Lovely Visitors & Friendly Welcomes

29 Jul

I am appalled at myself that I haven’t yet blogged about our most frequent visitor here at Cornerstone HQ… George Teraoka.

George is a member of the Buddhist church here in Fowler and is absolutely fascinated by the project we are doing.

We met him first last week when he came to talk to us about the Japenease Internment that is part of Fowler history.

My face lights up when George enters the room. Even at 90 years old he brings an energy and presence to this place, everyone loves to see him! He is also making a short film about our time here, so he can regularly be seen wandering around with his camcorder, filming the hubbub of activity that is our daily life. I can’t wait to see it! George is very computer literate so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is reading this – so thank you for everything George, we love having you here!!

George filming inside the Buddhist Social Hall for his documentary project.

To continue the theme of great people in Fowler, Sabrina, Melissa, Ashley and I went to visit a lovely lady called Dorothy today. Dorothy is 97 years old and lives in a lovely house out amongst the vineyards and orchards. We spent an hour talking to Dorothy and her son George, about the play and our experiences in Fowler whilst having a soda and very tasty biscuits! It’s great getting out into the community and giving people insight into the work of Cornerstone Theater and the process of creating a community engaged play. Both George and Dorothy are coming to see the show and will also be joining us for dinner next Wednesday… woohoo!



Late Night Rehearsals

29 Jul

I spent a wonderful 4 hours in rehearsals last night. We were working on a beautiful poem that is part of the play and the whole cast was working together to create a movement sequence to accompany it.

It was great to see the whole cast together. During breaks I looked around the room to see community members deep in conversation with each other and Cornerstone members. It feels like we have gotten to a stage where the lines have become blurred between the two and we are an ensemble.

As part of a display board we are putting together to archive in the Fowler Library we are gathering some quotes from community members in the play. I wanted to share with you all the response I got from a lady called Rose. I asked her what she thought the play says about Fowler.

“People talk about a broken America, the corruption, the wars, but this play shows the heart and values of America, the sacrifice and service of the people of Fowler”

Amazing stuff.

An integral part of the Cornerstone process are our “check in’s” to see how everyone is doing at the beginning of a rehearsal/session/class and a “check out” to see how everyone is doing at the end. The check out at rehearsal last night was powerful. Amongst other amazing things people said ‘I’m going to miss you guys when you’re gone” and “after a day at work I am tired but this energizes me, I love being here” It was a great check out!

So rehearsals are going well! In less significant news I went to cheerleader rehearsal today. As an English girl I was deprived of such experiences, but I think I’ve got what it takes to make the cut (please Laurie please!)


Feedback from Community Participants

29 Jul

Last night, Siobhan, Melissa & I were lucky enough to attend rehearsal and get to talk with some of the lovely cast members. We asked some specific questions to see how they felt the process was coming along – and we were so grateful for their responses. It really affirmed once again that something magical is happening here.

Here are just a few of the responses we were able to collect last night:

– What do you think the play says about Fowler?

  • “It gives a great historic perspective, and I am learning many things about Fowler that I didn’t know before.”
  • “It brings the past and present together. Change is always with us – and this city has adapted to change over the years and that is what I love about this town.”
  • “It says everything!”

– What has your experience been like doing this play?

  • “It has been really cool to see everything that goes into creating a brand new play.”
  • “This has been rewarding & energizing, and has brought me back to before my injury. I’m starting to see a glimmer of the old me.”
  • “This has been an amazing opportunity for people to pull together – we are taking ordinary moments and elevating them.”
  • “I have many lines to memorize. For example, when The Man says something, I have to say something back – so I have to know his lines too.”
  • “This is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time!”

So, with our first run-through of the play scheduled for Sunday, it looks like the cast is feeling confident and that they are well on their way to an amazing production!

More to come!

Sabrina, Melissa & Siobhan

Community Engagement Team


27 Jul

On Sunday Melissa, Sabrina and I went along to a new event at Fowler Baptist Church called ‘Edge’ We wanted to engage with some of the young people and check out what was happening in the area.

The event was great and afterwards I got to experience my first root beer float (I’m English, we don’t have them) We also spoke to lots of lovely people and had a lot of interest for the theater workshops!

Wherever we go I am amazed by how welcoming the community members are. I definitely felt welcomed on Sunday night by everyone who was there, especially as they sent us home with a huge plate full of cakes… that sure makes me happy!

On that note, Melissa and I went to a meeting called ‘Friends of the Fowler Library’ to tell them all about the show and workshops, again we were very welcomed and received a great response. Just before we left a lady asked me ‘Do you have any raisins?’   We had been talking about having vendors selling food before the show, so I launched into our spiel about that. She stopped me and said ‘no, I mean do you want some raisins, where do you live, I’ll bring you some’  (Fowler is the home of the national raisin co). This is an example of the generosity we have experienced with deliveries of peaches, nectarines and now raisins being a daily occurence. I’m going to miss that!

We love Fowler!



Free Theater Workshop!

27 Jul

Free Theater Workshop!

As part of our work at the engagement community team we will be holding a theater workshop at the Fowler Library.

Over the past week I have met many people who have been interested in getting involved with the work of Cornerstone Theater. Unfortunately due to the fast pace nature of our time here, the play has been cast and rehearsals are well underway, meaning we cannot at this stage take on new people.

We thought the workshops would be a great way to allow others to have an opportunity to be involved and have a great Cornerstone experience.

Our workshops will involve theater games, improvisation, and the opportunity to devise a short piece of theater… fun, right?

Stay tuned for more!

Click Here To Download the Theater Workshop Flyer!



Casting the play

27 Jul

While staff members from Cornerstone Theater have been visiting Fowler and learning about its history and people for several months, the official residency for the nearly 30 Cornerstone folks began Sunday, July 17.  Very quickly the reality of this intensive process set in – we have less than a month to put on this brand new play, A Man Comes to Fowler!  So Cornerstone folks hit the streets of Fowler on Monday and Tuesday to encourage people to audition for our play.  Auditions were Monday and Tuesday at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church, St. Paul’s AME Church, Presbyterian Church of Fowler, and the Fowler Library.  We were delighted to meet the talented performers who turned out for these low-stress auditions facilitated by our director Laurie Woolery and Cornerstone Ensemble member (and the actor playing the leading role of the Man in the play) Peter Howard.  Auditions involved brief conversations so that we could get to know each other a bit, then each person selected a sentence from the newspaper to read aloud.  The atmosphere in the audition room was light and playful as we explored different ways to say the same sentence using vocal, facial, and physical expression.

Callbacks were held Tuesday evening already at the Baptist Church of Fowler.  After some energizing physical exercises such as moving to music and creating freeze frame images of evocative characters such as cowboys, monkeys, and Lebron James, actors were assigned scenes to read from the script.  I was impressed by the enthusiasm and talent evident in this group of Fowlerites!  Some had lots of theatre experience, but many had never been in a play before.  They all committed fully to the audition process, bringing joy, good humor, and high energy to the process.  Then came the daunting task of assigning roles. Director Laurie Woolery was able to cast nearly 45 people in the play.

Our first rehearsal was Thursday evening.  The cast and production team gathered to meet each other, learn which role they had, hear about the costume, set, and puppet design ideas for the play from our designers, and read the play for the first time.  After the read-through, playwright Julie Marie Myatt and actor Peter Howard solicited feedback from the cast – what did they think the play says about Fowler?  This generated thoughtful responses.  One that resonated for me was, “Fowler grows not only good produce, but also good people.”  We in the community engagement team are certainly finding this to be true so far and are looking forward to meeting more people in the coming weeks.

Siobhan, Melissa, and Sabrina – community engagement team

Fowler: Where Past Meets Present

25 Jul

When I first arrived here in Fowler with (the lovely!) Sabrina Sikes who drove me up here from Los Angeles, we arrived at the Buddhist Church of Fowler and met up with Paula and Ashley who were waiting for us. After welcoming us with hugs, they handed us brown packets that held all of the preliminary information we needed for our upcoming time in the institute. While scanning the contents of the packet, I became immediately overwhelmed when I pulled out the schedule pages, which contained the full schedule of our entire month here. I almost fainted. I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that was listed before me, that I would supposedly be able to complete within the coming month. That evening, we had a welcome dinner and got to know each other through playing games with Michael John Garcés that got us to start thinking about community mapping and what really defines the word “community.” Coming into the institute this year, we did have three fewer days than the institutes normally have. These days are normally committed to the institute students getting to know one another and forming a community of their own. Because we were lacking these days, exercises like this initial community mapping exercise were very helpful in getting all of the students to start talking to one another and to members of the Cornerstone Ensemble.

Despite our later start this year, I don’t feel that we, as students, have been lacking in our ability to get to know one another. Through canvassing for auditions, holding auditions together, meeting community members of Fowler who were extremely interested (or not!) in being active participants in putting on the production, and having classes together for the first few days, spending a week together has brought us all very close. I feel as if I’ve known the other students and company members of Cornerstone for about a year.

As a group, we have had a lot of fun exploring what this small, wonderful town called Fowler is all about. On Tuesday morning, after we had already had a night of auditions, Paula gave the students a scavenger hunt of Fowler to complete in our exploration of the town. In our hunt, we were to visit various sites like the cemetery in Fowler, Panzak Park(where our play will be held!), the library, five of the many churches in town, and five school buildings. We were also sent to find things like a found object, a place where past and present meet, and a place where we could write a haiku. Although Sabrina, Siobhan, and I didn’t have quite enough time in our 90 minutes allotted to complete the scavenger hunt, we have been gradually checking some of the sites and things off our list throughout the past week. One idea from the scavenger that has stuck with me is the idea of past and present meeting. I had a lot of expectations for my time here before I arrived. When the time finally came, and I was here, I began to realize how much more of my past is important in this type of work than I had ever realized it would be. I have to remember who I am and my particular aesthetic in art as I am also meant to be focusing on a lot more practical parts of rehearsal during this part of the process. This helps me to stay committed to the act of storytelling, even when I feel like I’m not directly affecting the ultimate outcome of the play. When we were assigned in our scavenger hunt to write a haiku, I was inspired to write a poem about my time thus far about the conglomeration of things I’ve experienced.

Harvest moon.

I haven’t seen you yet.

I’ve been hiding.

Not hiding from you, but from

the bright hot sun

so hot



that when I step outside in the dark of the night

and I see a faint light in the distance

I think


Not the sun!

And I run inside, to cover up my arms

And neck

And face

And skin

And the Buddha man says that my soul doesn’t exist.

But I think there is something.

Is soul the same as spirit?

To me they both mean music

And friendship

And my ghosts who still live there

Right there, in my chest.

A little pocket of wonder that sometimes opens up

To the tune of a good story or a kind word.

And that ghost soul spirit life seeps into my arms

And legs

And feet

And toes

And my limbs go numb when I hear his name

And his day of death

Is the same day that this 90-year old man

Was brought into a long, long life.

And I think


You can share spirit with another.

And you can live in wrinkled skin

With a different past

But sitting in that metal folding chair

Is a man

That was my friend.

You don’t sound like him

Or look like him

Or think like him

But to me,

You are the man

In his moon.

Maybe I’m afraid of you

For coming back and growing peaches

Did you mean to be here?

Peaches by night

Buddha by day.

Peach boy.

Beach boy.

You are the forever boy.

Not a boy no more.

Moon shining

upon the shore.

And here I sit



Harvesting something

For you to see?

Find me.

Find me.

Find me.

Be free.

Day off today! Second year(oops! WEEK) starts tomorrow! Love, Mary