7 Stages Mission
7 Stages is a professional, non-profit theatre company devoted to engaging artists and audiences by focusing on the social, political, and spiritual values of contemporary culture. 7 Stages gives primary emphasis to international work and the support and development of new plays, new playwrights, and new methods of collaboration.
7 Stages History
In 1979, Del Hamilton and Faye Allen founded 7 Stages with a simple mission: to create a haven for artists and audiences to address social, political, and spiritual issues present in their daily lives. Originally, the theatre was located in what had once been a shop front at 430 Moreland Avenue in Little 5 Points. Artistic staff worked for no salary to ensure actors could be paid. There was one stage, which sat 65 people.
Early reviews of the work were strong, with Marquee Magazine calling our inaugural production of Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime, which featured a young actor named Chris Kayser, “nothing short of stunning.”
After only five years, 7 Stages had developed its reputation sufficiently to make its first major expansion. When the pool hall next door lost its lease, 7 Stages rented that property as well, nearly doubling the size of the facility – and ending the pesky sound of cue balls clanging through the wall during performances.
The new space opened to the public in 1984 with Earthlings, a world premiere by the young and relatively unknown Jim Grimsley. The young playwright and the young theatre’s reputations would grow together and by 1988 the world premiere of his Mr. Universe was invited to run at the New Federal Theatre in New York City: 7 Stages’ first national tour.
Other production highlights from the theatre’s early history included the world premiere of Rebecca Ranson’s Warren, which in 1984 became one of the first plays in America to address the issue of AIDS. 1986′s Bang Bang Uber Alles received attention on the national evening news when, in protest of the play’s anti-white supremacist themes, the Klan marched on 7 Stages, in its first march within Atlanta city limits since the Civil Rights Movement.
“This splendid – and yes, enchanting – production just goes to show how possible it is to do so much with so little. This feisty little theatre company draws on its considerable resources of talent and imagination.” – The Atlanta Constitution on The Tempest, 1980
As 7 Stages’ national prestige grew, so did its international profile and commitment to international work. In 1985, the German government funded co-founders Del Hamilton and Faye Allen to make a two-and-a-half month artistic journey to meet and develop collaborations with German theatre companies. The result was 7 Stages’ American premiere of the German play Der Frosch in 1987, which featured a German artistic staff and an American cast.
Later that year, 7 Stages made its next big move, relocating to the Euclid Avenue Arts Center at 1105 Euclid Avenue. In the initial renovation of this 1920s movie house, 7 Stages transformed the building into two theatre spaces: a proscenium mainstage, and a flexible-seating black box, providing the expanding company with twice its original performance space. Dressing rooms, something the company had been waiting on for eight years, were added as well. Two years later, in 1989, the building’s exterior was briefly converted back to a 1920s movie house to be included in the film Driving Miss Daisy.
7 Stages deepened its relationship with young artists in 1991 by embracing the Freddie Hendricks Youth Ensemble as a company in residence at 7 Stages. Working with kids from at-risk backgrounds, YEA trained an entire generation of young actors during its ten years at 7 Stages, premiering such company-created productions as Times, School House Rocks, and Soweto! Soweto! A Township Is Calling.
In 1992 nationally renowned director Joseph Chaikin directed his first production at 7 Stages, the critically acclaimed Waiting for Godot. Joe would continue his relationship at 7 Stages through a dozen more productions, including 2003′s Broken Glass, the last play he directed before his death.
In 1993 7 Stages began the first of what would become many regular international tours, when My Children! My Africa! by Athol Fugard was invited to the United Kingdom. Subsequent tours of 7 Stages productions would take the company’s work to Holland (Waiting for Godot), France (Black Battles with Dogs), South Africa (Blue Monk), China (The Chairs), and the Balkans (Maps of Forbidden Remembrance).
“Best Play of the Year!” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Creative Loafing, and Atlanta Magazine on My Children! My Africa! , 1993
With the volume of artistic growth at 7 Stages, by 1995, the time came for the 7 Stages’ home to grow again, thanks to the completion of a $1.5 million capital campaign to purchase and renovate the building. In addition to enhancing the lobby and façade of the building, administrative offices were added, as well as a scene shop, a café, and new seats to the mainstage.
The renovation primed 7 Stages to play its next major role in the city’s cultural history: host to artists and athletes from all cultures of the world during the 1996 Olympic Games. As part of the summer’s Cultural Olympiad, 7 Stages presented two world premieres: When the World Was Green, written by Sam Shepard with Joe Chaikin, and Blue Monk, by playwright-in-residence Robert Earl Price. At 7 Stages itself, the theatre hosted a Free Zone for Artists, around the clock performances from artists from the many countries represented at the Games.
To further break down walls dividing cultures in Atlanta and around the world, 7 Stages produced the world premiere of Disremember Me, by Albanian playwright Arben Kumbaro. Barred from production in his home country, Kumbaro became the first Albanian playwright produced overseas in half a century when his play opened in Atlanta. 2003′s staged reading of Heaven is Late broke down international barriers still fresh today, the first Western reading of an Iraqi play snuck out of the country during Saddam Hussein’s regime.
7 Stages’ on going relationship with Belgrade’s Dah Theatar provides another perspective on creating cross-cultural work. Initiated out of an interest in understanding what it means to create art in a time of war in the mid-1990s, the relationship led to 2002′s Maps of Forbidden Remembrance, which featured actors and designers from both Atlanta and Belgrade. Currently, the two companies are generating a dramatic retelling of the last public execution in the United States.
Never afraid of controversy, 7 Stages also showcased many of this country’s most outstanding and dynamic performers over the last decade, including Tim Miller (Us), Karen Finley (The American Chestnut), and Holly Hughes (Preaching to the Preverted), three of the infamous “NEA Four,” whose funding was revoked by the National Endowment for the Arts in the mid-1990s.
“The most magical experience of the Atlanta theatre season,” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Whispering to Horses, 1997
HUSH: Composing Blind Tom Wiggins, by Robert Earl Price, has proven to be 7 Stages’ most recent and beloved highlight, with back-to-back runs on our mainstage by popular demand in 2002 and 2003 and numerous tours throughout the region. It appeared as part of the Alliance Theatre’s City Series for two weeks as well as, in abridged form, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site for four months. The true story of a 19th century Georgia-born slave and world-famous piano prodigy, the production brought this forgotten hero of black history back to the national spotlight.
With its on-going low-cost rental program, 7 Stages also remains a home to emerging Atlanta theatre and dance companies without their own facility. In the last several years, that list has included Synchronicity Performance Group, Out of Hand Theatre, Theatre du Reve, Fly-By Theatre, Soul-stice Repertory, EstroFest Productions, VisionQuest, angleworks sma, MultiShades Atlanta, and Full Radius Dance.
In nearly 30 years, 7 Stages has produced 56 world premieres, 21 American premieres, and countless more regional premieres. Co-Founder and Artistic Director Del Hamilton has been named both Best Director and Best Actor in Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine. Co-Founder and Producing Director Faye Allen received the Best Actress nod from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for her performance in My Mother’s Courage. Creative Loafing named the company “Best Theatre in Atlanta” in a recent “Best Of” issue. Annually, productions at 7 Stages top the “Best Plays” list in every major city publication. Even the Drama League of New York has recognized 7 Stages as one of 50 theatres nationwide for its Theatre Excellence in America Program.
Today, 7 Stages continues to honor this rich legacy of involvement on the local, national, and international level in helping to shape the future of American theatre. Each season subject matter varies from international social and political turmoil, contemporary health crises, the ethical implications of new technologies, and group and individual identity as seen through the lens of gender, race, and religion. One thing ties our season and all our work together: our mission, our understanding of which only grows and deepens further with time.
“The most important Atlanta premiere of the new century,” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on HUSH: Composing Blind Tom Wiggins, 2002