When exploring an iconic Atlanta neighborhood like Little Five Points, your five senses are excellent tour guides: there are so many sights to see, sounds to hear, foods to taste, aromas to smell and textures to touch.
But there’s nothing like getting an inside peek, especially from members of the community who live and work there. That’s exactly what happened when I met with Heidi Howard and Michael Haverty, artistic director and associate artistic director of 7 Stages, a long-time Little Five Points theater.
I arrived at 7 Stages amid a flurry of activity. Set construction was under way to build a giant grave, an actual grave, for the latest production, "The Doctor, The Devil & My Dad." In that show, playwright Suehyla El-Attar wove a story that hovers between the earthly dimension and somewhere in the beyond.
Sound like an interesting concept? It is, as I found out. 7 Stages consistently attracts plays that examine the human experience from a dynamic perspective, even when the subject is traditionally sensitive, like this one. Now in its 36th year, 7 Stages puts on six productions annually, including three original productions from Atlanta playwrights. It is important to 7 Stages to nurture Atlanta talent, making this a theater that is very much connected to its community. Here are 10 things I learned about the neighborhood from Heidi and Michael:
- The locals love that their neighborhood is weird. Unique, indie businesses are integral to the neighborhood, and the business association is good at keeping out mainstream chain stores in order to preserve the community character of Little Five Points (L5P). L5P is anchored by long-standing businesses such as The Yacht Club, Junkman’s Daughter, Abbadabbas, Criminal Records, Charis Bookstore, Savage Pizza, Sevananda and more, all of which are unique to the area.
- The locals love that L5P is one of Atlanta’s really walkable neighborhoods, which makes it an excellent place to stroll around and people watch. Diversity is the lifeblood of L5P. Here, you’ll find every sort of person, from purple-haired musicians to out-of-towners with their kids and teenage hippies to octogenarian beer lovers.
- The locals love nighttime, for that is when L5P comes alive. The dark and smoky Star Bar is a good spot to get your late-night music fix. A lot of motorcyclists meet at the Vortex (you can’t miss the giant skull on Moreland Avenue), and a little further down the street, the Brewhouse is where all the soccer fans showed up during the World Cup. Variety Playhouse is the venue for larger bands that come in from other states.
- The locals love the fact that art is everywhere, from the decorative design of buildings to the hidden-in-plain-sight inlaid mosaic of well-known blues singer Blind Willie in Finley Plaza, right at the corner of Euclid and Moreland avenues.
- The locals love to share their neighborhood with visitors. If people are coming to see a theater performance, they likely are going to want to eat dinner in the neighborhood as well and maybe get a drink after. If you ask a local for suggestions, you’ll hear plenty of options.
- The locals love that the gorgeous mural that spans the entire width of the 7 Stages building has never been defaced or scribbled on, despite having been painted more than 20 years ago.
- The locals love the Krampus Crawl, which is a good example of the energy that floats through L5P. The Krampus Crawl is a worldwide alternative holiday celebrated on Dec. 5, during which Santa’s bad-boy friend Krampus goes out, marauds the streets and has a raucous time. With this pub crawl, costumes and good times go hand-in-hand.
- The locals loved The Corner Tavern and can’t wait for it to be rebuilt. It burned down recently, and here’s why (as told to me by Heidi): The restaurant that occupied the space before them was a music venue called The Point, and when The Point renovated the space decades ago, they somehow sealed in an old walk-in refrigerator, but the refrigerator was never unplugged. For years, the motor was running on the fridge, and years after the venue became The Corner Tavern, the fridge sparked inside the closed-up wall. There was no way for anyone to know that there was an issue going on, and eventually the entire thing burned down. Everyone is looking forward to The Corner Tavern coming back better than ever.
- The locals wish for a breakfast place in the neighborhood. That would be wonderful.
- And if the above point has given you the idea to open a breakfast place (or any other kind of business) in L5P, the locals have a message for you. The staple businesses in the neighborhood have been here for years and have a lot to teach new businesses joining the community. If you’re indie and weird, L5P welcomes you.
Beth Clark is a writer, dancer and humorist who dearly loves Atlanta. She loves nothing better than roaming around the city on a mission to discover Atlanta's quirky, glam, upscale and down-home character. Check out her blog, TheCityDweller.me or Twitter @bethcitydweller.