Dragon Productions, a leading component of Redwood City’s downtown theater district, is closing its physical doors at 2021 Broadway and moving in a new direction.
Justine Bechler, incoming chief executive officer, acknowledges that the impetus for the transition is pandemic fueled and financially based. “Our lease, which ran through 2022, was just not sustainable under the current uncertainties around what kind of live performances were going to be possible,” she says.
The troupe, founded by Meredith Hagedorn two decades ago, initially was nomadic. It moved from a small venue in Palo Alto to the former travel agency office in Redwood City seven years ago.
For the last three-plus years, the company has been led by Bora “Max” Koknar and Alika Spencer-Koknar, co-artistic directors, who are leaving their roles concurrent with the company vacating its facility by the end of the month.
Noting that the “theater community no longer looks the way it did when we took the reins in 2019,” Koknar and Spencer-Koknar made “an agonizingly difficult decision” and chose to “use this new moment of transition for Dragon, to step aside.”
Bechler says the building’s property managers were cooperative in formulating the exit strategy. “All nonprofits, but especially artistic nonprofits need the support of their communities in order to survive. We’re doing everything we can to keep Dragon from joining the list of those falling to the pandemic. Not having this space is one way we can do that.”
Bechler, who enters her new role with a background in performing and theater education, hopes Dragon can stay connected to the community even though it’s moving off its main corridor. “We’re looking for a temporary space that we can maybe transform into a theater for a one- or two-year opportunity before finding a long-term home.”
Like many arts producers, Dragon experimented with various streaming offerings during the pandemic and sees some sort of digital component as part of its long-term planning. One thing that’s not on the agenda right now is the heretofore traditional season of six plays by established authors.
“As we envision our ‘third act’ we want to expand our collaborations more into new works with emerging playwrights. Our current key words are incubate, innovate and educate. We also plan to create site-specific cabarets and showcases for different types of performance styles.”
How to maintain audience engagement under this new paradigm is “something we are still fleshing out. We’ve got a varied base who come to us for different kinds of projects,” says Bechler. To this end, the company is hiring a digital marketing associate to explore broadening its offerings, from an expanded youth theater department to corporate events.
She laughs at a “Game of Thrones” allusion to Daenerys Targaryen riding her Dragon to a new horizon. “That would be amazing, but me? No! I think, though, that what Max and Alika have set up puts Dragon in its best place for new leadership. I’m not taking over something that is failing.”
Dragon is holding a moving sale at 2120 Broadway in Redwood City from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, Aug. 14- Aug. 29, and by appointment. Visit dragonproductions.net for more information.