Board of Directors
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Board Member at Cornerstone Theater Company, please contact Ilia Lopez, Director of Strategic Relations at (213) 613-1700 ext. 119 or email@example.com.
Neetu S. Badhan-Smith (Vice-Chair)
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 of 17 years, she has a Bachelor's of Arts 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. In 2010, she performed in UCLA’s production of The 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.
Nora Bright is Vice President of Bristol Associates, a recruiting firm based in Los Angeles. She and her cousin Ben Farber represent the company's third generation of the family-owned search firm which was founded in 1967. In addition to overseeing several administrative aspects of the firm including marketing and operations, Nora also founded the company's Nonprofit and Arts Division. Nora specializes in recruiting for middle and senior management positions such as Vice Presidents, Directors and Managers in all aspects of nonprofit and arts administration. She works with nonprofit organizations throughout Southern California as well as nationally. As a lover of the performing arts, Nora studied clarinet with Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, and now plays the drums. Before joining Bristol Associates, Nora also held positions in arts administration with New Roads School and the Colburn School. Nora holds a BA from Scripps College in English.
Carolyn Van Brunt
In 2010 Carolyn assumed the role of Vice-President of Guest Relations for The Music Center (Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County) to provide a first-class guest experience. Her responsibilities include supervision of the general information functions; direction of the four House Managers and Guest Services Staff (over 400 ushers), Theater Support Staff; Tour Staff and the volunteer docent group, The Symphonians. She is also responsible for oversight and management of the Music Center’s Patina contractual relationship; management of the Founders Rooms Operations and coordinating with Classic Parking systems and its relationship with Los Angeles County. Throughout her 14 years at the Music Center, Carolyn has also served as its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator. In this capacity, she interacts with all Music Center resident companies to ensure campus-wide compliance with Department of Justice regulations, relative to program access and physical barriers for guests with disabilities. She is committed to full inclusion, providing safe, enjoyable and equally accessible experiences for every guest of the Music Center. While participating in The Music Center’s Active Arts program, Carolyn was introduced to Cornerstone Theater Company. She was subsequently cast in Cornerstone's Justice Cycle productions For All Time and 3 Truths (2008). She has remained an ardent supporter of CTC and its vision and is honored to join its Board of Directors. Prior to joining the Music Center Carolyn spent more than 20 years in guest relations, PR, ADA consulting and community relations, primarily in the sports and entertainment industries. She is President and Owner of Called-Out Consultants, an event management firm. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Barnard College and a Masters Degree in Communications Management from the Annenberg School at USC.
Yule grew up working as a child actor, studying at the American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) 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
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 received two Bachelor's of Arts in English and Theatre from 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 a 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 circles, 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 second oldest continually operating synagogue in L.A., during an exciting time of growth, resurgence and community outreach.
Ceci is a member of Cornerstone’s Community Advisory Committee and a vibrant community activist and leader in the Elysian Valley. Within her community, Ceci has been an advocate for greening and open space, involved in the development of Marsh Park and Jardin del Rio, and was awarded the 2005 Women of the Year for the 45th Assembly District by Rep. Jackie Goldberg. Ceci also performed in Cornerstone’s productions of 3 Truths and Touch the Water.
Paula Ely has worked in film, television, and visual media for 24 years. In 1991 she joined the television division of Carolco Pictures, Hollywood’s largest independent production company at the time. 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 an ensemble member at Cornerstone since 2006. Directing credits at the company include Urban Rez by Larissa FastHorse, California: The Tempest by Alison Carey, 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). Michael is a core member of the Living Word Project in San Francisco, where he has developed and directed three works by Marc Bamuthi Joseph: /peh-LO-tah/ a futbol freedom suite (premiere at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, upcoming at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and The Kennedy Center among other venues), red, black and GREEN: a blues (various venues including REDCAT and The Museum of Contemporary Art) and the break/s (premiere at Humana Festival and The Walker Arts Center). He is also a company member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington DC where he has directed various shows, including, most recently, Lights Rise on Grace by Chad Beckim and We Are Proud to Present… by Jackie Sibblies Drury. Directing credits at other theaters include District Merchants by Aaron Posner (The Folger Theatre), Wrestling Jerusalem by Aaron Davidman (premiere at Intersection for the Arts; other productions include The Guthrie Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre and Mosaic Theatre), and Seven Spots on the Sun by Martín Zimmerman (The Theatre @ Boston Court). 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); as well as a solo performance, agua ardiente which ran Off-Broadway at The American Place Theatre as part of "Dreaming in Cuban"; and short plays include americanas (Mix Blood Theatre - "DJ Latinidad's Latino Dance Party"), A Parable (Great Plains Theatre Festival), 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 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, is a Southern California Leadership Network Fellow and a proud alumnus of New Dramatists. He serves on the executive board of SDC, the national union for stage directors and choreographers.
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.
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.
Lindsay graduated with her B.F.A in Theatre Performance from Miami University of Ohio (during which she was an Irene Ryan Nominee), and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. Almost a year later, she was cast as Christine Banks in Fox’s hit show Boston Public where she earned Emmy consideration in the category of Outstanding Guest Star. This recognition lead to numerous other guest appearances on shows including: ER, Strong Medicine, Any Day Now, and Popular. This also led to the opportunity to originate the character of Susan Adamson on NBC’s popular daytime series Days of Our Lives. Since then, Lindsay has continued to guest star on television shows, having gained most recognition from her roles on Nip/Tuck, Law and Order: SVU, Joan of Arcadia, Cold Case, Big Love, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs, My Name is Earl, CSI: New York, Bones, Necessary Roughness, NCIS: Los Angeles and Wayward Pines, a mini-series from Producer M. Night Shyamalan. Lindsay has completed work in over thirteen films; most notable would be her role opposite Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway in Get Smart, as Max’s Dance Partner, a now iconic dance scene. Lindsay just completed filming the next installment of a classic series of movies, Pee Wee’s Big Holiday produced by comedy legend Judd Apatow. Lindsay is also the owner and operator of The Pie Hole, along with her husband Matty and business partner Sean. The Pie Hole currently has three locations, including one that sits next door to Cornerstone Theater Company in the Arts District of Los Angeles. Lindsay is also a very active member of the Los Angeles River and Business Association (LARABA) and is the chair of the Community Committee.
Steven L. Huot
For 20 years Steven has been involved in turning emerging technology into mass market products. He earned his MBA at the Anderson School at UCLA and his career since then has focused extensively on building brands and driving consumer participation. He has succeeded in situations with startup budgets and limited resources, to managing P&Ls for Fortune 500 companies. Steven has built businesses with mass market retail goods to software service companies including subscription-based product offerings. He’s an innovator of social media marketing and community building and has launched hundreds of successful products by first bringing together motivated and passionate people. Steven has much experience in the online and video game business. He’s been involved from the infancy of the industry to most recently launching tablet and smartphone apps. He has managed educational software titles to epic entertainment brands. Currently he’s a Director at Blizzard Entertainment with responsibility for emerging market growth in Latin America. Of related note, he spent 3 years traveling by motorcycle, over 80K miles from NYC to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina; and back up again seeing every country of the Americas and so many of the special small towns in between. The experiences impacted him positively in so many ways, mostly in the exchanges of life stories while meeting some of the most amazing, generous people who live simply and contently in the most remote of locations… learning if nothing else; less is truly more and that different rarely is wrong; although it’s often confused as such. The beauty is actually in the difference; and the noticing of it.
April Ibarra is a director and acting coach in Los Angeles. She graduated with her MFA from Cal State Fullerton in Theatre Arts and her BA from Cal State Northridge. She is currently the director of Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre, STD Prevention Program, "What Goes Around," that tours High schools in Southern California. April has a deep commitment to cultural diversity as a director and educator. She has worked, performed and directed in many multicultural and bilingual theatres throughout Los Angeles, including Casa 0101, the Frida Kahlo Theatre, Breath of Fire, and East LA Rep. As a director, she continually looks for ways to reach all audiences and has a social responsibility to bring theatre to underserved communities. Fortunately, with her position at Kaiser, She is able to take the STD prevention show to many high risk areas in Southern California to educate students as well as provide a theatre experience. She also directed “Two Hands, Four Hearts, No Seatbelts”, a collection of Neil LaBute shorts at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in the NOHO Arts district. Another directing foray was directing a sketch comedy group called PMS (Pinche Mentirosa Sisters); that strives to empower Latina women, with a performance style similar to the well-known, “Culture Clash." Most recently, she directed the premiere of “Tulip” by Josefina Lopez at Casa 0101. Her next project is directing a webisode series for Kaiser Permanente and in the Spring a one woman show starring Miriam Peniche. April also serves as the Production Coordinator for the Highland Park Independent Film Festival. The HPIFF is coming upon their third year and will be showcasing over 40 independent films at the historic Highland park theatre October 6th-8th, 2016.
Lee Lawlor (Treasurer)
Lee Lawlor has been actively engaged with the southern California non-profit arts community for many years. She is currently the Business Manager at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. She has previously held positions as General Manager at Grand Performances and Cornerstone Theater Company, both in downtown Los Angeles. Lee’s other professional arts experience is in finance, fundraising and communications, including prior staff positions with Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland, with the Office of Cultural Relations at the University of Southern California and at Los Angeles Stage Alliance. Lee has served as a grants review panelist for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Long Beach Arts Council and California State Arts Commission. She has also volunteered as a member of the Event Committee for the Mayor’s LGBT Heritage Month Celebration and the LA Stage Ovation Awards Rules committee. Lee lives in Marina del Rey with her partner and pets.
Miriam Peniche 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 (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.
Mike Szanger is the President of V3 Printing, a company he has been with and moved up the ranks in since 1993. He is a longtime industry salesperson turned printing executive. Most of Mike’s professional life has been spent working directly with clients ranging from small local companies to large international corporations. He brings this unique perspective to the management and the vision of the company – making V3 a truly customer focused, value driven company. Mike currently sits on an advisory board for Brooks Institute’s BFA Graphic Design Program and is a past board member of the Printing Industries of America.
Megan Wanlass joined Cornerstone Theater Company as its new Managing Director in January 2014. Megan Wanlass has been a member of Anne Bogart's SITI Company since 1995 and its Executive Director since 2000. In her tenure with SITI, Megan has helped to create over 35 productions, which premiered in or toured to 88 cities, 32 states and 19 countries. She began working with Anne Bogart during The Adding Machine at Actors Theatre of Louisville (1995) during the Modern Masters Festival. She has an Arts Administration Certificate from New York University, attended the Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders at Stanford University Business School, was a member of the Arts Leadership Institute Charter Class at Teachers College, Columbia University, participated in the National Arts Strategies Executive Leadership Program and holds a B.A. in Theater from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. Megan currently serves on the board of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and as the president of the PTA for the Pearls Hawthorne School in Yonkers, NY.