Thursday, June 20, 2013

'Curious Encounters' of the 7 Stages kind

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Raymond Carr as preacher in The Object Groups Chapel Perilous
  • Raymond Carr as preacher in The Object Group's Chapel Perilous

7 Stages Theatre closed its 35th season with Curious Encounters, an interactive festival of performances by local ensemble groups, stationed from the front sidewalk, throughout the theatre, and into the back parking lot. Artistic Director Heidi Howard along with Associate Artistic Director and show curator Michael Haverty talk with CL about the power of space, the heckling bathroom attendants' true identities, and how many stages really do exist inside the theatre.

You have groups performing in the parking lot, black box, main stage, stairs, lobby, and on the sidewalk. Where is the seventh stage?

Heidi Howard: The bathroom. [7 Stages Founders] Del [Hamilton] and Faye [Allen] really wanted to create this idea because overseas, every theatre company has really interactive coffee shop or bar. And they always have the bathroom attendants. And so, in Curious Encounters they very much played off of all of these characters that we've interacted with. Always wanting the money, getting in your way, talking in funny languages. They just had a really fun time with it. [7 Stages staff] all wear many hats as a responsibility anyway, we're always cleaning up the bathroom or whatever we have to do.

In light of 7 Stages 35th anniversary, was the aim of this show specifically to showcase the entire space?

HH: We wanted an interactive, roving festival because [Michael Haverty] is so site-specific in his work anyway, but I think this was one of the first times that we were able to really use the entire space to bring audiences through and include so many different participants.

How did you go about choosing the groups?

Michael Haverty: I really wanted to represent some of the new contemporary ensembles that are in town like Saiah, The Object Group, and even Wade Tilton that did "Obscura I+II." Mainly I just wanted a variety of work that was really edgy. I feel like Atlanta's a burgeoning hot spot for new things, and so I just wanted to grab on to people that I felt were really at the top of that right now.

Besides curating the festival, how were you involved in the shows?

MH: The Chapel [Perilous] piece is actually from a company [The Object Group] that I've been running for a long time and now that I'm at 7 Stages I'm kind of pulling away from that company and letting it exist on its own. But I did all the sound design for that show, the lead devisor you'd say- with an ensemble there's really no hierarchy.

Talk about the songs that you used and what led you to choose them?

MH: Well, I love music. A lot of it was random stuff but Mahler's 8th Symphony is the really dramatic one, so it's music that really raises the stake of anything. When you watch somebody eating a sandwich and they're playing that music, it just becomes really important that they're eating that sandwich.

HH: It's something that I have really known, and when I first got in touch with Michael and his kind of style, is that he has this montage bringing in the music medium to merge with the theatrical storytelling aspect of things.

What have been some reactions to the show that stood out to you?

MH: The most fun I had was when I went out to the parking lot with my video camera and walked through the line of "The Breakup" [an approximately two-minute piece in which audience members are broken up with]. One of my favourite comments was there were two people who had never been here before. They were like, "We got to see everything! We got to see the backstage!" And so they really felt like now they really knew this theatre. Each space has a different power to it.

HH: The interactive aspect for people in this building is the huge part of next season too. It lends to Navigator, it lends to Red Badge, it lends to Mass Transit- how people interact with each other live and in person. It's not just, "I'm on the computer and I'm gonna see this show and go only see this show," but they're actually going to buy a drink from the people at the bar, they're going to go to the bathroom, also they have to drive into the parking lot and pay someone not to get booted or whatever. We really lend to the entire experience and I think that's what this festival is. You're coming to Little Five and you don't have to be scared. Get here, show them that you love to be a part of this community and really be a part of it.

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