Jada Suzanne Dixon: North Star in Colorado theater group | John Moore | Arts & Leisure

Jada Suzanne Dixon: North Star in Colorado theater group | John Moore | Arts & Leisure

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Within the first few frantic days of the pandemic shutdown, Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre predicted in verse that in that unsettling pause, tomorrow was being constructed right this moment. “And collectively on this sudden strangeness,” he wrote, “radical creativeness will run wild.”

Over the following two years, tomorrow was being constructed for each Denver’s Curious Theater and Denver native Jada Suzanne Dixon, who in Could was chosen to imagine the inventive management of that important Denver theater firm following the retirement of founder Chip Walton.

When Dixon first heard these phrases – radical creativeness – “I used to be like, ‘Man, does that resonate to the core of me.” Now, she says, “I’m utilizing that phrase as my North Star.”

Dixon is on the heart of a sea-change within the Denver performing arts that grew to become the largest native story of 2022. A Denver Gazette examine of each theater-presenting firm in Colorado discovered that 23 ladies are at present serving as Inventive Administrators of theater organizations they didn’t discovered – which means they had been particularly chosen for his or her jobs. And of these, 18 have been appointed because the downfall of sexual predator Harvey Weinstein started in October 2017. In a really direct means, this group is responding to the second, and alter is going on.  

What all that tells Kate Gipson, improvement director for Boulder’s Native Theater Firm, “is that we’re on a extremely good path,” she stated.


Alicia (Lisa) Younger and Lavour Addison in Butterfly Impact Theatre Firm’s ‘The Royale,’ directed by Jada Suzanne Dixon.

And on the entrance of that path is Dixon, whose ascendancy from award-winning actor and director to the inventive chief of Colorado’s premiere mid-sized skilled theater firm is critical for each sensible and symbolic causes. None larger than the truth that “Jada earned and owns this place in each single means,” stated Gipson.

Dixon has been getting ready with intention for the potential of a considerable management alternative for years. When Walton determined to make Curious’ twenty fifth season his final, Dixon was ready within the wings as the corporate’s Inventive Producer, an expertise that extra totally rounded her administration credentials. In August, Curious started a considerate, year-long management transition that’s giving Dixon the absolute best probability for long-term success. Curious has adopted a co-leadership mannequin with Managing Director Jeannene Bragg dealing with the enterprise finish.

It was each a consequential and historic rent “as a result of the success of Curious Theatre is vital for the success of our group at massive,” stated longtime director and lately named Curious Inventive Producer Christy Montour-Larson.

However Dixon’s promotion just isn’t the one motive she was named right this moment the True West Awards’ 2022 Colorado Theatre Particular person of the Yr, following within the footsteps of each Walton (2005) and LeFebre (2019). The truth is, a case could possibly be made for Dixon solely on what she achieved as an actor and director. She started the yr co-starring in Curious Theatre’s MLK-inspired home drama “Fireflies.” She then directed “Stick Fly” for the Arvada Middle (turning into the primary Black feminine theater director in its 46-year historical past), “The Revolutionists” for the Little Theatre of the Rockies in Greeley, and “The Royale” for the Butterfly Impact Theatre of Colorado in Boulder.

That she directed or acted in 4 reveals this yr for 4 totally different Colorado firms makes it crystal clear she represents a brand new, united day within the Colorado theater group at massive. Dixon has been part of its previous, she is a central determine in its current and she or he is now totally positioned to grow to be a number one voice in its future.

“Neighborhood is an important factor to me as a result of I am a local Coloradan raised by 3-0-3,” stated Dixon, who has been performing in Denver since starring within the famed Bonfils Theatre’s “The Unimaginable Jungle Journey of Fenda Maria” at age 12. She graduated from Bishop Machebeuf Excessive Faculty and went on to earn her undergraduate diploma from New York College and a graduate diploma from Harvard. She returned to Colorado in 2003 to play a bone-chilling Girl Macbeth for Denver’s late Shadow Theatre Firm, and she or he has labored everywhere in the state since. In 2019, Miners Alley Playhouse gave Dixon her first directing project – ”Fairfield.” She has received earlier True West Awards in 2016, ’17 and ‘21.

“After I assume not solely on the size however the width of my inventive life as much as right this moment, I’ve labored actually onerous to construct a reputation for myself as an artist at a number of theaters on this group,” Dixon stated. “All of these experiences fertilized me to be the artist that I’m. I might not be main Curious Theatre right this moment if not for all these different experiences.”

And now that she is, her radical creativeness is working wild. And what she is imagining might nicely change the temperament of your entire Colorado theater ecology.

“After I assume, ‘How do I radically think about the long run?’” she stated, “that is not solely about serving Curious. It’s about serving our bigger inventive group.”

Dixon already has taken steps to make Curious a extra energetic companion within the native theater group. She’s rejoined Curious as a member of the Colorado Theatre Guild, a statewide advocacy group that Curious had damaged from in protest seven years in the past. “There’s a notion of Curious possibly being somewhat unique, and I hate that,” Dixon stated. “It’s actually vital for me to interrupt that down. We’re not going to be standing on the curb wagging our finger at different individuals.”

She’s additionally instituted an in-house program known as “Curious Evening Out.” The corporate she inherits contains an ensemble of about 25 employees members, actors and designers, most of whom work at different native firms as nicely. “So now, if considered one of our firm members is engaged on a present, we’re gathering collectively as a bunch and going to assist them,” Dixon stated. “There may be implausible theater taking place on this inventive group, and it is vital to me that we as a company are seen as a part of that group.”

Dixon has begun an ongoing dialogue with different space inventive leaders, assured that the quickest method to any resolution is to faucet into the shared information of friends. “The primary time I had a query, I despatched out an e-mail to different inventive leaders on the town saying I wanted some steering,” she stated. “I keep in mind hoping that possibly one particular person would reply. However by the top of the primary day, all of them had. And I believed, ‘Oh, that is what group is about. It’s not about competitors. It’s about lifting one another up.”

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And she or he’s about to take this concept of radical group into really uncharted territory. She plans to channel the continued infusion of recent feminine leaders within the Colorado inventive group right into a female-focused assume tank to discover larger ideas and collaborations. What, she wonders, may banding collectively appear to be?

Curious, for instance, doesn’t have the funds to make use of its personal Human Sources employees member. Virtually nobody does. “However what if three or 4 theaters got here collectively and all of us collectively paid somebody’s wage to serve all of our organizations in that capability?” she stated. “I am all for exploring all of the methods we are able to assist each other in order that we are able to all proceed to outlive and thrive.”

Shared staff, shared field workplace, shared authorized recommendation? Thoughts blown.

Fireflies Jada Suzanne Dixon True West Awards Curious

Jada Suzanne Dixon and Cajardo Lindsey strred in Curious Theatre’s ‘Fireflies.’

There may be an urgency to Dixon’s agenda, one fueled by the existential disaster many arts organizations have been staring down since earlier than the pandemic. Some firms are reporting in-person attendance is down as a lot as 50 p.c from earlier than the shutdown, however it’s not a brand new drawback. The largest menace to arts organizations is a longstanding menace: The sofa.

“We’re all feeling the hit,” stated Dixon. “I feel individuals have gotten out of the behavior of going to stay theater, they usually have gotten actually snug working that distant. So the problem just isn’t solely tips on how to appeal to new audiences, which is a unending query, however how can we re-attract our audiences that had been coming to us earlier than the pandemic?”

The entire group is listening. And that, Gipson stated, is de facto Dixon’s wheelhouse. “Jada has been facilitating troublesome conversations round artwork for many years,” she stated.

Montour-Larson, whose roots at Curious return 20 years, sees Dixon’s ascendance within the better context of the corporate’s storied historical past, which begins with Walton. “Chip has impressed many individuals through the years – and one of the vital individuals he impressed is Jada Suzanne Dixon,” she stated.

As for what sort of programming to count on from Dixon, who’s finalizing plans for her first season now, she stated, “I am tremendous within the factor that scares me.” Curious has established itself as a social-justice theater firm, and “I do not consider we shall be straying from that in any respect,” stated Dixon.

That stated, whereas Dixon identifies as a Black feminine artist, “Curious just isn’t an all-Black theater firm,” she stated, “so I do not need to program all Black reveals. That is not who we’re. And but, we need to be on the forefront of lifting up new voices – and elevating up BIPOC voices is one thing we’re tremendous enthusiastic about.”

Like many theaters, Curious simply might have fallen aside throughout the pandemic. “Working a theater is exceptionally troublesome,” Montour-Larson stated. “It takes a toll on you, and I’m so grateful that Jada was prepared to step up. She has rolled up her sleeves and is inspiring the remainder of us at Curious to create probably the most impactful theater we are able to. And she or he is doing it with grace and kindness and main by instance.”

Dixon is aware of no different method to roll.

“This can be a factor that ignites my soul,” she stated.

Radical. Think about that.

Jada Dixon 2021 True West Award

Jada Suzanne Dixon is among the solely artists ever to have received True West Awards in two consecutive years.

Jada Suzanne Dixon: 2022 at a look

  • Actor: Fireflies,’ Curious Theatre Firm
  • Director: ‘Stick Fly,’ Arvada Middle
  • Director: The Revolutionists, Little Theatre opf teh Rockies, Greeley
  • Director: ‘The Royale,’ Butterfly Impact Theatre of Colorado, Boulder

Notice: The True West Awards, now of their twenty second yr, started because the Denver Publish Ovation Awards in 2001. Denver Gazette Senior Arts Journalist John Moore celebrates the Colorado theater group by revisiting one of the best tales from the previous yr with out classes or nominations.

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