Imagine for a moment that you’re finally ready to present your death-defying dance/theatre/puppet show/vaudeville/musical hybrid and you’re wondering what entity would house your genre-bending opus. Let’s also imagine no one outside of your relatives, your loan officer, your landlord, and a few dozen loyal friends (or ex-lovers) has ever heard your name? Then let’s suppose your budget is very, very, very low—like too low to limbo under. Is this you or someone you know? Are you new around here? Have you never ventured below Houston Street or east of Lafayette to see a show? Type the words Dixon Place into your Internet browser.
The founder of Dixon Place, Ellie Covan, will likely be there at your planning meeting and there in the audience to witness your professional debut. Look—it’s occasionally a little chaotic or by the seat of everyone’s pants or dresses, but you’re not breaking the bank to put on your show, and keep in mind, the lean staff and lower overhead grants and the opportunity for thousands of artists—many getting their first big city shot—to show more work. By the people, for the people—that truly is Dixon Place.
Ms. Covan began Dixon Place as a salon in her Parisian apartment in 1985. Upon returning to NYC, her living room became the salon for the next 23 years, before the experimental performance space expanded to its new building with a 130-seat white box and the upstairs lounge’s 94-person capacity (40 lucky ducks may nab a seat).
Dixon Place is probably best known for their July summer festival, HOT!, convening 100+ multi-media artists to present work for intergenerational and multi-culti audiences. Intrepid theatergoers may also have ventured into the Chrystie Street venue for ongoing performance series like: Bindlestiff Variety Show (aerialists, sword swallowers, contortionists, wire walkers!), Little Theatre (theatre, dance and performance art), Muffins in the Window (“NYC’s longest-running monthly variety show”), Carousel (cartoon slide shows!), and new this year, the National Queer Theater’s Criminal Queerness Festival (all-June!) to name a small sampling.
In the lounge, grab a specialty cocktail (perhaps the tequila-based “Bitter Queen”), which you can (possibly) spring for—as tickets range from free to or a maximum 25 dollars, (rentals are separately priced) and whether you’re at the bar, the theatre, or the restroom—it’s wheelchair accessible.
Recognizable from Broadway, Off and Off-Off, legends like Lisa Kron, John Leguizamo, Deb Margolin, David Cale, Penny Arcade, and even the Blue Man Group (oof, that dressing room!) began their ascent at Dixon Place. You might find an experimental foray by the likes of Justin Vivian Bond, Peggy Shaw, BD Wong, Mac Wellman, Kate Bornstein, or Taylor Mac among others. Yet perhaps best of all, names that are unlikely to be household, populate the theatre. Dixon Place doesn’t stake their fortune or survival on boldface performers or box office haul—no, if you want experimental theatre, dance, art, comedy, or, say, sword swallowing, well, you know where to find your home away from home six nights a week.