General Manager / Interim Managing Director
Sara AdelmanGeneral Manager / Interim Managing Director
Sara came to Cornerstone in 2011, bringing extensive experience in executive leadership of arts non-profits. In 2009, she founded Vibrant Production Management, providing business and producing support to a number of organizations, including Shakespeare by the Sea, the California Science Center, Overtone Industries, Watts Village Theatre Company, ForYourArt, Heifer International, Impro Theatre and Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. Prior to that, she served as Director of Operations at LA Stage Alliance and Managing Director of Shakespeare Festival/LA. Additionally she has managed and facilitated art making for EdgeFest, LA Theatre Works, the Geffen Playhouse, Actors’ Gang, Manhattan Theatre Club and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Sara holds an MFA in Production Management & Technology from UCLA and a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Connecticut.
James Cheeks III
James Cheeks IIICommunications Assistant
James M. Cheeks III received his MFA degree in Film and Television Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. His career started in high school at the age of 16 with an internship at The TV Guide Channel, which later turned into part-time employment. Cheeks got accepted into art school but he decided to study Communication and Film at George Mason University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. In college, James worked on various television projects in the DC area including the Ted Turner documentary mini-series, “Avoiding Armageddon,” which aired on PBS. In 2006, Cheeks served as a sound designer for Alex Ko’s documentary, “Pok Dong,” which examined the haunting impact of the LA riots on an immigrant family from Korea. Cheeks’ interest in missions and social justice has led him to serve in Peru, Mozambique, Jamaica and downtown LA’s Skid Row. Cheeks is also a skateboarding enthusiast and supports skateboarding for at-risk youth. In 2010, Cheeks founded a volunteer skateboarding team that travelled around the U.S. supporting a music and extreme sports tour. His film, "On The Grind," had its World Premiere at the 2009 Mammoth Film Festival, where it won the award for "Best Documentary Short.” It recently won the "Best Documentary Short" award at the 13th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival. “On The Grind” was also featured during a historical skateboarding exhibit at the California African American Museum and Cheeks is wrapping up the feature-length version of the film. "On The Grind" is currently airing on the Documentary Channel (DISH Network & DirecTV).
Director of Development
Natalie ConneelyDirector of Development
Natalie was born in the lush lowland jungles of Eastern Bolivia. Being seven of eight children she spent her childhood days traveling to local farm and agricultural cooperatives to help her parents provide food security by helping poor subtenant farmers diversify their crops, increase their income and improve the education and health of their families. Natalie’s roots lie in Bolivian grassroots community development. With a degree in Political Science and Film, Television and Theater from the University of Notre Dame and international internships in the nonprofit arts sector in Africa, Peru, and India, Natalie has always believed in the transformative power of the arts. Her personal passion for theater is directly related to the unique cultural experiences she has been involved with around the world. Whether it was playing the baobab drums while living among communities in the mountains of Adaklu, Ghana, directing and producing plays with underserved children in the port town of Callao, Peru, or learning the ancient theatrical forms of Kathakali and classical dance of Bharatanatyam in Kochi, India, Natalie has always considered the arts as a method for bringing people of diverse cultures together, allowing differences to be revealed, healed, and transformed. Natalie’s ambition to help create dialogues between individuals and communication between communities is the vehicle, which brings her to Cornerstone. Natalie’s background as Membership Manager for Hispanics in Philanthropy in San Francisco, managing a national and transnational network of over 600 individuals and a portfolio of over 48 private, community, and corporate foundations, as well as 4 years in business development of emerging markets with CNN International in Chicago, London, and Abu Dhabi, have brought her around the world and back again to Los Angeles to lend her talents to Cornerstone as Director of Development.
Director of Engagement
Paula DonnellyDirector of Engagement
Paula Donnelly began working with Cornerstone in 1998 as a stage manager and joined Cornerstone's Ensemble in 2000. Community-collaborations she stage managed for Cornerstone include Los Biombos in Boyle Heights, AKA in Beverly Hills, For Here or To Go?, a city-wide bridge show, at the Mark Taper Forum, Peter Pan in Cleveland, and Crossings at St Vibiana's Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. She also was the stage manager for Cornerstone Ensemble shows Foot/Mouth (produced in multiple malls around Southern California) and Erik Ehn's Mary Shelley's Santa Claus. As a stage manager she has worked with Taper, Too, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PCPA TheaterFest and other regional theaters. In 2003 Paula became Cornerstone’s Institute Director, planning and producing the annual Institute Summer Residency and Intensives. As Director of Engagement, Paula broader focus is to continue sharing Cornerstone’s methodology, to strengthen Cornerstone’s relationships post-production, and to guide Cornerstone's efforts in contributing to and facilitating expansion of the field of community-based theater. Paula loves the state of California, the city of Los Angeles and the many people and stories contained therein.
Administrative & Database Assistant
Alyssa EscalanteAdministrative & Database Assistant
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Alyssa moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College where she graduated in 2010 with a BA in theater. She has since worked all over the Los Angeles area as a stage manager. She feels blessed to be given the tremendous privilege to work within the arts community in this beautiful city. Alyssa comes to Cornerstone to serve as the Administrative and Database assistant.
Michael John Garcés
Michael John GarcésArtistic Director
Michael has been at Cornerstone since 2006. Directing credits at the company include 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 The Convert by Danai Gurira (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), 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.
Lester P. Grant
Lester P. GrantProduction Manager
Lester first stumbled into the entertainment industry as a child performer back home on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies. He soon realized that he was much more interested in what was going on behind the scenes than being onstage. He went on to study film and technical theater and has over the years worn a variety of production and design 'hats in theater, corporate events, film and television. Lester is happy to be a part of this awesome team of creative people who use their talents to not only create beautiful, original work...but work that addresses the current challenges we face in our communities.
Maria Gabriela Guerra
Maria Gabriela GuerraDevelopment Assistant
Maria earned a B.A. with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied rhetoric and Romance languages. She attended a performing arts high school and was a youth participant in the Will Power to Youth Program at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles.
Angie KamelInstitute Manager
Angie's involvement with Cornerstone began in 2011 when she participated in the Institute Summer Residency in Fowler. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Seattle where she was the Associate Production Manager for Seattle Repertory Theatre. She has an MFA in theatre from the University of California, San Diego and a BFA from the University of Arizona. She has worked with various arts and educational organizations including La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, American Blues Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Moxie Theatre, Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, La Jolla Music Society, and UCSD's Department of Theatre and Dance.
Teatro Jornalero Program Director
Lorena MoranTeatro Jornalero Program Director
Lorena was born in Guatemala City. During the time she has been in Los Angeles she has worked as a day laborer, and as such has witnessed and experienced the marginalization and oppression of this community as laborers and as immigrants. Because of this, she made the decision to do something for her community, and discovered that through theater as a pedagogical tool people express the realities of the day laborer and the different types of issues which are being faced. She believes that it is possible to affect change in society, and that Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras can be part of that change through our work.
Ann-Sophie MorrissetteCommunications Manager
Ann-Sophie joined Cornerstone in 2011 after serving as Grants Coordinator at Center Theatre Group and working in Development at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences. Previously, she spent five years in London as a researcher for the Center for Creative Communities, where she undertook projects for the Arts Council, England and various community-based arts organization throughout the UK. She was part of the founding team of ROSA, the first grantmaking foundation in the UK dedicated to supporting non-profits working with women and girls, and spent two years overseeing the organization’s communications, marketing, and events. As part of the London fringe theatre community, Ann-Sophie had the pleasure of producing several shows on the city's stages. She holds a B.A. in World Arts and Cultures from University of California, Los Angeles. Ann-Sophie is thrilled to be back at Cornerstone nearly a decade after serving as an LA County Arts Commission summer intern in the Community Partnerships department.
Community Partnerships Associate
Daniel PenillaCommunity Partnerships Associate
Daniel was born and raised in the gritty suburban streets of Orange County. His first involvement with Cornerstone was as a student at the 2011 Summer Institute in Fowler. Since then he has moved to Los Angeles and has continued to work with Cornerstone in various capacities. Most recently, he was Assistant Director for SEED: A Weird Act of Faith and an actor in Café Vida. He completed Circle in the Square Theatre School’s two-year Professional Actor Training Workshop program in New York City and in 2008 he was a student at the LAByrinth Theater Company’s Summer Intensive Ensemble. Daniel has a B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis on race, class, and gender from Cal State Fullerton. During his time at CSUF, he co-founded and led the socialART project, a studentt organization that created ensemble and community-based projects on campus and in various communities within Orange County. He also works at Santa Ana High School as a theater consultant. Together with English teachers, he is creating an art integration curriculum for ninth grade students in intervention classes. Working as an actor, director, producer and project manager has allowed him to experience and create work with various communities, organizations and individuals. These experiences reaffirmed his belief that theater can encompass various mediums and that art is a vehicle that can improve the life of individuals and communities. He feels blessed to be a theater-maker.
Ashley TeagueBusiness Development
Ashley comes to Cornerstone after working as a Producer at Sam Hurwitz Productions, before which she served as the company’s Marketing Executive. She became involved with Cornerstone as an Assistant Director on For All Time then again on Making Paradise: The West Hollywood Musical and most recently on The Unrequited: Between Two Worlds. She has worked with American Repertory Theatre, Bread and Puppet Theatre, The Living Theater and The Kennedy Center. Ashley started an after school theatre program at Cunningham Park Elementary in Vienna, VA, created and curated an installation for and with inner city youth at the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center in Boston, MA, and currently mentors at risk youth in visual art at Venice Arts here in California.
José ZárateArtistic Assistant
José Zárate is a playwright, who holds an MFA from Arizona State University in Dramatic Writing. Currently he is Artistic Assistant at Cornerstone Theater Company, a Freelance Photo Editor for Getty Images and a Resident Artist with Rising Youth Theatre. He is also Managing Director of Teatro Bravo, and a National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Writing Lab Fellow for his screenplay Smugglers. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America Independent Writers Caucus and a Dramatist Guild of America member. He has also been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Two Narcos and a Region VII Festival XLV Meritorious Award recipient as a Playwright for American Victory.