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Theater Emory hosts 'Breaking Ground' summer series

This summer, more than 50 performers, choreographers, playwrights, theater-makers, students and alumni converge on Emory's campus for Theater Emory's Breaking Ground Series, a four-week residency of new work development in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.


Workshop participants practice the Bunraku-style puppetry that will be used in the July 6 production of 'The Boy Who Smiled.' Photo by Erwin Mass.

Now in its second year, the Breaking Ground summer series not only serves as a laboratory for new work, but also provides community members the opportunity to dive into developmental processes with artists from Atlanta and beyond.

During Breaking Ground, each project is given one week in the Theater Lab to develop ideas. At the end of the week, creators open up their process and invite the public to view and discuss their work, giving audiences the opportunity to witness and respond to art in its nascent stage.

One such project, a collaboration between Michael Haverty and Erwin Maas in conjunction with Atlanta's 7 Stages Theatre entitled "The Boy Who Smiled," is a multi-media exploration of the autistic spectrum through a combination of puppetry, live performers, and dynamic use of video technology. The presentation takes place Sunday, July 6, at 3 p.m. in the Theater Lab of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts

"Breaking Ground provides us with invaluable resources and time to focus on the challenging themes and new technological aspects of our performance," Haverty says.

Inspired by the public's often-misconceived notions about autism, Haverty, a director and playwright currently serving as associate artistic director of 7 Stages Theatre, and Maas, a New York based theater director and teacher, hope to facilitate a dialogue between performers and audience about preconceived notions of special needs individuals, and to address the issue of bullying through a powerful and entertaining theatrical spectacle.

The project's connection to Emory runs deep, with support coming from the Ethics Center, Emory Medical School and the Emory Autism Center.

"The open, effusive, and respectful support of Theater Emory creates a safe and ripe space for creative investigation," Haverty says, noting this is a vital environment for an undertaking as ambitious as "The Boy Who Smiled," which hopes to bring the audience into the mind of a young man with autism, giving voice to the unseen differences in brain function and perception that exist on the autistic spectrum.

In addition to "The Boy Who Smiled," the 2014 Summer Breaking Ground Series features projects from Atlanta artists such as Blake Beckham, Corian Ellisor, Patricia Henritze, and Nicole Livieratos as well as new work from Theater Emory students and alumni.

All Breaking Ground events are free and open to the public and take place in the Theater Lab. For more information, visit Theater Emory on Facebook at or call 404-712-9118.

Upcoming Performances

All events are held in the Theater Lab of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

Thursday, July 3, 8 p.m.
"Fragments – inspired by Sarah Kane"
India Duranthon, TC Kinser and Lizzy Segal

Saturday, July 5, 5 p.m.
Clifford Clark, Leili Kasraie, Frank Lemmon, Caitlin Reeves, Nicholas Surbey and Emma Yarbrough

Sunday, July 6, 3 p.m.
"The Boy Who Smiled"
Michael Haverty and Erwin Maas with 7 Stages Theatre

Wednesday, July 9, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Workshop: Patricia Henritze and Nicole Livieratos
Drop-ins welcome; contact

Wednesday & Thursday, July 9-10, 7-9 p.m.
Workshop: Rachel Shuey
Open to all levels;

Saturday, July 12, 1:30 p.m.
Nicole Livieratos and Patricia Henritze

Sunday, July 13, 6 p.m.
"Playing to the Music"
Rachel Shuey

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