nytheatre.com review by David Pumo
July 7, 2005
Have you ever seen a show at Dixon Place? What?! You’ve never been to Dixon Place? Well, maybe HOT! The 14th Annual NYC Celebration of Queer Culture can be your excuse to finally discover one of New York theatre’s little treasures. A non-profit organization founded in 1986 to provide a space for literary and performing artists to create and develop new works in front of a live audience, Dixon Place is dedicated to supporting the creative process by presenting original works of theatre, dance, and literature at various stages of development. It’s an artistic laboratory with an audience; a venue for experimenting and testing ideas without the pressures of production costs and premature press exposure. The space provides free rehearsal space, bulk mailing of their calendars to artists' mailing lists, technical assistance, and video documentation.
Never afraid to push the limits of artistic expression, Dixon Place has always placed special emphasis on the needs of women, people of color, youth, seniors, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender artists and audiences. Over the past 14 years, the HOT! Festival, the most successful program in Dixon Place's jam-packed year-round schedule, has featured new work by David Cale, John Fleck, David Drake, Lois Weaver, Shelly Mars, Taylor Mac, Peggy Shaw, and Marga Gomez. This year’s HOT! runs two whole months, until August 29, with 108 artists in all, and features two new commissioned works: Susana Cook's The Values Horror Show, and Brandon Olson and Rami Ramirez's Party and Prey. With a sliding scale admission of $10 to $15, there’s no excuse not to check it out.
Some of this year’s shows take place at The Marquee on the Bowery between Great Jones and East 4th. The shows I attended were both at Dixon Place, also on the Bowery, between Houston and Prince. A large room with two rows of unmatching couches and chairs on three sides of the stage, the space feels like an East Village living room (the old, pre-overpriced-real-estate-development East Village). Beer, soft drinks, and some munchies are available. Often (possibly always?) there is no “fourth wall,” and the artists and tech people move about and mingle with the audience before the show. Sometimes even during. It is certainly the most relaxed atmosphere I’ve experienced in a theatre, and the environment couldn’t be more supportive and nurturing for the type of experimentation they encourage and nurture.
The first evening I attended was entitled The Beach Bum Beefacke Bonanza & the Swingin’ Surfer Sex Sissies. The two shows that evening featured different sets of segments showcasing various performance artists. All the pieces had a decidedly queer sensibility, though the mission of HOT! is to present queer artists, not necessarily queer works. The pieces touched on issues such as misogyny, gender stereotyping, super-hero worship, sexual fantasizing, and attention deficit disorder. The quality and level of development varied, though no more so than at festivals I’ve attended presenting supposedly finished works, and the two friends who accompanied me that evening had different opinions than I about which were the strongest pieces. Most used sound effects and music, and one featured both a video monitor and projected visuals. Two of the pieces contained partial or full nudity, not uncommon at Dixon Place.
My second evening was all music, featuring performances by PNP, Xavier J., and a third duo that was not credited in the program. All were quite strong, with well-composed electronic sounds, excellent singing, and edgy lyrics about relationships, porn legends, urban life, and other aspects of queer culture.
Upcoming shows in the festival feature poetry, dance, comedy, multimedia, and many combinations of all of the above. Check out the festival website (there's a link in the sidebar) for more details. I’m sure you’ll find something there for you.