We often think we are smart enough to be exempt from brainwashing. Many people have a tendency to look at a cult, extremist political party, or abusive relationship and wonder how "those people" could have possibly been duped into a belief system or culture that is so obviously violent, vapid, and abusive. We think we would be smart enough to see the signs and not fall victim to a manipulative environment. The reality is that these environments do not start out abusive or extremist. At one point they offered hope to someone suffering in a moment of crisis or had points that seemed reasonable and deep. The extremism or trappings are gradual steps, starting with a community that finally understands a person and escalating to a point of exclusionary delusion. Falling into this trap is something to which most (if not all) are susceptible. I know that I personally would have fallen very easily into an organization such as Cornerstone as some of their initial beliefs and values align with mine. Where would I draw the line? As I made friends and alliances in the organization, would I have been able to draw distinctions between community that encourages thought and losing myself to something that served only itself? As a theatre maker, don't I dance around that line every time I make work? As a political activist dedicated to social justice, am I able to recognize the abusive gradual steps that led some of my fellow citizens who have been brainwashed by the AltRight? Am I able to see them as people who were once lost looking for a home but now brainwashed into a realm of racism and domestic terror? Are they able to be saved and escape this thought pattern? Do they want to be saved? Would I want to be saved?
It's easy to look at fringe organizations and dismiss them as inconsequential or "crazy"; to think of these participants as lost causes not worth the effort of release from the organization's tight grip, but that dismissal is what lets these organizations grow. Ignoring the extremist and abusive groups in our society is what allows them to gain quiet, unnoticed power until we look around and find they have grown to be bigger or more influential than us. Our complacency in the face of their fervor has allowed them to grow and fester and before we know it, we are considered the extremist for asking for logic and considerate thought.
In this vein of free thought, we have staged this experience as partially promenade. There is an entire world happening within this production that is meant to be seen in both rooms. I encourage you to follow what interests you. If you see someone leave the room, feel free to follow your interest. Get up and move around the space during this session. Get yourself a glass of Flavor-Aid. You don't need to sit and listen to any of this.
Rose Freeman, Director
Cornerstone asked a lot of questions of me from the very beginning: Why do I want to talk about this subject? How does it speak to people in 2018? What is even happening? Those questions do not seem so different from the ones I have been asking on a daily basis when watching the news or in conversation with friends. Writing my way through those questions is one way for me to take a breath, to let the questions stretch out like a net and collect some answers.
This play came about through a process of devising, which is a process that contains a lot of good will and commitment to a group endeavor. In some ways, this process mirrors what Cornerstone as an organization claims to represent. As I whittled away at hours and pages of material, I tried to come back to the core of why this story now. As our reporter character says, “We live in an all too covered world.”
Places and people many of us have put our trust to in the past are coming more to light as abusive, or predatory, or corrupted. The feeling of powerlessness is one that I consider in both how intimately it affects us and how large the scope becomes when we consider those places and people at seemingly unapproachable levels of power. Where does social control become fascism, and how do we stop it?
With Cornerstone, I want to make this conversation available to an audience in a way that distills the dark edges and the absurdity of our current moment. Tapping into the space between subjectivity and shared experience is where I believe the work begins.
Kevin Sparrow, Playwright
KENYA ANN HALL
Kenya is an actress, writer, and dramaturg based in Chicago, raised in Oakland. Her most recent acting credits include Electra Garrigo (Right Brain Project), Mary Shelley Sees the Future (Runaways Lab Theater), Collaboraction’s Peacebook Festival, Herculaneum (Blue Goose Theatre), Arc Theatre’s Arcitext Festival. She is a proud graduate of Northwestern University.
Raymond Jacquet is thrilled to be making his debut with Nothing Without a Company. Previous acting credits include Prelude to a Kiss (Comrades); Bob: A Life in Five Acts (Comrades); Robin Hood (Strawdog Theatre Company); Ubu II (The Plagiarist); Dictionary Project (Chicago Dramatists). He is also an Artistic Associate with the Comrades and Nothing Special Productions. Raymond is a graduate of University of Maryland-College Park, and Act One Conservatory of Chicago. Each performance will be dedicated to the loving memory of Jacqueline, his mother.
Wanda graduated from Duke University with a degree in English Literature, Theater Studies, and Dance. After her debut performance in Manbites Dog Theater, she has been in several productions in Duke and Durham, NC. She was featured in Nothing Without a Company’s New Play Festival: 4PLAYs at Mary’s Attic in July 2017.
Kyle is thrilled to be part of Cornerstone. She has been in multiple productions at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theater and interned under Nicole Capri at the Arkansas Repertory Theater. She just recently received her Veterinary Technician license and a few of her favorite creative outlets are wardrobe styling, jewelry making, and salsa dancing.
Jonathan is elated to return to acting with his debut at Nothing Without a Company. During his decade-long hiatus, he focused on producing, directing, storytelling, writing, and teaching. He's worked for Chicago staples such as the Goodman Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, and the Chicago Children's Theatre. Onstage credits include You're Being Ridiculous!, the side project theatre company, Pride Idol, Shelby C.C. Theatre, Dogwood Dell, Timber Lake Playhouse, Tello Films, and the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus where he performed the National Anthem at Wrigley Field. Producing and directing credits include 24-Hour Play Fest Volume V with Nothing Without a Company, Thriller at the Uptown Fall Fest; and his original ongoing oral history project Cleaning Closets.
Stella is an actor, musician, and author from Chicago. Her self-produced solo EP "SANE" was released in April 2017. She recently completed a book of lyrical short stories that examine inherited trauma, magic, and resilience among communities of Black womxn. In 2017, it won The Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop Prize for Innovative Fiction, and The Frances Mason Harris ’26 Prize. You can see her in the Chicago web series "Afternoon Snatch" or the current run of "Accidents" at Rhinofest. You can find her content on soundcloud or on instagram at @not_your_muse_ ! She is thrilled to be a part of the Cornerstone team!
Kyle is honored to make his Chicago acting debut at Nothing Without a Company! A recent transplant to the Second City, Kyle's favorite Nebraska credits include: Artistic Director for A Child's Christmas in Wales, South Pacific, and Annie Get Your Gun! (Kearney Community Theatre), Artistic Director for The Creation of the World and Other Business ( University of Nebraska at Kearney), Arnholn in The Lady from the Sea, Frank in Die Fledermaus, Will in A Cry of Players & Edmund in The Tutor (University of Nebraska at Kearney). Kyle proudly holds his BFA in Theatre from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
SAMANTHA MICHELLE NAVA*
Samantha is originally from El Paso, Texas and was the first ever to receive a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University Texas at El Paso. She then continued her education at East 15 Acting School in London, England and received an MFA. Now based in Chicago her credits include Peacebook Festival (Collaboraction), Merry Christmas, Mulch Pile! (Mercy Street Theatre Company), The Kid Thing (Nothing Without a Company), Robin Hood & Maid Marian remount (Strawdog Theatre Company)
Caroline, who has been praised for her “gleaming sound “ and “incredible range and flexibility” as both a singer and actress, received her vocal training at Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Caroline performed extensively throughout the country in many operas, operettas, cabarets, and plays including her own one-woman show The Shaulshank Redemption. She has found a home in the Chicago's vibrant community of storefront theater, participating in multiple theater festivals and having the honor of premiering many new works. 2018 also marks Caroline's directorial debut with Opera on Tap's production of Der Freischutz.
Derek Rienzi Van Tassel*
Derek is super excited to apart of Cornerstone and to be working with this fantastic group of artists. As a Company Ensemble member, Derek has worn numerous hats with Nothing Without a Company over the years, including; stage manager, assistant director, director, & audience wrangler. In 2014 he had the pleasure of playing The Mad Hatter in the remount of Alice. Outside of Nothing Without a Company, Derek directed both workshops of the new musical Toulouse with NY Theatre Barn and the Athenaeum (www.toulousethemusical.com). And this past October Derek sang and danced in just a towel in Zombie Bathhouse with Campsong Productions.
Dr. Phranque Wright
Dr. Phranque began his entertainment career in the Chicagoland area as a magician - specializing in "close-up" restaurant style magic. He took martial arts and improvisation courses to enhance his stage performance and body movement. He graduated Second City's Players Workshop in 1986 and performed in a variety of improvisational productions in Chicago and Colorado. In the mid 1990's he moved to Denver to study Chinese Medicine, stating, "Now I do real magic." He has been a supporter of Nothing Without a Company for a few years now and was honored to be a part of their 2015 48 Hour Film Project, Sweet as "The Expert". He was also invited to act in Nothing Without a Company’s 24-Hour Play Festival Volume V in 2017. Dr. Phranque looks forward to continue working with the wonderful talent at Nothing Without a Company in this production of Cornerstone.
Rose Freeman* (Director) stage directs and produces theatrical performance in multiple performance mediums. Freeman has created national fine art shows for M Gallery of Fine Art, served as managing producing director for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, and production managed a national tour for Feld Entertainment’s Monster Jam Monster Truck Show. Freeman stage directs space generated theater, burlesque, and opera. She stage directed Vic Mensa’s 2016 Lollapalooza homecoming concert. Previous operatic productions include Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters, Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium (all with Third Eye), and Forest Fantasies with Lingerie Lyrique. Notable productions include Caroline Shaul’s The Shaulshank Redemption, Po’Chop’s Black As Eye Wanna Be, Hannah Ii Epstein’s Punk-Punk, Pippi’s Lost Stockings: a Burlesque Satire, and Michael Wise’s Alice. Favorite burlesque collaborations include Siren Jinx, Po’Chop, and Mia Divine. Rose is a recovering stage manager with a decade of experience. Hailing from Columbia College Chicago, Freeman is teaching artist with the Chicago Vocal Arts Consortium. She is a company member of Third Eye Theatre Ensemble, Nothing Without a Company, and the DirectorsLabChicago Steering Committee. She has spoken on the emerging artists panel during the 2011 Chicago Theatre Symposium, participated in the 2012 DirectorsLabChicago, and 2017 La MaMa Umbria Intl. Symposium for Directors. Freemanrose.wordpress.com
Kevin Sparrow* (Playwright) is a writer, performer, and curiosity who utilizes text to create performances, performance to create text, and both to create responses that provoke inquiry and participation. With Nothing Without a Company, they co-devised and performed in [Trans]formation (2016), acted as Dramaturg for Down the Moonlit Path (2015) and both performed and written for Nothing Without a Company's 24-Hour Play Festivals. Kevin has been involved in solo and group performance work in local venues including Dank Haus, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Northwestern University, the Art Institute of Chicago; nationally in New York, Denver, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh; and internationally in Wellington, New Zealand. They also are a current co-coordinator of the monthly artists’ salon series, HI typ/O, and served as Production Manager for the IN>TIME Performance Festival in Winter 2016 and Assistant Director of the Out of Site Performance Series in Summer 2015.
Anna Rose Ii-Epstein* (Producer) is a Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Nothing Without a Company. Anna Rose is a native of Houston, Texas but has lived in Chicago for over 14 years. She has performed, directed, assistant directed, assistant taught, and produced over 35 new plays with Nothing Without a Company and various other companies including Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Mary Archie Theatre, The Inconvenience, Redmoon Theater, Nothing Special Productions, About Face Theater, Pride Films and Plays, Silent Theatre Company, Windy City Performing Arts, and The Center on Halsted. Her new production company, BearCat Productions, features work written by her wife Hannah. Check out their short queer film, The Box, on their YouTube channel. Anna Rose also produced and was featured in Sweet, created for the 48 Hour Film Project Chicago in 2015, and won Best Film Runner Up, Best Directing, and Audience Award Group B Runner Up. She was a featured extra in the queer film Signature Move which you can now buy on ITunes. Up next, she will be directing an 80’s punk show called ThoatPunch at The Chicago Mosaic School, opening May 10th, 2018. Read more at ii-epstein.com.
Ray Goldberg (Production Manager) is a Chicago-born-and-raised freelance producer and writer. She graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a bachelor's degree in Screen Arts and Cultures, sub-concentrating in Screenwriting. Currently she is a staff writer for the award-winning podcast "PleasureTown", content producer and editor for the gaming podcast "Tabletop Potluck", and a Media Educator at Facets Multimedia. Ray has previously worked with the filmmaking nonprofit Full Spectrum Features, where she served as Production Coordinator on their films The Orange Story and Signature Move. She was also the Production Manager for Nothing Without a Company's Bobby Pin Girls, and is thrilled to be working with them again.
Shelby Krarup (Stage Manager) is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, with a dual focus degree in voice and violin performance, and a minor in theatre. Since graduating, she has worked extensively as a stage manager for everything from corporate events to regional opera, including an annual Broadway based music festival in New York City. Company member of Third Eye Theatre Ensemble. She splits her time managing with costuming, hair, and special effects make-up endeavours, both for theatre and personal enjoyment. Away from the theatre, her time is spent in a property management office, and knitting.
Julia Skeggs (Assistant Director) is the casting assistant at Oak Park Festival Theatre and was featured in Redtwist’s production of Surely Goodness and Mercy directed by Wardell Julius Clark. She was the assistant director for Babe’s With Blades production of The Good Fight and was previously understudy for The New Colony’s Punk at The Den. She also understudied for Broken Nose Theatre’s At The Table and appeared in the company’s Bechdel Fest.
Sarah Collonge (Projection & Lighting Designer) is a designer and stage manager based in Chicago. Previous credits with Nothing Without a Company include Punk-Punk, Down the Moonlit Path, and Alice (2013). She has also worked with First Floor Theater, The New Colony, Thompson Street Opera, Third Eye Theatre Ensemble, and American Theater Company. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago with a degree in Theater and Performance Studies.
Jimmy Jagos (Properties Designer) is thrilled to be back with Nothing Without a Company! Past credits include The Medium, Sumedias Song, Dark Sisters, ‘With Blood, With Ink’, Alice, and TightWire, all under the direction of Rose Freeman. He is also a company member and resident designer with Circle Theatre and Chicago Tap Theatre. His work on Triassic Parq received a BroadwayWorld.com nomination for best scenic design.
Brittany Alsot (Cinematographer & Video Editor) is a queer, feminist, anti-racist filmmaker focused on creating inclusive, empathetic working environments for the cast and crew. She believes in the healing power of storytelling and art that represents the outsider experience. She started her career in Seattle and now lives and works in her native Chicago. Follow her work at www.brittanyalsot.com or www.vimeo.com/alsot
Will Bennett* (Fight Choreographer) is an actor, fighter, and stunt performer on stage and film. He has been acting, fighting and falling around Chicago since 2012 and has been a Nothing Without a Company Company Ensemble Member since 2014. He appeared in Nothing Without a Company's 2013 production of Alice, and both of the company's 2014 24 hour Play Fests. Outside of the company, he has appeared in The Hypocrites' All Our Tragic. Screen credits include multiple Columbia College Chicago Graduate Thesis films; Stygian, For Pete's Sake, Daisy. He has also fight choreographed Nothing Without a Company's 2013 and 2014 productions of Alice, and stunt coordinated Stygian, For Pete's Sake, and Daisy.