Leslie Strongwater is the Director of Programming at Dixon Place. In other words, she knows just about every downtown performance artist in the city and they either already know her or want to know her, especially after Dixon Place's move early last year to their sexy new digs on Chrystie Street.
Strongwater is responsible for filling the theater's ever-increasing calendar of events, which can now include up to two shows each night in the main theater, plus readings, music, and other acts in the Lounge. The Lounge is also now a full bar, open every night at 6pm, serving show-goers and non-show-goers alike. With their tidy rehearsal studio tucked in beside the theater, they are their own performance ecosystem wrapped up in a single venue.
Dixon Place was founded in 1986 by Executive Director Ellie Covan, and for most of the years since its shows have taken place, quite literally, in the living room of Covan's apartment on Bowery. The intimacy (just over 40 could cozy up on the couches and chairs in the space) was what made DP what it was—a place for performance artists to feel safe putting new work on its feet in front of a friendly audience.
By focusing on work in development rather than producing full runs, DP provides a unique space for NYC artists. As Strongwater puts it, "We're the part of the food chain that gives the nutrients and the support. With a little bit of care and attention, and no pressure, we see those pieces develop and grow."
What's tricky about the new space is the shift for artists from an intimate 40-cushion living room to a 135-seat venue. Though the new digs are beautiful and versatile, they can be intimidating for work at the earliest stages of development, when artists typically seek small audiences of those they trust. That's where the Lounge comes in.
The Friday that I dropped by to talk to Leslie, I stuck around the Lounge afterwards to hear the entertaining Christen Clifford test out a new piece for an audience made up primarily of those who knew her and her work.
One of the biggest advantages of the new location is the fact that DP can now host more and bigger shows than it ever could before. There's no better time of year to check out the full range of work and artistry that passes through Dixon Place than during the annual HOT! Festival (through August 7). This year's fest features an impressive line-up of 60 shows in just over a month from artists like Dan Fishback, Holly Hughes and Dan Hurlin, music by Ultraviolet Astronomy, a film screening, and a Power Point Presentation on Partnering by Jeep Ries, among many other things. And the shows are cheap—no more than $10 each if you buy in advance, or even cheaper with the 3-for-$25 deal (not to mention the $3 cans of PBR). Leslie joked: "We're going for the McDonald's model."
(photo credit: Dixon Place)