At the start of 2020, Beau Dixon wasn’t sure where his career was headed. Even as a multidisciplinary artist with credits in music, theatre, and television, the closure of so many performance venues was nerve-wracking. “The first few months were very scary—how’s this going to work, what am I going to do, should I go back to school, you know, take up plumbing,” he recalls. In one of the pandemic’s many unpredictable twists, he found himself working on two prestige TV productions instead. “Weirdly enough, this has been the most successful two years of my life, my career, primarily because I landed a TV series called Station Eleven. I had a substantial role in that and another series, a sci-fi series called The Expanse. So that helped during my rainy days.”
Looking at Dixon’s CV, it’s hard to imagine him sitting idle. He’s acted as a music director for the Statford Festival’s production of Freedom: The Spirit and Legacy of Black Music; co-founded his own theatre company, Firebrand Theatre; co-written an original musical for Millbrook’s 4th Line Theatre; toured North America and Europe as a rock musician and started his own Sound Kitchen recording studio here in Peterborough. Upcoming projects include a musical based on the work of renowned Canadian poet Al Purdy, and a touring show in the Toronto GTA called Porchside Songs.
“You’re constantly having to reinvent yourself, constantly having to renegotiate,” Dixon says, when asked how he approaches working across disciplines. “It sounds weird, but I think it’s being willing to be the least talented person in the room. Showing initiative and determination. It’s also showing endurance… can I handle the rejections, yet go back to audition again and again?”
Dixon credits the Peterborough music scene for helping him develop and hone his craft. He landed in town almost by accident, having given up his apartment in Toronto while on the road touring. A brief stint in Peterborough has now lasted over two decades and counting. “While I was here, I got a gig at the Peterborough Folk Festival and you know, the weekend turned into a week, a week turned into two weeks, and I never left. That was summer of ‘99. You know, I’ve been back and forth and been all over the road and everything, but since summer of ‘99 Peterborough has been home for me.”
He lists meeting folk singer Willie P. Bennett and hiring a young Serena Ryder as a backup singer among his formatives experience in town. Despite those big names, he’s quick to add that Showplace Performance Centre has a special place in his heart as well. He performed on its stage often and directed a production of West Side Story there, and a fundraiser on his behalf left an indelible memory. After he was the victim of home invasion in 2007, the arts community rallied around Dixon and arranged a concert at Showplace stacked with his favourite musicians.
“It was like I was attending my own funeral,” he quips. “To see the support and the love and the respect and the loyalty of colleagues, dear friends. Everyone pitching in. I know for a fact that it not only gave me great comfort, but it gave great comfort to the community of Peterborough to know that if there was someone in need, you know, strength in numbers. The people would be there.”
For the Meet the Musicians series, Dixon performed “Your Love Will Carry Me” on Showplace’s stately grand piano. The song was written for the musical Bloom, which debuted at 4th Line Theatre and charted the rise and fall of a fictional rock band from the fifties through to the seventies. Dixon’s comfort and command behind the keys make his affection for the Showplace stage clear, even after the break from live performance these past two years. “Being in Peterborough gave me the time and the resources to improve my skills as a songwriter. It discovered me as an actor,” he says. “So Peterborough’s done a lot for my career—I owe a lot to Peterborough.”
Hear more from Beau Dixon by visiting his website
Discover more local musicians through the Meet the Musicians series, released regularly through Spring 2022