Staging America: Cornerstone and Community-Based Theater

By Sonja Kuftinec | Go to book overview

3

PERFOR ( M) ATIONS : CORNERSTONE AND TRANSACTIONS OF COMMUNITY

To see the thing grow, you know, this is what fascinates me, because this is like planting a crop. If you harvest wheat and you harvest milo and you have a good crop, why then it's exciting. You don't mind working long hours if you reap something from it. And I expect this is kinda what the play is; it's gonna be a harvest. I hope it's a good one.

—Ron Temple, Kansas farmer and Cornerstone actor

A 6' 9`, farmer Ron Temple tends to tower benevolently over other Apeople. He surrounds himself with vastness—from the acres of fields that he cultivates to his performance as Orgon, the largest speaking role in Cornerstone's 1987 Tartoof. It is fitting then that Temple's eloquent simile, equating Tartoof's production with harvesting, heightens and enriches a discussion of Cornerstone, community, and culture. Apropos of Temple's farming metaphor, “culture” has etymological roots in crop cultivation. Over several hundred years the term's connotations have shifted to embrace a complex of meanings, ranging from high art to everyday practices, from social relationships to institutional power dynamics, from wheat farming to theater.

Cornerstone's collaborative projects bring together complementary and clashing aspects of culture production. As Raymond Williams has elaborated, performance manifests culture by integrating modes of production (making things) with symbolic systems (representing things). 1 When individuals like Norcatur, Kansas, residents come together to create something that signifies themselves, as they did in the adapted Tartoof (Or, An Imposter in Norcatur—and at Christmas!), they produce community through both social and symbolic systems. When “outsiders” like Cornerstone initiate

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