Rod Prichard and Amy Brenneman. Norcatur, KS, 1991.

The feature-length documentary Cornerstone: An Interstate Adventure is an intimate, humorous and provocative look at three very different Americans and the way that theater changed their lives.

In 1991, the Cornerstone Theater Company — an innovative ensemble that mounts productions of classic plays in small towns, using local residents as cast and crew — took on their most ambitious project to date, a national tour of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Rather than drawing participants from a single community, this production was composed of people – waitresses, farmers, teachers, nurses, hairdressers – from the many small, rural communities across America where Cornerstone had lived and worked from 1986-1990.

From rehearsals in a deserted schoolhouse in Norcatur, Kansas (pop. 193), to outdoor performances on the main streets of towns across America, to their final sold-out shows on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Cornerstone follows the experiences of three cast members in this epic national tour: Wanda Daniels, a waitress from Montgomery, West Virginia; Rod Prichard, a day-laborer from Marmarth, North Dakota; and Edret Brinston, a former All-American track star from Port Gibson, Mississippi. Removed from their everyday lives and surrounded, for the first time, by a group of people with widely differing attitudes and backgrounds, these characters battle against loneliness, isolation and the fatigue of a 10,000-mile national tour, while simultaneously participating in, and often celebrating, their role in a uniquely American theatrical experiment. Through their deeply personal stories, Cornerstone explores the connections that hold us together as a nation and the misunderstandings which keep us apart.

Cornerstone is a production of filmmakers Stephen Ives (The West, Seabiscuit, Reporting America at War) and Michael Kantor. As Co-Directors, Ives and Kantor lived and traveled with the Cornerstone company for six months over the spring and summer of 1991, shooting a total of over 300 hours of footage. Ives and Kantor continued to work on the project while producing and directing other PBS projects. After almost twelve months of editing, the ninety-minute documentary had its premiere at the Taos Film Festival. It was also shown as part of the first season on HBO Signature in 1999.