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By Keith Loria
The Vagabond Theatre Company (VTC) invites people to celebrate the Christmas season the way folks did in yesteryear, with the staging of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show at Bridgeport’s historic Bijou Theatre running Dec. 1-2.
A returning favorite, the show was adapted by Fairfield’s own Joe Landry, premiering at the Stamford Center for the Arts in 1996. Since then, it has been widely produced around the country.
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show takes a unique look at the beloved holiday tale. As one would expect, the story follows George Bailey and the granting of his bleak and desperate Christmas wish by his guardian angel — only in this version, it’s done at the WBFR radio studios on Christmas Eve 1946.
Last year, John Smith and Tanya Feduik-Smith, VTC’s co-artistic directors, were looking to return the troupe to its old home at the Bijou Theater and met with Gary Peterson, Bijou’s new general manager, about doing some sort of show.
“He was really interested in doing a Christmas show,” Feduik-Smith said. “We performed this last December and he seemed really keen on doing it as a regular holiday tradition, so we’re back.”
In the production, a handful of actors broadcast the action in front of microphones, each playing dozens of characters, accompanied on stage by a live sound effects artist — just the way old-time radio shows were done back in the day.
“The radio-show format is so different. It’s easy on a cast, especially around the holidays because there’s no memorization involved because they will have scripts on stage like a regular old-fashioned radio show and there’s a lot of improv,” said Feduik-Smith, who is directing this year’s show. “The cast really seems to love it and it’s so much fun.”
Smith added that the fact that it’s set in the 1940s, it fits in wonderfully with the Bijou’s art deco style, so the theater itself is just the perfect setting.
“It’s such a great concept,” he said. “It attracts the old-timers who used to listen to radio shows and the serials, and it’s a cool, new thing for young kids to check out.”
The younger generations particularly are fascinated by the sound effects that are created right on the stage since many who saw the production last year admitted that they hadn’t seen something like that before.
In talking with different audience members last year — including many who had seen this show done elsewhere — Feduik-Smith learned quite a bit that she has used to improve the show in its second year. She also wanted to continue what Smith had done as director of the show last time.
“It’s a lot of staged reading. The actors that were on stage last year made an entire storyline behind what was going on and it was fascinating to watch and absolutely hilarious,” she said. “It was the cast of this radio play, at work on Christmas Eve. They were doing this play but they were basically at their Christmas party.”
Smith noted that it was important not to take things too seriously.
“The story itself in the film aspect of it is where the seriousness comes in, but the back end of it is where the fun comes in,” he said. “It’s a Wonderful Life is not a happy, feel-good story all the way through. It’s got a little bit of darkness to it and a little social commentary. That comes through when they are at the mics, but the background is a way to let the audience know it’s still a fun Christmas party.”
The cast for this year’s performance consists of Tim Brandt, Betzabeth Castro, Danielle Gervais, Elayne Gordon, Rich Mancini, CJ Nolan, Justin Puzzio, Tom Torpey, Richard Warren, Michael Wright and Mat Young.
“A couple of people are returning but we also held auditions to fill out the cast,” Feduik-Smith said.
The theater is set up as an old radio studio with old-fashioned working mics, the folly equipment on the side of the stage for the sound effects and the actors immersing with the audience as they are walking in.
“We try to make the audience feel welcome, like they are going to a company’s Christmas party,” Feduik-Smith said. “There’s encouragement from the stage for the audience to be part of it. Their laughter, their applause, their gasps … that should all be part of the show. It makes you feel like you are transported back to this time and place.”
Smith’s relationship with the play goes back more than 20 years, working with Landry on the second-ever performance in Stamford. In that production, Landry played Clarence and Smith played Harry.
“I had such a blast working on the show because of the unique concept,” he said. “He and I reconnected a few years ago so when Gary pitched the idea that he wanted a Christmas show, this was literally the first thing I thought of.”
The draw of a show like this is in the history of It’s a Wonderful Life the movie.
“Everyone just latches on to it. It’s always running on Christmas and everyone loves it,” Smith said. “Aside from the fact that it’s an amazing film, there’s some conversations and takeaways that can be had for the family. It has some great lessons that need to be interpreted through a parent to a child.”
The staged production is family-friendly and VTC tries to keep it as upbeat as possible with music, decorations and costumes.
“We know kids have a short attention span, so we keep it really lively,” Feduik-Smith said. “It’s a good family event and there are no ghosts in this one so there’s no worry about that. It’s a low-key, no-pressure holiday event that is good for all ages.”
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show will also play at the Stony Creek Museum in association with the Legacy Theatre in Branford on Dec. 14 and 15.
For more information, visit vagabondbpt.org.
The Christmas classic was performed as a live radio play at the Stony Creek Museum this past Friday and Saturday to enthusiastic crowds.
By Jack Kramer
BRANFORD, CT - Three performances of "It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" played to sold-out, enthusiastic crowds on Friday and Saturday at the Stony Creek Museum.
The play was brought to Branford by The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport - and its performers.
In attendance at Saturday's matinee session was playwright Joe Landry and Keely Baisden Knudsen, Legacy Theatre artistic director.
Knudsen said "the themes of generosity, forgiveness, hope, family and comunity that resonate so poignantly in "It's a Wonderful Life" are cherished thoughts to bring to Stony Creek this weekend, and we are grateful for the museum's support of this piece."
She added: "On a personal note, I would be remiss if I didn't share that I often feel like George Bailey at the end of the play, when countless community members come forward to donate so generously."
Knudsen said the revitalizing of the Stony Creek Puppet House "is an exciting community project, and I am constantly humbled by the extreme generosity and support of those who carry this vision with their faiths and funds. It is, indeed, a wonderful life."
Other performances that will be done at the musem while the Puppet House include Noel Coward's "Private Lives" in February, George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" in March, and several other productions.
Vagabond Theatre Company is home again as it returns to Bridgeport
By Joe Meyers
Like the city where they have produced plays — Bridgeport — the Vagabond Theatre Company is scrappy and hopeful, despite big challenges.
An offshoot of the Bijou Actors Guild, the VTC has been without a permanent home since the original management team left the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport two years ago, but the group has continued to produce plays in Bridgeport and Trumbull.
VTC will be back at the Bijou Dec. 1 and 2 for a reprise of their holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” written by Joe Landry, of Fairfield.
For the past year or so, VTC has been using rental spaces in the area to put on challenging fare such as the off-off-Broadway hits “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Giurgis, and “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” by Bert V. Royal.
“Our mantra is to pick a passion project and put it on stage,” co-artistc director John R. Smith Jr. says.
“We aim for more thought-provoking plays to balance out all of the musicals that are out there,” co-artistic director Tanya Feduik-Smith, adds with a chuckle, of VTC’s attempt to do shows you won’t see produced by other community theaters in the area.
“We’re always trying to thank the directors who have stuck with us by producing the projects they have wanted to do for a long time,” John says of a slate of plays that has ranged from “The Exonerated” — about prisoners who haven’t committed the crimes they were found guilty of — to Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out” about homophobia in professional sports (the latter play was presented under the Actors Guild banner).
“Our name is spun out of the fact that we are homeless,” he adds of having to find and rent space for each new play.
VTC believes that not putting money into leasing a permanent home allows it to put on riskier plays in bare-bones productions. They don’t have to bother with nailing down scripts way in advance in order to generate subscription sales. Part of the fun of following the troupe is not knowing what they might come up with six months down the road.
“We want to build our own lighting system so we can move into smaller, intimate (non-theatrical) spaces. We’ll be in fundraising mode for that during ‘Wonderful Life,’” Tanya says.
“We’re trying to make it known that we are a theater that will help directors put check marks on those bucket lists of plays that they have,” John notes.
John and Tanya are a married couple, living in Trumbull, who put aside their stage work for a few years to raise children, but they have returned to producing plays convinced that we need live theater now more than ever. It’s a way of addressing important issues with an immediacy that can’t be found on Netflix or any other streaming service.
John believes that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a lot edgier than people give it credit for. Everyone remembers, and loves, the final family reunion scenes, but the movie is really about a man who is so financially stressed out that he thinks the only solution is suicide.
“It’s about the underlying effect of capitalism on the human condition — the idea that ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ That’s the (moral) battle through the whole thing and over time (the hero) realizes what’s really important,” John notes. “There is so much more to it than a holiday story.”
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a show that VTC intends to maintain as a holiday tradition.
“It’s probably the most family-friendly show we’ll ever put up,” John says, with Tanya adding, “It’s the closest we get to a musical.”
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @joesview
VAGABOND THEATRE COMPANY
For our February artist of the month we have selected Vagabond Theatre Company.
We spoke with Co-Founders/Artistic Directors John R Smith Jnr and Tanya Feduik-Smith about their powerful production of The Exonerated and the role of alternative theater in Bridgeport and our current social/political climate.
Q & A with VTC
Q. Why were you inspired to produce The Exonerated?
It was important to produce this play because these are the types of stories that don’t get told enough. This story challenges the once holy truth that justice is blind.
In today’s political climate, a swelling for reform is happening, or at the very least is on the horizon. The flaws in our Criminal Justice System have been in the spotlight, and the time is right to bring more awareness to the changes that are so desperately needed.
From For-Profit Prisons to the inaccessibility of affordable, fair, and adequate legal counsel, the class-war in America is on full display in our court and prison systems.
– Tanya Feduik-Smith, Co-Artistic Director
Honestly, I wasn’t too familiar with the play when Rich Mancini, the director, approached us about possibly including it in this season. I knew the basic story, but thought it was more of a stylized/dramatized courtroom piece, with some commentary monologues from interviews with those exonerated.
Once I read it, I found that not only were the main monologues segments of interviews with these amazing people, but every word of dialog is true – taken directly from the court transcripts and case files, all masterfully intertwined into a narrative by the playwrights, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.
After reading the stories of these brave, innocent people who lost so much more than time during their years wrongly shut away from society, I was moved by how they came out the other end with scars physical and emotional, yet hopeful, peaceful and compassionate.
When the playwrights began working on it in 2000, there were 89 people who had been exonerated from death row. By the time it was published for licensing in 2003, that total was 102, as of 2016 it was 144. Taking non-capital cases into account, there were 166 exonerations in 2016 alone. From those numbers it is clear that the issues this show addresses still plague our justice system today.
At VTC we try to shine a bright light into the dark corners of society’s issues, and pull them out front to get a good look at them. We’ve done shows that address mental illness, physical and mental abuse, bullying, homophobia, misogyny, racism, and addiction.
The Exonerated is another bright light. It asks us to consider what justice really means to ourselves as human beings, and if the irreversible vengeance of the death penalty should remain an option in a flawed system where so many are served with injustice.
-John R Smith Jnr Co-Artistic Director
Q. Your website describes how VTC strives to be “the alternative choice”. Why has the theater company taken that perspective in their work?
Probably because since we met nearly 25 years ago, the two of us have never really been what you’d call conformists. We’re Gen X, with that strong anti-establishment, Grunge background. We like to take long lingering looks at the things that make us uncomfortable, so we can maybe see a way to make them better.
We have at times called VTC, punk-rock theatre. Loud, fast, cheap, powerful and poignant.
There are over 100 professional and community theatre companies in CT, and at least 15 if not 20 community theatre companies within a 25 mile a radius of The Bijou. Most of which are well established, with long time patrons.
In order to stand out and find our audience, we need to be different. Give people a reason to come see us specifically.
When we took over producing reins for Take Me Out in March 2016, The Bijou Main Stage had a growing reputation for minimalist, envelope-pushing productions, following that season’s previous productions of Tick, Tick Boom, The Pillowman and Tanya’s very touching take on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
What we learned from our roles with Cuckoo & Take Me Out was that by staging shows in this manner, not only was it the most cost effective way to work, but the simplicity of it all focused the audience on the actors, not glitzy sets and costumes. It humanized the characters and impacted people more deeply.
So when launched VTC, after a management change at The Bijou dissolved the Main Stage productions, we decided to keep working toward that impact and allow the words to move the audiences, and not force anything. Much like Hamlet’s advice to players, to simply hold the mirror up to nature, and reflect true life back at those looking into it.
I think we did phenomenally on that with last season’s productions, and I truly hope we can continue to do it for many years to come.
-John R Smith Jnr Co-Artistic Director
BWW Review: THE EXONERATED at Vagabond Theatre Company
On Sunday, February 25, I had the pleasure of seeing THE EXONERATED at the historic Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport, CT. This was my first time at this theatre and my first show that I have seen put on by the Vagabond Theatre Company. I hope to see many more in the future, as this show is amazing, based on true stories, and sends some deeply impacting messages that touch the emotions to the core, in a good way. It opens awareness in the minds of the audience, about things not always being as they seem, and people not always being who they may appear to be.
This show, adapted by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen is directed brilliantly by Richard Mancini. The cast of ten are all convincing in their roles, conveying an energy that cuts deeply in this powerful drama. We get to hear the true stories of six people who individually were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for murder that they had not committed. The cast members are seated up on stage in two rows of five, the front row being five of the wrongfully convicted while the back row has one of the wrongfully convicted sitting in the middle, with two people seated on each side of him, each who play multiple accompanying roles in this drama. Slides are shown on a screen behind the cast, including slides that show pictures of the actual people who are represented by this stellar cast. While the stories of the convicted are unrelated to each other, the distribution of the stories is interspersed throughout the show, so the audience gets a sense of each of the six stories, throughout the show, as opposed to a straight sequencing of one story to completion after the next story to completion, for six stories. I found that this style of pacing worksvery well in this show.
Warren Richards portrays David Keaton, who was a man of Christian faith, while in prison. I look at his story from the perspective that his wrongful conviction may have been used to help lead fellow prisoners to the Lord, bringing about the ultimate good we trust upon in the promise of Romans 8:28.
Jehan Abdurraheem portrays Delbert Tibbs, another person who, moved by grace, showed the positive message of not clinging to bitterness, and keeping a positive view of America, and people from all racial backgrounds, despite the real life race based injustice that he experienced in the American legal system. By God's grace, attitudes like his could help revolutionize America in a positive way. He was faced with the challenge of learning how to feel, emotionally, once again.
Elijah Manning portrays Robert Hayes, with an excellent southern drawl, a character who experienced further injustice, through mistreatment at the hands of guards, after his wrongful conviction. We see, in Robert Hayes, how wrongful convictions that are overturned can still come with complications that further hinder the exonerated from acquiring legal documentation required to move forward in some aspects of life.
Monica M O'Brien portrays Sunny Jacobs, a woman who got arrested after being kidnapped, along with her children, by a man who she had witnessed murder two police officers. The man managed to pull strings to pin the murders on her, separating her from her children, and from her husband. Nevertheless, she kept up hope in God and refused to allow herself to play the victim. Her prayers are believed to have helped lead to a powerful movement of grace that would be too much of a spoiler to describe in any more detail.
John R. Smith, Jr. portrays Gary Gauger, a man who found himself under arrest for the murder of his own parents, within hours of experiencing the trauma of finding them dead. He still remained an inspiration, insisting that the real killers not be placed on death row, as such would not bring his parents back.
Avery Jade, Sue O'Hara, Rob Pawlikowski, and Tim Brandt round out the cast, convincingly playing multiple roles of characters in the lives of the wrongfully convicted.
The heart-wrenching stories which were so movingly conveyed by this talented cast who all remained in character at all times should make all audience members think twice before pointing fingers at anyone, including those convicted of criminal felonies. Sometimes, violent crimes that cry out for serious punishment are prosecuted in sloppy or outright corrupt ways that become huge injustices both towards the falsely prosecuted, and towards the original victims of the crimes. What makes matters worse is that, once the innocent are exonerated, procedure can inhibit their immediate release from prison, as if completion of paperwork, scheduling, and other technicalities are valid grounds to keep the wrongfully convicted incarcerated.
I highly recommend THE EXONERATED which is scheduled to continue to run, courtesy of the Vagabond Theatre Company, at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, next weekend, on Friday March 2 at 8:00 PM, Saturday March 3 at 8:00 PM, and Sunday March 4 at 5:00 PM. For tickets, please go to http://www.vagabondbpt.org/exonerated.
Top Ten Plays of 2017
The best plays are up first. Of the 37 plays that I enjoyed at community theatre venues during 2017, these took the top spots.
By Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch Contributor | Dec 27, 2017 8:05 pm ET
Naugatuck, CT - 2017 marks the sixth year that I have compiled an end-of-the-year top ten lists of the productions that I have had the good fortune to attend during the calendar year. I was once again pleasantly surprised to discover that the number of shows I can review in a year continues to grow.
Last year I published 116 reviews; this year with 22 Equity productions, eight touring companies and one Broadway shows ('Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,') 36 productions with young performers, 31 community theatre musicals, and 37 community theatre plays, the grand total was 134. This year the play list also included three productions with adult performers designed for elementary school audiences.
While this is certainly a large number of shows from which to choose, my four lists remain one person's opinion of the best of the many area productions produced in 2017. There were many shows that I had to miss due to weather, personal obligations and most often because I was unable to book a performance when many shows were happening with identical run dates. So take the rankings for what they are worth.
Click on each play's title to read the entire review of the show to see more reasons it made this list.
Top Ten Plays of 2017
10. 'August: Osage County' by Two Planks - Tensions heated up and boiled over throughout the three acts, but there was also some intelligent humor to break it up. The intensity of the viciousness is what I will long remember.
9. 'Dracula' at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre - Director Kris McMurray wanted to choose a show that was new and different and he chillingly succeeded with this production.
8. 'Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead' by Vagabond Theatre Company - While parts of the dialogue are bitingly funny, the emotional effect of the piece comes from the harsh look at the self-discovery of the teenage years.
From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 48:
The Best of the Year: Theater 2017,
Part 2: Goshen Players, TheatreWorks/New Milford, Vagabond Theatre Company
By James V. Ruocco
Going to the theater in 2017 was incredible.
So much to choose from.
So much to see.
So much to discover.
So much to enjoy.
So much to write about.
So many new faces.
So many returning favorites.
And yes, so much fun.
The best of the best continues, with more of the productions and more of the performances that kept me cheering from my seat (or seats) on the aisle (guest or date included) as I journeyed across the state to experience yet another group of plays, comedies and musicals that made me glad I accepted yet another invitation to review and review and review.
The Best of the Year: Theater 2017, Part 2
Vagabond Theatre Company
Gonzaga Auditorium at Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT
and The Warehouse Blackbox Theatre/Performing Arts Center, 18 Lindeman Drive, Trumbull, CT
"The Scarlet Letter"
Best Play: "The Scarlet Letter"
Best Performance by an Actress in a Play: Thursday Savage (Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter" (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Play: Betzabeth Castro (Pearl in "The Scarlet Letter") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Play: Juan Ayala (Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale in "The Scarlet Letter) (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Direction: Tanya Feduik-Smith ("The Scarlet Letter") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
"Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead"
Best Play: "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Play: Ryan Shea (CB in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Play: Karl Hinger (Beethoven in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Play: Joe Zumbo (Matt in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Play: Ian C. Smith (Van in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play: Hannah Pearsall (Marcy in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play: Vicky Pelletier (Tricia York in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play: April Lichtman (Van's Sister in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play: Anna Lynch (CB's Sister in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead") (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Direction of a Play: Michael R. Mele ("Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead') (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Production Design: Michael R. Mele, Tanya Feduik-Smith and John R. Smith, Jr. ("Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead') (Vagabond Theatre Company)
Best Casting of a Play: Vagabond Theatre Company ("Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead')
Ed Martin Named President of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association
Los Angeles -- The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced today the appointment of Ed Martin as its new President. Martin succeeds Joey Berlin, who has served as President since the organization was founded a decade ago. Martin was selected by the BTJA Executive Committee.
Martin (pictured below) is the Editor of MediaVillage, where he serves as Chief Television and Content Critic. He is also Editorial Advisor for Jack Myers KnowledgeExchange’s diversity initiatives. He has written about television and Internet programming for several Myers publications since 2000, including The Myers Report, The Myers Programming Report, MediaBizBloggers and, at present, TV/Video Download on MediaVillage.
Previously, Martin was the television programming columnist for Media Post. He has written features for Variety, Advertising Age, Television Week, Broadcasting & Cable and TV Guide. He also worked as a television critic and reporter for USA Today. Martin began his career in journalism at On Cable Magazine and the award-winning television and advertising trade magazine Inside Media.
Earlier in his career, Martin was Publicity Director for the independent feature film production and distribution company Vestron Pictures, where he orchestrated publicity campaigns and produced electronic press kits for dozens of movies including the Academy Award-winning classic Dirty Dancing, John Huston’s The Dead, Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel, Julien Temple’s Earth Girls are Easy, Abel Ferrara’s China Girl and Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm.
Martin is a founding member of the Vagabond Theatre Company in Bridgeport, CT and is currently mentoring several young actors and writers who have appeared in VTC productions. He has just written his first play for the stage, a nostalgic comedy titled A Friend of the Devil.
The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) was formed as a collective voice to represent the professional interests of those who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. BTJA is a sister organization to the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and together, the two groups present the highly anticipated Critics’ Choice Awards.
The 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, honoring the finest in film and television achievement, will be broadcast live on The CW on January 11, 2018.
Vagabond Theatre Company to Bring Holiday Radio Play 'IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE' to The Bijou
Broadway World CT
The Vagabond Theatre Company (VTC) has announced that The Bijou Theatre, located at 275 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport, will be the venue for the launch of their 2017/18 Season.
Their sophomore season as an independent troupe sees them make a holiday return to their former home after coming to an arrangement with The Bijou's new General Manager, Gary Peterson.
"The Bijou Theatre is a very special place, and I am thrilled to be able to bring our work and our theater family back to Bridgeport. The attraction of the Bijou is infectious. Magic happens there!" said Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director, Tanya Feduik-Smith.
"Gary has great plans for The Bijou, and we are grateful to be included in his diverse programming. Once we relaunched as VTC, we had hoped to return to the vibrant arts and entertainment community of Downtown Bridgeport in a few years' time. To be able to come back and work in this beautiful, historic theatre so soon is very exciting." Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director John R Smith Jnr. continued.
"I'm very happy that the Bijou will offer this unique holiday entertainment!" added Mr. Peterson.
They'll make their return to Bridgeport with a Christmas Special, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show, adapted from the classic American film by Fairfield native, Joe Landry, and directed by John R Smith Jnr.
This unique take on the beloved, heartwarming story of George Bailey and the granting of his bleak and desperate Christmas wish by his guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody, shifts the action from the silver screen to the WBFR radio studios on Christmas Eve 1946. Here a handful of actors are at their mics, broadcasting in front of a studio audience, performing as dozens of characters, all while accompanied on stage by a live sound effects artist. The play premiered in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts, and has since been produced around the country.
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play runs one weekend only - December 15-17, 2017.
Following the 5 pm show on Sunday December 17, VTC will welcome the playwright for a post-show talkback with the audience. Mr. Landry will join cast members and the VTC Production Team for a discussion of his adaptation of George Bailey's glimpse into the "What If" and a very healthy dose of Holiday Cheer.
The Bijou offers a central section of Theater Seating with Cabaret Tables ringing the perimeter of the floor level and in two Mezzanine Boxes at its rear. A full bar and concessions are available before and after events and during intermission. Seating is General Admission, with tiered pricing based on these seating options. Friday and Saturday prices range from $20-35. Sunday ranges from $30-45, which includes the performance and talkback.
The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport is a not-profit theatre troupe dedicated to creating thought- provoking, emotional, and entertaining productions which acknowledge, explore and dissect social issues. As well as identifying, developing, and supporting new artists on and offstage.
TRUMBULL, Conn. -- The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport has selected the cast for "The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot," a dark comedy by Stephen Adly Guirgis.
Performances will be in March. The play is directed by Mat Young, of Norwalk and producers are John R. Smith Jr. and Tanya Feduik Smith, both of Trumbull.
The story explores the "source and meaning of forgiveness," said a release.
The cast includes: Lynnette Victoria, of Bridgeport; Juan Ayala and John R. Smith Jr., of Trumbull (also producer); Eric James Dino and Giovanna Olcese, of Norwalk; John T Liszewski, of Milford; Maggie Pangrazio, of Fairfield; Alynne Miller of New London; Ainsley Andrade, of Bridgeport; Justine Wiesinger, of New Haven; and Patrick Duffy, of Greenwich.
Performances will be March 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. and March 19 and 26 at 5 p.m. at The Warehouse Blackbox Theatre in Performing Arts Center of Connecticut, 18 Lindeman Drive, Trumbull, Conn.
Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. There is a $5 discount on all Advance Ticket seats when bought online at vagabondbpt.org/tickets
Click here for more information
Vagabond Theatre’s Artistic Director John R. Smith Jnr. Discusses Art, Theatre & Resiliency - Guest Blog for Pillow Talking
“We really started a theatre company, didn’t we?”
My wife, co-founder, and best friend, Tanya Feduik-Smith, said this last week during a welcome lull in the rehearsals for our upcoming production of The Scarlet Letter by Phillis Nagy. Establishing Vagabond Theatre Company hadn’t been a long and drawn-out discussion of the pros and cons that ended in a mutually agreed decision to proceed.
One day it wasn’t there, the next it was. It just simply had to be done. We had no other option.
You see, VTC was borne out of the closure of most recent incarnation of The Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport, CT. Tanya and I were brought on board as artistic consultants and producers for the upcoming live theatre season of The Bijou Actors Guild, following our well received production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest earlier this year. In addition to all the usual administrative and artistic details associated with producing a season, we were looking at ways to expand the Guild’s programming and the theatre’s contributions to our community in downtown Bridgeport.
We started planning a schedule of staged readings for new works, to build on the success of our one-act contest the previous spring. We started designing acting, directing, and stage combat workshops. We took some preliminary steps to open a dialog with a local college about ways to work with their theatre students while another colleague had some discussions with individuals interested in finding mentors, scholarships, and in some cases auditions for the talented young adults we had come across on our stage.
If we let the Guild die, then these opportunities would wither on the vine. To us, that would have been the bigger tragedy than changing our address. There was just too much future at stake, and too much good work left to do. There was no other path for us along with a handful of other like-minded Guild members but to keep doing what we were doing.
When the final curtain came down on our time at The Bijou, we already had cast this unique adaptation of The Scarlet Letter and rehearsals had begun under Tanya’s direction. We asked the talented actors if they wanted to try and produce this thing in another venue, if we could find one. Everyone was in agreement that we should.
So we hit the ground sprinting, but the shift in schedules resulted in some serious conflicts for a few cast members which forced us to recast some roles. Once we filled those gaps, Tanya dove into directing Scarlet. The problem now was we had nowhere to rehearse, let alone perform. So the hunt was on. We found rehearsal space in a couple of cast members’ homes and then at Housatonic Community College; finally we were able to secure performance space at Fairfield University.
The constant shuffling of locations has coincidentally made our chosen name Vagabond right on the nose.
About six weeks into a frenzied pace of rehearsals, production, admin, and marketing work, we found some time to breathe, and it was in that moment Tanya asked me her question.
It was the moment we actually realized what we had started.
You see for us and the rest of our founding members, this is not a fresh start. Rather it is a continuance of the mindset and work begun with the first Main Stage show in our former home which led us to the pathway the Guild laid out earlier this year:
To be an alternate choice in Connecticut’s primarily family-friendly local theatre landscape.
To welcome everyone regardless of their history or the journey still before them.
To encourage and give a voice to new works and new artists.
To offer training and educational assistance for local performers.
To create a theatre where staff and artists alike are compensated for their work.
We have added a new item to this list since presently we are working in borrowed spaces:
To establish a new permanent home in Bridgeport.
To continue our progress toward these ideals, we started our first fundraising campaign a couple of weeks ago. Immediately, we had shows of support from several former castmates and colleagues. Their belief has encouraged us and breathed new life into our desire to continue producing the sort of work VTC is built upon.
The path ahead now is one of establishment and survival, not expansion, but our commitment to creating the powerful, thought-provoking work we always have has never been stronger.
We’ll just do it in a whole new space, or rather, sometimes many spaces in the span of a week.
The life of a Vagabond has proved challenging, but giving up is never an option!
Shuttered Bijou Theatre In Bridgeport Reopens On Fairfield U. Campus
Donna Christopher - Westport/Weston Daily Voice
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Bridgeport theater lovers can take heart. A temporary space has been found, and the upcoming season of the closed Bijou Theatre is about to open on the campus of Fairfield University.
The theater, which closed suddenly, leaving a void in the city's downtown entertainment scene, has been renamed The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport and reopening in the Gonzaga Auditorium at Fairfield University.
Sadly, a few popular restaurants, Two Boots Pizza and Can Tiin, a French-Vietnamese establishment people raved about, have also closed, leaving doubts about this little upstart neighborhood's viability.
With the unexpected closure of the Bijou, John R. Smith Jr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith, newly appointed co-producers of The Bijou Actors Guild and Guild members, went to work to find the new space.
Smith and Feduik-Smith will serve as co-artistic directors of the Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport and produce three shows from the planned Bijou season.
"The Scarlet Letter" will open there Saturday, Oct. 22, with performances Sunday, Oct. 23, Friday, Oct. 28, Saturday, Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
For tickets and the rest of the season's schedule, click here.
Vagabond Theatre Company Established by Former Bijou Artistic Team
Broadway World CT
Following the unexpected closure of Bridgeport's Bijou Theatre, John R. Smith Jnr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith, newly appointed co-producers of The Bijou Actors Guild, began working to find a space to stage part of The Guild's intended season.
With the help of other Guild members, a temporary home was found in the Gonzaga Auditorium on the campus of Fairfield University and The Bijou Actors Guild was rebranded as The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport. John R. Smith Jnr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith will serve as its Co-Artistic Directors.
Vagabond Theatre Company established by former Bijou Artistic Team
Following the unexpected closure of Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre, John R. Smith Jr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith, newly appointed co-producers of The Bijou Actors Guild, began working to find a space to stage part of The Guild’s intended season.
With the help of other Guild members, a temporary home was found in the Gonzaga Auditorium on the campus of Fairfield University and The Bijou Actors Guild was rebranded as The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport. John R. Smith Jnr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith will serve as its co-artistic directors.
VTC Rises from the Ashes of The Bijou Actors Guild
Following the unexpected closure of Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre, John R. Smith Jnr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith, newly appointed co-producers of The Bijou Actors Guild, began working to find a space to stage at least part of The Guild's intended season.
With the help of other Guild members, a temporary home was found in the Gonzaga Auditorium on the campus of Fairfield University and The Bijou Actors Guild was rebranded as The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport. John R. Smith Jnr. and Tanya Feduik-Smith will serve as its Co-Artistic Directors.
We at VTC are very grateful to Fairfield U for their support, and for graciously working with us in this time of transition.
While there are still many details to sort out, we will stage our inaugural production as VTC: The Scarlet Letter, adapted by Phyllis Nagy from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
This unique take on the classic story will be directed by Tanya Feduik-Smith, with performances at the Gonzaga Auditorium on October 21, 22, 23 and 28, 29, 30 at Fairfield U.
The season will continue at Fairfield U in early 2017 with:
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Mat Young
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V Royal, Directed by Michael R Mele
Confirmed dates will be announced soon.
As we did in Bridgeport, VTC will continue to involve as many local Greater Bridgeport performers as possible. We plan to continue building our relationship with Housatonic Community College, and giving as many of their culturally diverse theatre students a shot at showcasing their talents as possible. We also are excited to begin our new relationship with Fairfield U.
While we search for a new permanent home in Bridgeport, we will continue fostering new talent through workshops and readings of new works.
From the first show at The Bijou in 2013 the goal of the troupe that would become The Bijou Actors Guild and ultimately VTC has been to stage edgy, thought-provoking productions that explore all the aspects of the human condition, and to do so in an environment where people of all race, gender, sexual orientation and/or religious belief will feel welcome.
We will continue that mindset at VTC and look forward to offering an alternative theatre choice to the people of Greater Bridgeport.