Cornerstone Theater Company (2008)

Cornerstone Theater Company (2008)

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Managing Director Shay Wafer had come to Cornerstone hoping to make steady earned income sources her legacy. This dream became especially urgent in early 2007, with a deficit of 23% in a $1.6 million budget. The recent transition in artistic leadership, as well as a changing funding climate, meant that the organization’s traditional sources of support could no longer be taken for granted. Cuts made in personnel and programming were not enough to sustain a balanced budget. The theater had never relied on ticket income as a significant source of revenue, using a Pay-What-You-Can model from the very beginning, and it could not start charging fixed prices to its core community audiences without putting up barriers to accessibility and moving away from its mission and values.

One model that had proved successful by June 2008 was collaboration with Gilead Sciences, Inc., a global pharmaceutical company. The idea came about from Wafer’s conversations with her sister Deborah, who worked in marketing at Gilead. The Gilead Project, as it was known internally, combined Cornerstone’s collaborative community methodology for developing productions with Gilead’s desire to educate HIV/AIDS populations about their medication options, especially among the African-American community. This was a major help to Cornerstone fiscally. Combined with extensive efforts on the part of the Director of Advancement to increase board involvement and individual giving, as well as cuts in staff and some less mission-based programming, Cornerstone was able to balance its budget in 2008 for the first time since 2005.

Questions remained about the future of the organization: Would corporate funding continue to increase? How would that affect the direction of Cornerstone and its ability to fulfill its mission? The board and staff began a strategic planning process in 2008 to address some of these concerns and to chart a course for the future.

Publication Date: 2009-09-01

Suggested Citation: Belina Mizrahi, "Cornerstone Theater Company," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case #08-20, September 1, 2009

Keywords: Los Angeles, Community, Strategic Planning, Organizational Direction, Development

Teaching Notes: No

About the Theater Management Knowledge Base

This case is from the Theater Management Knowledge Base, a body of arts management material created by Yale School of Drama Theater Management students and faculty, overseen by an editorial board of leading practitioners. For more information or for help in selecting cases suitable for your educational or organizational purposes, please email yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu.