Cornerstone Theater Company

Transition at Cornerstone Theater Company

Message to the Cornerstone Theater Company Community

It is our bittersweet honor to announce that Artistic Director Michael John Garcés has decided to leave Cornerstone Theater Company, effective June 30, 2023. Michael has been with Cornerstone Theater Company since 2006. 

“We value and love Michael so much,” said Board Chair Mark Valdez. “He’s been a great leader for Cornerstone, pushing our work to more directly address the social and political issues confronting our communities. We’ll miss Michael, but we’re excited for his new adventures and for the opportunity this presents for Cornerstone’s evolution.”

Michael Garcés began his tenure with Cornerstone in early 2006, and despite predictions that leadership transitions from a founder are often short-lived, for 16 years he has stewarded our company well, navigating challenges, and expanding our practices for creating community-centered theater. Under Michael’s leadership, the caliber of Cornerstone’s work has been elevated through his deep commitment to artistic rigor, risk, compassion, and collaboration.

“My time at Cornerstone has been an incredible, beautiful, always challenging but also deeply joyous journey. I have learned so much from my fellow company members and from the many communities with which we’ve worked. Life lessons about collaboration, about relevance, about humility, about listening, and about how to be a better artist and a better human. While I am very excited about what the future will bring, I know that this company and this work will always remain central to who I am and what I make, for which I am deeply grateful,” said Garcés. 

Upon arrival Michael was essential in defining a new 6-production series, The Justice Cycle, which explored how laws shape and disrupt communities. He wrote Los Illegals, the first play in that cycle, interviewing day laborers and domestic workers, learning from community partner organizations like the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and The South Asian Network. The Justice Cycle was followed by an anniversary year of revisiting three communities from Cornerstone’s previous work, and The Hunger Cycle. The Hunger Cycle included 9 full-scale, community collaborative productions, and codified “Creative Seeds,” a new engagement practice. Cornerstone’s newest thematic exploration, The Change Series, began in 2019. 

Garcés’ directing credits for Cornerstone include Someday by Julie Marie Myatt, atTraction by Page Leong, 3 Truths and What Happens Next by Naomi Iizuka, Making Paradise- the West Hollywood Musical (co-directed with Mark Valdez) by Tom Jacobson, Café Vida by Lisa Loomer, Plumas Negras by Juliette Carrillo, California: The Tempest by Alison Carey, Urban Rez and Native Nation by Larissa FastHorse, Highland Park Is Here by Mark Valdez (a virtual production; subsequently presented at the Latino Theatre Company’s “Re:Encuentro 2021”; The Highland Park Independent Film Festival; and the International Community Arts Festival in Singapore & Rotterdam), as well as Jim McManus’ The Rivers Don’t Know produced by City Theatre Company at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and others. His playwriting credits for Cornerstone include Los Illegals, Consequence (exploring school expulsion policies with students, parents and administrators), Where I’m From, The Forked Path (as part of a Cornerstone residency with a forensic mental health institution in the Netherlands), Magic Fruit (an adaptation of The Magic Flute which bridged the communities of The Hunger Cycle), 36 Yesses, and others.

The last project that Michael will direct for Cornerstone as Artistic Director is Wicoun, written by Larissa FastHorse. Wicoun will be co-created in May/June 2023 with the interconnected residents of the Sicangu Lakota Nation (Rosebud), Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge), Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate (Yankton), The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, as well as in Rapid City.  

“We are lucky to have had Michael’s partnership and his leadership,” says Paula Donnelly on behalf of Cornerstone’s ensemble. “He’s modeled adaptability, generous mentorship, and encouraged us to always step a little farther into discomfort for artistic and personal rewards. Michael’s voice and artistry will be dearly missed at Cornerstone.”

Cornerstone’s Board of Directors has engaged Tom O’Connor Consulting Group to assist in the search for our next Artistic Director. Information about the position and application process can be found on their website:

Cast photo from Cornerstone’s atTraction in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles (08/06/08)