Cornerstone Theater Company

Institute Summer Residency

Institute 2016 header

Don’t miss Ghost Town, performing August 4, 5, & 6 at 8pm – outside at Oakwood Park in Venice!


The Cornerstone Institute’s eleventh Summer Residency will take place in the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice, CA. Founded in 1905 as a seaside resort, Venice is bordered by Santa Monica to the north, Marina del Rey to the South, and Mar Vista and Culver City to the east. The Oakwood neighborhood is nestled just east of Abbot Kinney Blvd, with the Oakwood Recreation Center and Park as the center of community life.

Population and History

While the iconic Ocean Front Walk, historic Canals, and trendy Abbot Kinney Blvd attract millions of tourist every year, the diverse cultural history of Oakwood is often overlooked.

In the early 20th century, Venice was booming and attracted a migrant labor force of African Americans from Texas, Louisiana and other parts of the American South, and immigrants from Mexico and Central America. In addition to building up the area’s infrastructure – roads, houses, canals and the Boardwalk – the food packing houses and oil industry also employed a number of local residents. While much of Los Angeles was segregated by restrictive covenants, Oakwood was one of the only places in the city where African-Americans were able to live and seek home-ownership.

IMG_1521Venice is known for being home to the outsider; from the post-WWII influx of Jewish immigrants, to the artists and hippies in the 1960s and ’70s, to the growing houseless population. For most of the 20th century, Venice was an affordable place for artists, activists, and dissidents of all stripes to call home and the streets and beaches of Venice became a rich cultural meeting place. Today, organizations like SPARC and Venice Arts provide an important connection of Venice’s artistic legacy.


Venice is a community in transition – trying to hold on to the history and character that have always attracted newcomers in the face of a powerful influx of wealth and change. Major tech businesses like Google and SnapChat have recently set up office in Venice and many retail chains have made their flagship home on Abbot Kinney. Still, there are many old-timers that remain entrenched in the community and work daily to keep the nonconformist spirit alive in Venice. Many who are working to to keep housing affordable and keep people in their homes despite the creeping development.

IMG_1330Cornerstone was initially asked by members of the Oakwood Community Center to imagine a project that could bring the many different people in Venice together. Through their introductions and advice, we have met dozens of community members who have generously shared their Venice story and contribute to the making of this play. We’ve met people who work in youth development, who advocate for affordable housing, and who sit on the neighborhood council. We’ve met parents and teachers, homeowners and business owners, skaters and artists. We asked one community leader – “what do you think Venetians have in common?” he said “We all love Venice.”

This project will culminate with a new play, written by ensemble member Juliette Carrillo, to be performed outdoors at Oakwood Park in August.

Notable Links

Wikipedia: Venice, Los Angeles
KCET: Departures – Oakwood, Venice