writers Guild Award for their drama pilot, The Education of Max Bickford. They have worked on various television shows over ten plus years, including Chicago Hope, Picket Fences, and Ally McBeal. They are currently developing pilots for Showtime and Warner Horizon. Before going into television, Nicole, a Berkeley graduate, was a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about a 12-year-old prostitute. She met Dawn at the American Film Institute and is a member of the WGA's Television Council and founding member of the League of Hollywood Women Writers.