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Quick Wit: Ellie Covan

The founder-director of Dixon Place adjusts to working there without living there. logo

It's been over half-a-year now since Dixon Place moved out of the living room of founder/director Ellie Covan's apartment on the Bowery (where it had been for seven years) and into the Vineyard 26 theater space on East 26th Street. And while its pre-show concession options no longer include herbal tea brewed on Ellie's stove, or beer from Ellie's frig, Dixon Place continues to put out the same kind of eclectic theater, dance, solo shows, stand-up, readings, storytelling, puppetry...that have made it the downtown performance mainstay that it is.

TM: Do you miss not having people performing in your living room? Ellie: Yes and no. It's a complicated question, actually. It was a really big adjustment that I had to make. Even though I had been wanting to separate it for a really long time, when it actually happened, it was a very big psychological adjustment for me, and I'm not used to having to travel to work, and I'm used to having a lot of people around. It's very different, but it's a good thing. TM: What's the wildest thing that ever went on onstage at Dixon Place? Ellie: There were a few things. One thing was last year when Jennifer Miller did her show. The old place had pretty low--like nine-and-a-half foot--ceilings, and she had fire--you know, she had a part in her show when she ate fire. She was also juggling machetes, and I didn't really want her to do it, but she really wanted to. The audience was very close there, they were practically on the stage, so we had this big talk about it, and we decided how she was going to do it. And then when the show opened she really made a big joke about the whole thing. She would stand in the middle of the stage and start juggling them, and she would talk while she was doing it, and she was playing around, and then she would drop them, which gave the audience a sense that she couldn't really do it. It was very realistic, and then when she really started juggling, she moved right down to the audience's feet, and everyone was scared to death, and I really wasn't prepared for it. That whole other thing about her dropping them was a set-up--she wasn't really going to drop them--but every night it was pretty scary. TM: When you were a kid, where did you think you'd be in the year 2000? Ellie: I never thought about it. TM: Would you rather sit in the front row or the back row at the theater? Ellie: Front row. TM: Who's your personal hero? Ellie: I have so many...Ann Carlson is definitely a hero for me. She's a choreographer, and she's just an amazing person. TM: Is she someone who inspired you to include dance performance at Dixon Place? Ellie: No, she's just someone who inspired me. And also Michael Howett. He's a saint. TM: If you could wake up tomorrow with one skill that you don't already possess, what would it be? Ellie: Being musical. TM: What's your pet peeve? Ellie: I really hate it when people try to hide the truth. TM: Favorite childhood game? Ellie: I don't really remember my childhood. I played Fish, but I wouldn't really call that a favorite game. Usually you think of something a little more active, right? TM: You mean that you went fishing? Ellie: No! The card game Fish. It's kind of boring: "Go fish." TM: What's your vote for movie of the year? Ellie: All About My Mother. TM: Do you prefer morning or night? Ellie: I prefer night, but I wish that I preferred morning. TM: Intimate gathering or wild party? Ellie: Intimate gathering. TM: Show tunes or rock 'n' roll? Ellie: That's it? Those are the two choices? TM: Or other. Ellie: Other. TM: What's your "other"? Ellie: I like original music by my friends. TM: Cats or dogs? Ellie: Well...dogs. I have two cats--I don't even have a dog--but I prefer dogs. TM: Boxers or briefs? Ellie: Nothing.

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