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7 Stages Theatre: Guiding the community in a spectrum of productions

7 Stages Theatre, located in the Little Five Points neighborhood, is currently preparing a black box theatre stage for the upcoming show Inside I. Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal
7 Stages Theatre, located in the Little Five Points neighborhood, is currently preparing a black box theatre stage for the upcoming show Inside I.
Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal

7 Stages Theater has been impacting the Atlanta community for 37 years. Each year, the staff pushes boundaries for new theater projects, in hopes to influence change within the Atlanta community.

The quaint non-profit theatre located in the hub of Little 5 Points has been operating since   1979. Since then, 7 Stages has produced a combination of local and international shows that shape the modernization of American theatre.

Artistic directors Michael Haverty and Heidi S. Howards share their experience with 7 Stages, and the behind-the-scene work that goes into creating a successful theater experience.

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One of Howard’s goals as a director was to implement educational programs for the youth within the community.

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Youth Programs and Workshops

Youth Creates is a five week training program. The 7 Stages staff go into schools to work with students and teachers by reading books, like “Fahrenheit 451.” Some of the students that participate in Youth Creates go on to become administrative assistants or performers that work throughout the year.

“They are not restaging the book but re-creating something from their thoughts or feelings about the book, covering issues covers such as forgetting history, censorship,” Howard said. “They are making songs, dances, puppet shows and video games. Then, they create a final presentation open to the public at the end.”

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Youth Creates participants engage with international students traveling from the Netherlands and Israel to attend the five week program.

“Watching our Atlanta kids interact with these Israeli, Dutch students, you can see everybody’s brain swelling a bit as they see these kids come from a fairly different culture,” Haverty said.

Special artist workshops are two or three hours designed for the community to allow people the opportunity to train with artists and learn different techniques. Artists from around the world train professionals, emerging artists and students. Companies such as Sean Dorsy Dance Company from San Francisco have coordinated dance workshops.

“Laughter is a lubricant for friendship, for understanding, and if you can laugh with someone you can do anything,” Haverty said. “The international element of what we do is really unique amongst Atlanta theaters, we are committed to bringing international artists, by going over seas.”

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Getting to know the directors

Heidi S.Howard, Artistic Director, began working with 7 stages in 1999 as a freelance artist. Previously a production manager, educator and designer for different companies in Atlanta, Howard became Education Director and Production Manager in 2003, working alongside the founders for over a decade.

Co-Artistic director Michael Haverty started working at 7 Stages four years ago. Prior to his time at the theatre he had his own company titled Haverty Marionettes, a puppet theater for adult audiences.

As Haverty got to know the staff at 7 stages, it became a second home. Through a grant from the Princess Grace foundation, Haverty was able to work as a staff member.

The job of an artistic director entails making proposals for artistic programing, choosing what to put into development and merging relationships between the theatre and the community.

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Impactful projects

Michael Haverty’s current production “Inside I,” is the next production piece scheduled to play at 7 stages on April 21 through May 8.

The show will put people inside the mind of a young man with autism. The production is designed to educate others about the demographics of people who are not normally seen within media.

Haverty has been working on “Inside I” for approximately two years. He’s collaborated with therapists and scientists to create an understanding of the autistic spectrum, and how to communicate with people diagnosed with autism.

“The whole process has just opened my heart to a huge portion of the population, and educated me,” Haverty said. “Now getting to put that on stage and hopefully sharing that information in a really exciting multimedia way is going to be fantastic.”

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Outside of 7 Stages Theatre, located in the Atlanta neighborhood of Little Five Points. Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal
Outside of 7 Stages Theatre, located in the Atlanta neighborhood of Little Five Points.
Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal

Straight from the Directors:

Q: What are some of the jobs that you take on as an artistic director?

Howard: Essentially, we foster relationships with arts in the community and bolster what’s happening to reinforce the importance of culture and how we work together as artist to make humanity better. It is essentially building a relationship with artist, creating a space in which we can develop, honing those skills and seeking ways in which to bring conversation to important topics by connecting our everyday life with the creative process.

Haverty: Just a little different from other theatres in town, we really make it a point to produce work that speaks to certain challenges or conversations going on in the world today. So there’s a bit of a difference in searching for new plays, than just looking for the next big hit.

Q: How is the community influenced by the work that you are producing?

Howard: Super excited. They feel very welcomed to come into the doors and tell us what they think, post on our social media, ask questions and be engaged with the experience. I think that it’s gone kind of on a roller coaster of being accessible. Our work has a history of being really exciting and right on the brink of change and then going into a dark place to really hit those human matters. It’s then really exciting to be able to have conversations and being engaged with the change that’s happening. I think that most people that walk into our space or experience our work from the artist, the community, the students and the patron are really feeling like this is a home, in which they can explore new ideas and thoughts about our world.

Haverty: I think we do a good job of mixing, making sure that mission-driven also means exciting, in building new audiences and making it fun to go to the theatre, even if we are addressing all these things that makes it more alive people’s everyday experience. We have a great audience base, that loves new work, that loves to see something that will shock or surprise them and also really make them think about a subject matter.

Q: How often do you get ideas from people?

Howard: It’s our responsibility to create a safe space, to create a welcoming atmosphere here that has got a lot of flue. People know to come here with their ideas and we get people walking in here all day, and we try to foster [ideas] as much as possible.

Q: With the new atmosphere are there ever any challenges?

Haverty:  It’s important for us to remember to respect everyone’s view point. Dealing with things like racism and genocide, we have to be really careful about the words that we choose and making sure that everyone is welcome.

Howard: A possible challenge or opportunity that we are addressing is educating our artists and patrons on the advocacy, being able to form better words as a culture to talk about the importance and power of art making and the money that it needs for people to live sustainable lives. [We want] to educate and remain transparent about  what it takes to work in a non-profit arts organization.

Q: What’s it like being behind the scenes on the day of a production?

Haverty: It’s always different, sometimes you’re scrambling until the last second, to paint that last thing, scrambling to finish something, perfection is never reached, so you’re always reaching, to make things better or clearer, sometimes it’s just perfect and you’re just rolling, heidi is really good with getting the cast together, rituals, thanking the cast and preparing to share the show with everyone in the world.

Howard:There is a vulnerability or rawness, that is raw performance, sharing your hear, something that many people keep private,and to be a performer on stage, it’s just a special gift that we all share that is typically a private thing for people and being able to relate with an audience  it’s a real moment that we spend time together.

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Internship programs

-Interns are primarily selected from the youth reach program.

-7 stages is looking for college students who are willing to work in administrative in areas such as marketing, fundraising and finances. College interns also get to work with teenagers during the summer as mentors for young emerging artist

-The experience is tailored to each person to allow them to get a skill that they wanted.

For more information contact education@7satges.com