Los Angeles, CA — Cornerstone Theater Company kicks off The Hunger Cycle with the world premiere of Café Vida, written by Lisa Loomer, directed by Michael John Garcés, and created in partnership with Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café. Café Vida runs from April 26 to May 20 with performances Thursdays through Sundays, and is being presented by the Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre Centre, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.
Café Vida is a unique collaboration between Cornerstone Theater, an acknowledged leader in community-engaged theater; Homeboy Industries, renowned for its transformative programs for at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth; and Homegirl Café, a division of Homeboy Industries whose purpose is to empower young people through culinary training. Pulitzer-prize nominated writer Lisa Loomer spent 18 months speaking with the men and women of Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café. Imbued with Loomer’s biting dialogue and colorful irreverence, Café Vida is an unexpected portrayal of this vibrant community.
The play tells the story of Chabela and Luz, rival homegirls ready to leave the life and begin anew at Café Vida—the only place in the city that gives young women and their troubled pasts a genuine second chance to start a new life free of violence. But as with all new journeys, the women face obstacles: the scorn of family and friends, the pull of old loyalties, not to mention a persistent singer who provides an entertaining and chaotic soundtrack to Chabela’s life. Ultimately, the former enemies choose la vida over la muerte as they learn to compost, tend a garden, julienne an onion, and rock the lunch rush with a smile and a heaping side of transformation.
“We chose to partner with Cornerstone because of their commitment to involving community members at every step of the process,” says Father Greg Boyle, Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries. “It’s easy to simplify what we do or what our clients go through, but Café Vida successfully captures the spirit of Homeboy. The play reflects our community’s struggles and also what people don’t usually see portrayed: the humor and the joy.”
More than half of the Café Vida cast members are clients of Homeboy Industries, whose jobs include merchandising, silk-screening, baking and working at Homegirl Café. Homeboy Industries is staying true to its mission of “Nothing stops a bullet like a job” by including rehearsal and performance hours in the work rotations of the 11 Homeboy clients in the cast. Homeboy Industries and Cornerstone are partnering to compensate the clients at the same rate as their usual working hours.
This is a groundbreaking collaboration for us,” says Cornerstone Artistic Director Michael John Garcés. “For over a year we’ve witnessed Homeboy Industries’ tireless efforts to help young people transform their lives. We’re deeply proud to be contributing to their mission by having Café Vida included in their job training program. It is a testament not only to the transformative nature of Cornerstone’s artistic process, but also to the hours of passionate work the Homeboy clients are committing to the play.”
Other contributing artists to Café Vida include Nephelie Andonyadis (Scenic Design),Meghan Healey (Costume Design),Tom Ontiveros (Lighting Design),Bruno Louchouarn (Sound Design) and Ana Maria Alvarez (Choreography).
Café Vida begins previews April 26, opens May 5 and runs through May 20. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Los Angeles Theatre Centre, Theatre 3, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Tickets are $20 and available online at www.CornerstoneTheater.org and by phone at 866-811-4111. A limited number of Pay-What-You-Can tickets will be available at the door for every performance. Select performances will include public events such as talkbacks and roundtables. More information at www.cornerstonetheater.org.