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7 Stages Brings Thought-Provoking Works to an Eager Atlanta Audience

By S. Mathur

From classic musicals like Hair to exciting journeys with Adventure, 7 Stages has been bringing the best of local, national and international theater to Atlanta for 38 seasons.

The founders, Del Hamilton and Faye Allen, wanted to bring productions that "focused on social, political and spiritual issues that face our society," says Artistic Director Heidi S. Howard, "Through that mission, we challenge artists and audiences to confront topics not openly discussed like race relations, human rights, war, politics, and sexuality - in a manner that redefines the way people get involved in the creative process."

Productions like Hair and Mass Transit Muse explore social constructs of racism, classism, and gender through music, dance and even audience participation via an open mic.

Howard feels that this practice creates "a cultural laboratory that empowers artists and community to collectively ask questions, generate awareness for social change, and create public value through various platforms - theatrical productions, arts learning programs, audience dialogues, artist workshops, and panel discussions. By examining what our role is as artists, not only to produce high quality art, but also to create a space for vital conversation and inspire action, we propel our community towards a better humanity."

Other recent productions that she found enriching on many different levels were Dracula: The Rock Opera; Navigator, adapted from an adventure novel, which took cast and audiences on an offstage journey together; and The Revolutionists, a play about the badass women of the French Revolution which, according to the critics, has music, a beheading, and lots of laughs.

The 7 Stages mission emphasizes support for new plays and playwrights. Given the artistic and political significance of the issues addressed through theater, it's not surprising that the cast and entire production team feel that they learn and grow at the same time that they present a spectacular theater experience for the audience.

7 Stages supports artists in their personal and professional development and in exploring new methods of collaboration, through the Youth Creates program as well as residencies and internships.

Youth Creates is a five-week program for teens where they create storylines and learn the craft of theater for an original production. Participants learn writing, design, tech and performance, and have the chance to connect with a global community through internship opportunities and the international exchanges. Youth Creates gives participants confidence in their creative abilities and futures.

One Youth Creates participant, seventeen-year old Parker writes about the power of collaborative work: "There were many people, who came from different cultures, societies, households, and had different views and ideas; yet, we all came together as a family and put together something beautiful."

Residencies support the 7 Stages education mission by bringing theater professionals to classrooms to co-teach. Together with teachers, they encourage students to explore selected works of literature and to bring creativity to the classroom.

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