Theater as tool for social awareness: Cornerstone’s ‘The Hunger Cycle’ continues

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The failure of California to pass the GMO proposition is the least of the concerns of the millions of poor people who don’t get enough food every day, much less healthy food.
Cornerstone Theater’s latest production, “SEED: A Weird Act of Faith,” is the second of nine plays it’s committed to produce over the next six years about hunger and food inequity in our culture. The effort is called “The Hunger Cycle.”

Rather than visit a rehearsal of this latest show (like I did for the first show, where I talked to playwright Lisa Loomer.) I trekked over to a wonderful east side treasure known as Mercado de La Paloma to talk with Neelam Sharma.

In the show, Neelam plays an activist, but that’s her real-world job, too: for the past 16 years she has worked in east L.A. in support of  food justice and equality for her community.

The organization she leads, Community Services Unlimited, recently opened a food stall at Mercado where they sell healthy foods. (Try their heirloom tomato sauce, as well as the herbs they grow; pricey, but delicious.) After hosting auditions for SEED at the market, Neelam found herself part of the cast.

While the lunch time crowd rolled in to the market, I talked to her about food injustice in Los Angeles and the use of theater as a tool to illuminate the issues. She says many people who can buy whatever food they want don’t really grasp that the issue of hunger is real–and growing–right in our own city.

I asked Neelam what people who can buy whatever foods they wanted don’t understand about hunger. She said, “People are always surprised as to how much hunger there really is. Hunger is a real issue, and a growing issue in LA. All the recent statistics have said that food insecurity’s on the rise. And it always affects the population’s most depressed already.”

Sharma said she’s grateful that Cornerstone is focusing its work on the challenge of bringing healthy food to people who need it. SEED is an urban farm–and how the fate of the planet depends on its success.

You can see the show through November 18th; ticket details here.  And consider making the trek to Mercado de la Paloma, not just for Neelam’s offerings, but to check out the other family-run stalls there.