Cornerstone Theater Company

Institute Summer Residency


The Institute Summer Residency is an opportunity to learn Cornerstone’s process of community-engaged theater first hand.  It is designed for people who are looking for insight and tools for engaging community toward a specific goal. Through classes and production experience members of our ensemble, staff, and guest artists share with students how we create a theatrical community-collaboration from start to finish.




Our Process

INSTITUTE_Process_2013The Summer Residency brings us back to the roots of Cornerstone’s early years collaborating in rural communities by living within the community for the length of a production. Cornerstone strives to involve community members in every aspect of the production, including acting in the play, working backstage, and being in the audience.  In the months preceding the residency, the playwright and key members of the staff become acquainted with the community through visits, interviews, story circles, and workshops. The script is written based on what we’ve collected and a reading is held in the community to further involve them in the development of the piece. In July, about a dozen Cornerstone company members and 15-20 student participants take up residence in the chosen community for a month. In that time we audition, rehearse, build, and perform the play. Admission to the play is always pay-what-you-can, in the hope that all feel welcome to attend.

“Cornerstone is unique in that it prioritizes aesthetic goals equally with community engagement.” – 2011 Summer Residency participant

Who Participates at the Institute?

You must be over 18 to apply. Participants have joined us from across the United State and from other countries. Theater experience is helpful but not required. Previous Institute students have included people aged 18 to 60+ who are educators, artists, undergraduate and graduate students, activists, community organizers, filmmakers, clergy, writers, community and arts organization board members, social workers, administrators, producers, etc.

The personalities and core values of successful participants are as varied as their occupations but it is helpful to be flexible and appreciate diversity and mutual mentorship. Past participants have come to the Institute seeking to enhance the community-engaged aspects of their work and to study and collaborate with professionals who are well versed in ensemble, community-based theater.

Participants should come prepared for the joys and challenges of living in adapted circumstances within the collaborating community and committing to an intense 32-day schedule. They should be open to participating in the variety of tasks in an all-hands-on-deck manner.

“I wanted to know if theater actually has the ability to transform people and communities and whether it can lead to social action and in what ways.” – 2011 Summer Residency participant


class-aliya-andresJPGClasses usually take place in the morning and are taught by experienced Cornerstone company members and guest artists. The focus is on sharing Cornerstone’s process for creating community-based theater, and the similarities and differences from other theater practices. We do not teach the principles of acting, directing, or design, but rather through discussion, lecture, and activities we explore how working with community impacts and informs all disciplines of theater.

Past topics have included: CTC 101-The History of Cornerstone Through Pictures and Discussion, Community-Based Theater, Community Engagement, The Rehearsal Room, Story Circles, Community Specific Text-Playwriting for Community, Design in Community Context, Community Representation, Directing in Community-based Context, Compositions, Future Projects, Fundraising and Budgets.

Production Assignments

INSTITUTE_Production_2013Each student is given a primary production assignment but can expect a variety of experiences. Preferences are communicated in the application and assignments are made based on each student’s goals, background and experience, as well as the needs of the show.  All participants will engage with the community in one way or another and will have an opportunity to observe rehearsal. Students will also be expected to assist in areas outside their production assignment such as building or painting set pieces, sewing costumes, acquiring props. You might work with the lighting or sound departments, or assist in managing box office reservations. You may even be asked to temporarily step into roles for absent actors during rehearsal. Each summer, and in each moment, the needs and opportunities vary.

Production Assignments have included: Actor/Performer, Musician, Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Director, Movement Associate, Design Associate (costumes, sets, props, lights, sound), Script Assistant, Community-Engagement Associate, and more.

Room, Board, and Travel

Room and board are included in the tuition. Cornerstone Institute staff and students live and work together within the collaborating community. Because our use is short-term and location is a key element, we often live in an unconventional space. Sometimes a local school or church facility serves as our primary residence but rented houses and apartments have also served as home in past Institutes.

INSTITUTE_Room_2013Sleeping arrangements are often dorm-like. Participants should expect to share a room with one or two others of the same sex depending on the number of participants and the size of the rooms. We provide each person a real twin-size bed, though you bring your own bedding and linens. We strive to make sure consistent internet access is available at the housing location.

College Credit

The Institute Summer Residency is not affiliated with any accredited institution of higher learning. Universities and other institutions may give internship or course credit by arrangement with the individual student. The classroom curriculum, practical training, and experiential education are equal to many requirements for course and/or internship credit. Contact your institution and faculty advisors to see how you might gain school credit for your time with Cornerstone Theater Company.

Estimated work hours over the 32-day residency depending on your production assignment- Classroom (all assignments): 55 Hours, Rehearsal/Performance (primary assignment): 145 Hours, Production Calls & Community Engagement (secondary assignment/group activities): 70 Hours.


“The community-based activities (which) establish connections between a disparate cast is something I will carry with me to all future projects…Cornerstone’s methods are a gift.

– 2011 Summer Residency participant