Cornerstone Troupe Has Faith in Its Latest Community-Based Effort


Cornerstone Theater Company, probably L.A. theater’s most self-consciously ecumenical group, is lining up details for the kickoff of its upcoming three-year focus on religious communities.

A Festival of Faith will take place Oct. 16-Nov. 18, with one weekend each at five venues: Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights; Faith United Methodist Church in Watts; New Horizons School, an Islamic private school in Pasadena; the Bahai Center in Baldwin Hills; and a Westside synagogue still to be determined.

Each performance will begin with a segment temporarily dubbed APES, which stands for Audience Participatory Ensemble Show, described as a short piece that uses dialogue between the performers and the audience, as well as between audience members. APES will be followed by four short plays that are different at each venue. At least one of each evening’s short plays, but not all of them, will focus on issues related to the religion associated with that venue.


In case any Catholics--the largest religious group in the Southland--wonder if they’re being ignored, Cornerstone’s associate artistic director, Mark Valdez, explained that the larger initiative’s next big project will be a residency with Catholic immigrants in spring 2002, probably based around a particular parish. Also, some short plays in the Festival of Faith will deal with Catholic issues.

Followers of political news will recognize one of the festival’s venues, Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple, as the site of Al Gore’s controversial fund-raiser during the 1996 election campaign.

Valdez said he didn’t know if any of the issues arising from that incident would surface in the plays, but community members will be able to contribute ideas and express concerns during sessions beginning this month, which will be held in partnership with the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Half of the three-year initiative is supported in part by a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.


TRIM THOSE EYEBROWS: “Looking for Normal,” Jane Anderson’s play that focuses on a man who wants to become a woman and the reaction of his family, closes today at the Geffen Playhouse, and it seemed fitting to ask Michele Kammerer, a woman and former man who was a consultant on the production, what she thought of the finished product.

Her verdict: The play is “excellent” in its treatment of “the sturm und drang surrounding the family.” After seeing Laurie Metcalf’s performance as the discomfited wife of the man who seeks to become a woman, Kammerer said she wondered, “Did she talk to my ex-wives?” Kammerer thought the upbeat ending was realistic enough.


However, the central character of Roy, as played by Beau Bridges, “has very little credibility as a transgender woman,” Kammerer said. Bridges was “enthusiastic and has a good heart, but he could at least have trimmed his bushy eyebrows.”


DOUBLE-DIPPING: Jack O’Brien, artistic director of San Diego’s Globe Theatres, snagged two Tony nominations last week, in separate categories, for directing “The Full Monty” and “The Invention of Love.”

He declined to offer a prediction in his categories but acknowledged that “it does look like ‘The Producers’ is ready to sweep, and they probably will.” Which means that his chances are better to win for “The Invention of Love.”

He has seen the “Monty” competition, Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” and found it “vastly entertaining.” But he remains “wildly prejudiced” for “Monty,” which premiered last year in San Diego and will arrive in L.A. next April at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

“I would be especially sad to see David Yazbek lose for his [“Monty”] score. Mel’s score is adorable, but it doesn’t break any new ground.”

O’Brien has received two previous Tony nominations, for staging “Porgy & Bess” in 1977 and “Two Shakespearean Actors” in 1992. TONY TROUBLE: Until last Monday, everyone assumed that the record for total Tony nominations was 15, set in 1971 by “Company.” But while announcing that “The Producers” had set a new record with 15 nominations, Tony officials disclosed that their record books have been wrong all these years, that a separate award to Harold Prince as best producer of “Company” never existed, despite its appearance in their official record books. So “Company” took home only 14 Tonys.


Perhaps the 1971 Tony voters were using butterfly ballots.