Five Questions for Leslie Strongwater

(photo by Steven Battaglia)

(photo by Steven Battaglia)

Name: Leslie Strongwater
Title/Occupation: Director of Programming/Curator
Organization/Company: Dixon Place

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

If I say New Jersey I’m screwed, right? So, let’s say this. Seminole, Oklahoma shaped my formative years, New York educated me in the theater, and Hampshire College (in Amherst!) molded me as an artist. New York was an easy, logical move, but a lazy decision in retrospect.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

Christ, Andy. I guess Ballad of the Sad Café or maybe To My Chagrin by Split Britches. The scene with the projections of her grandson was the one that did me in. Peggy Shaw used to talk about this funky little space on the Bowery back when she taught at Hampshire. Her work- that downtown aesthetic moved me. She literally led me to Dixon Place. I’m still totally obsessed with Peggy, which can be a little embarrassing, and surreal as we’re commissioning her and Lois to create their new work, The Lost Lounge this December! Oh my god. Can we just talk about them for the rest of this interview? No? Well, I also love Hendrik Goltzius and the whole Dutch school. They light me up! Go see Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would Freeze! Seriously.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I wish I could drive stick. (for a fast getaway.)

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

I am a teaching artist in the NYC public schools, so some days I’m in the Bronx or wherever they send me, playing theater games with a bunch of kids! At Dixon Place, I am responsible for the curation of our wonderful performance programs, which means I review submissions, meet with artists, create new programs, and see a lot of shows! It’s normal to me, but definitely insane. The artists outnumber us 300 to one.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

I make those choices a little bit everyday, but really it just vacillates back and forth and everything balances out in the end. Being surrounded by so many artists, and so much work (administrative and artistic), sometimes, I forget to make my own stuff. I’ve got my feet wet now though with Peg-Ass-Us, so I feel fulfilled. And I’m pursuing my Master’s Degree at NYU where I’m encouraged to combine my passion for theatre and education, so that’s a nice compromise!

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