Join The Lo-Down to Talk About the “State of the Performing Arts” at Manny Cantor Center April 28

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In partnership with the Educational Alliance, The Lo-Down is continuing our series of panel discussions on interesting neighborhood topics at the new Manny Cantor Center (197 East Broadway between Essex and Clinton). We hope you’ll join the conversation! After kicking the series off with a lively discussion on historic preservation a few weeks ago, our next panel focuses on the “state of the performing arts” on the Lower East Side.  Guests include:

  • Jay Wegman, artistic director of Abrons Arts Center
  • Ellie Covan, founder and artistic director of Dixon Place
  • John Collins, founder and artistic director of the theatrical company, Elevator Repair Service
  • Nicky Paraiso, director of programming at The Club at La MaMa

We’ll check in with these esteemed programmers, producers and artists, and examine the current climate for the performing arts downtown. We’ll look at how audiences and venues have evolved over the years, and we’ll explore the idea of building and growing audiences in the future, as the neighborhood continues to transform.

There’s another conversation on June 2nd focusing on the Grand Street cooperatives – past, present and future.

The free event on Monday, the 28th, at 7 p.m. Local beer, kosher wine and snacks will be provided.  Click here to RSVP.  You can also check out some other events coming up at the Manny Cantor Center here.

Arts Watch: HOT! Festival Kicks off at Dixon Place

Rain rain go away cause it’s HOT! at Dixon Place.  That would be the Hot! Festival—kicking off tonight with the Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show.  Dixon’s annual queer  “theater, music, dance, literature and homoeroticism for the whole family” festival that has been showcasing the work of the proudest and outest queers, lesbian, gays and otherwise for 22 years now. 

Leah Wells Brings Bluegrass Banjo and Flamenco Guitar to Dixon Place

Ethan Joseph, Leah Wells and Sara Banleigh. Photo by Judy Rosenblatt.

The noisy crowd at Dixon Place’s bar instantly falls silent as Leah Wells and her band take the stage. Though Wells is usually kind and unassuming, under the spotlight, in a glittering red headpiece, she morphs into a soulful songstress. Wells has been a Lower East Side dweller since 1980, when she dropped out of Bennington, a clothing optional liberal arts college in Vermont, to hitch-hike her way back to downtown New York. Now a mother, Wells balances raising her two adolescent sons with honing her musical craft.

For this performance, Wells is joined by David McKeon on Guitar and Mandolin, Ethan Joseph on Fiddle, Mary Noecker on Bass and Sara Banleigh, who shimmers in black lace and gold bracelets. Wells met Banleigh singing Irish folk songs at the New York Public Library and the two have been a musical match ever since. Banleigh performs songs Wells wrote when she was a young twenty-something, capturing their lonely, gritty, crooning energy and making them new again.

Arts Watch: Two World Premieres to Catch This Weekend

Nancy Giles. Photo by Jim Moore.

February starts off with a theatrical bang this weekend as not one, but two shows will have their world premieres on downtown stages.

The first is Nancy Giles’ autobiographical show, The Further Adventures Of The Accidental Pundette, at Dixon Place.  You might recognize Ms. Giles from her appearances on CBS News Sunday Morning where she has voiced her opinions on everything from politics and pop culture to the conspiracy of high heels for the past ten years (she was also part of the ensemble cast of the critically acclaimed TV series China Beach). But that is just her day job. Ms. Giles has been a downtown theater fixture for years, honing her craft at Dixon Place and other experimental spaces.

TLD Interview: Dixon Place’s LES Music Festival

Photo courtesy of Dixon Place.

We recently spoke with Jonny Goodman, the Director and Curator of Dixon Place’s upcoming First Annual Lower East Side Music Festival, about his vision for the festival, music on the Lower East Side,  and life as a musician.

TLD – We are very excited that there is a new arts festival in the Lower East Side – especially a music festival.  Who conceived of the idea?

 JG  – Ellie Covan, the Founder of Dixon Place, wanted to put a foot forth in the music scene.  Since its beginning in the late 80s, Dixon has been very supportive of the artist in dance and performance, encouraging new and experimental work and nurturing new talent.  With its new space on Chrystie Street, they now also have the venue for music.  Music is such an important fabric of the Lower East Side cultural community.  So they wanted to support those musicians and become a home for that community.

Arts Watch: Summertime Festivals on the LES

Summer is here and so are the summer festivals. This week two of them kick off on the LES: the undergroundzero festival begins on Friday the 29th, and Dixon Place’s HOT Festival revs up on Sunday, July 1st.

Created originally as an annual guest artist festival at Collective: Unconscious in 2007, the month-long undergroundzero festival has evolved into a “resident coalition of established independent theater companies producing in New York City,” including the Living Theater, which will act as this year’s host.

‘Puppet Mocumentary’ at Dixon Place

James Godwin, puppet provocateur.

Master puppeteer and performance artist James Godwin has been pushing the puppetry envelope for years with his Bunraku-inspired dark-comedy puppet troupe, The Elementals. His creations have been described by The Village Voice as “―gorgeously wrought mutants who look like they evolved downstream from a nuclear waste dump and talk like vulgar barflies.”

Godwin brings his perverse sense of puppet humor to Dixon Place for the world premiere of Lunatic Cunning, his semi-autobiographical “mockumentary” that revolves around the story of a shaman who is asked to cure a tribal elder (who is dying of old age) by using a puppet channeled to him by the spirit of the shaman.

Godwin blends experiences from own life as a puppeteer into the plot—working with Julie Taymor, his appearances on Saturday Night Live, Chappelle’s Show, PBS, and his work with the Muppets—with an amusing assessment of the history of puppetry and performance art. To connect all the dots, he mixes traditional puppet techniques such as tabletop, marionette, hand, shadow, mask and objects, with live drawing, ritual, lights and sound―all the while showing us why he is a master of his craft.

Dixon Place  // $15 // *Suitable for ages 13 and over // Fridays and Saturdays, April 6 – 21 // 7:30pm  // 161A Chrystie Street.

Ari Gold Brings His Multi Media Musical to Dixon Place

Sir Ari Gold.

Our friend Sir Ari Gold (the LES popstar and activist we profiled here) is working on a little something he calls an “Autobiographical Homotheatrical Multi-Media Musical.” The work in progress, titled The Reel Ari Gold, will be presented at Dixon Place as a staged reading tonight at 7:30pm.  Ari will host the reading and will play 11 different characters, to boot.

Dixon Place writes: The Reel Ari Gold is an electro-pop musical memoir that opens in The Bronx, circa 1980′s, travelling below-the borschbelt into the Catskills and ultimately landing in the vibrant and historic Lower East Side. Chronicling a career spanning three decades, beginning with an auspicious debut on the legendary Joe Franklin Show, this pop singing superhero comes out and comes of age with an eclectic but stellar group of mentors like Diana Ross, Uncle Moishe & the Mitzva Men and Jem & the Holograms, culminating in a battle for visibility, justice and ‘The Real.’ The Reel Ari Gold is a true-life, behind-the-musical adventure of identity, sex, show-business, religion, family and love.

Dixon Place // 161A Chrystie Street // $12 // 7:30pm // Go here for tickets.

Vernon Reid Serves Up “Artificial Afrika”

Vernon Reid, photo by Bill Berstein.

Virtuoso guitarist, composer and multimedia artist Vernon Reid explores the vicissitudes of identity and authenticity in “Artificial Afrika – A Tale of Lost Cities,” a new performance piece commissioned and presented by Dixon Place.

Premiering Feb. 10, the piece is being performed in a limited run on Feb. 11, 17-18, 24-25.  In “Artificial Afrika” the two-time Grammy Award-winner leverages hip hop, computer animation, video and dance to challenge conventional assumptions about the idea of Africa. This latest creation has Reid, best known for his band Living Colour, collaborating with hip hop performance artist Akim Funk Buddha, who’s also a throat-singer, among other talents, and DJ/drummer/filmmaker/producer Leon Lamont.

“Artificial Afrika” is a meditation on and journey through Africa, a continent brimming with diverse cultures, languages and peoples — and what Reid describes as “a notional landscape,” encompassing everything from Aunt Jemima to Tarzan, “filled with our fear and desire and hope and despair.”

The piece is “about the Africa in our minds,” Reid offered in an interview with The Lo-Down. “We walk around with all these ideas about Africa—deepest darkest Africa, mother Africa, heart of darkness, Tarzan, Aunt Jemima—this piece explores the question of what do they all mean.”

Dixon Place Premieres Artificial Afrika – A Tale of Lost Cities

Head on over to Dixon Place this weekend to catch the premiere of Artificial Afrika – A Tale of Lost CitiesGrammy Award-winner and Living Colour founder Vernon Reid’s multimedia journey through the Dark Continent. Reid merges music, hip hop, film and visual arts to explore and compare the notion of  Africa—a continent with a multiplicity of cultures, languages and peoples—with Afrika: “a country of the mind, a notional landscape encompassing everything from Aunt Jemima to Tarzan, filled with our fear and desire and hope and despair.”

Joining Reid are collaborators Akim Funk Buddha, MC, dancer, beat boxer, throat-singer, martial artist, choreographer, and then some, and Leon Lamant, DJ, drummer, filmmaker, and producer.

Fridays and Saturdays in February, 7:30pm.  Dixon Place // 161A Chrystie Street // 212-219-0736 // $15 in advance online $18 at the door $12 students/seniors

New Year’s Eve on the LES, Part II

Last week, we started a collection of options for closing out 2011 with a bang here on the Lower East Side. New Year’s Eve is now two weeks from Saturday, so we’ve got another installment of ideas for the big night. Send us your event at tips@thelodownny.com and we’ll put it in the next roundup.

Click through for the latest list.

Weekend Kids’ Pick

Cartoon slideshow this Saturday at Dixon Place.

Kids and cartoon-loving adults should head to Dixon Place on Saturday for a cartoon slide show. The show, starting at 2 p.m., features stories, gags and audience participation, with contributions from cartoonists, children’s book artists and contributors to Nickelodeon magazine.

R. Sikoryak and Friends Carousel for Kids! $10 kids/ $15 adults, 2 p.m., Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St., between Rivington and Delancey). Visit our Kids Page for more kids’ events in the neighborhood!

Stay Cool With the HOT! Festival This Weekend

The 20th Annual HOT! Festival at Dixon Place continues this weekend with San Francisco comedienne Marga Gomez‘s solo show, Marga Gomez is Not Getting Any Younger.   The piece, a coming of age story that “begins in a dairy cow’s boudoir in the Bronx and leads to a murder in a Forever 21 department store,” runs tonight and tomorrow night at 9:30p. She is following the boys in James Scruggs’ Tickets to Manhood, a Mondo Cané! Commission that ends it’s run this weekend.

$15 // Friday and Saturday Night shows at 7:30p and 9:30pm // 161A Chrystie Street.

You can see the complete schedule for the HOT! Festival and purchase tickets here. The Lo-Down is Local Media Sponsor. We’ll have more coverage throughout the festival run.

 

HOT! Festival Continues to Sizzle at Dixon Place

The 20th Annual HOT! Fest continues at Dixon Place this weekend with MaDHaTters CabArEt’s: Give ‘em Fiya!, “New York City’s most talented ruckus causing queers of color bring you a night of drag, dance, song and burlesque,” tonight at 9:30p. In the Lounge at Dixon Place tonight there will be plenty of comedic performances hosted by ‘Molly “Equality” Dykeman’s Comedy Extravaganza!’

Dixon Place Founder Reflects on 25 Years Downtown

photo by thelodownny.com

Ellie Covan, founder and executive director of Dixon Place, in front of their new home at 161A Chrystie St.

I stopped by Dixon Place recently to check in with founder and executive director Ellie Covan as she was preparing for the 20th Annual HOT! Festival. An exultant LGBT theatrical extravaganza, the festival runs through August 6th and features over 40 different shows.

Looking at the treasure trove of photos and old programs that cover the walls in the Dixon Place Lounge, I was reminded that the company, itself, is celebrating 25 years of championing new and experimental work in the heart of lower Manhattan. It’s clear that what started out as a small literary salon in Covan’s living room on East 1st Street has become an essential creative space for artists from all walks of life.