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Michael John Garcés with members of Cornerstone Theater Company. (Photo by Ed Fuentes)

Cornerstone Artistic Director Michael John Garcés to Step Down

Succeeding the theatre’s founding artistic director, he will have led the company through nearly 17 years and several cycles of community-collaborative shows.

LOS ANGELES: After 16 years as artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, Michael John Garcés has announced his decision to leave the post, effective June 30, 2023. 

“We value and love Michael so much,” said board chair Mark Valdez in a statement. “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.”

“My time at Cornerstone has been an incredible, beautiful, always challenging but also deeply joyous journey,” said Garcés in a statement. “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.” 

Garcés began his tenure with Cornerstone in early 2006, succeeding founding artistic director Bill Rauch. Upon arrival he helped to define a new six-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, as well as the Hunger Cycle, which included nine full-scale community-collaborative productions and codified “Creative Seeds,” a new engagement practice. Cornerstone’s newest thematic exploration, the Change Series, began in 2019. 

Larissa FastHorse’s “Urban Rez” at Cornerstone Theater Company.

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), 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 (Sicangu Lakota Nation). Wicoun will be co-created in May/June 2023 with the interconnected South Dakota residents of the Sicangu Lakota Nation (Rosebud), Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge), and Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate (Yankton and Rapid City). 

“We are lucky to have had Michael’s partnership and his leadership,” said Paula Donnelly, a longstanding member 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 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 here.

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ADV – Billboard