In 2014 the first Main Stage show was produced at The Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport, and what was to eventually become The Bijou Actors Guild, and ultimately VTC, was born. Since that show our mission 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 take these shows and strip them down to their barest bones to get to the heart of the piece. Then we present them in a very minimalist style, focusing on lights and sound much more than sets and costumes. Thereby putting the focus on the actors' performances and the playwrights' words to evoke the full emotional impact we strive to achieve with each production.
This approach was born out of necessity at The Bijou (a converted movie theatre with minimal backstage space, limited tech equipment and a shoestring budget for production funds) but we soon embraced this bug as a feature since it perfectly suited the types of shows we were looking to produce and actually heightened their impact. Critics and audiences loved it, earning the productions at The Bijou 58 award nominations during our 3 seasons there.
Thus it became our brand: the Alternate Choice, filling a void in the offerings of the primarily family-friendly theaters in Fairfield County. We tackle shows that deal with mental illness, sexual identity, physical and mental abuse, bullying, homophobia, misogyny, racism, addiction, and many other topics. We feel these are important pieces which face social issues to be acknowledged, explored and dissected, but are rarely chosen over the more family friendly pieces commonly staged elsewhere.
Then in July 2016, the management of The Bijou announced the unexpected closure on their time there. John R Smith Jnr and Tanya Feduik-Smith, the newly appointed producers of The Bijou Actors Guild, immediately began working with other Guild members to find a space to stage at least part of The Guild's intended season and other programming.
You see, we had started planning a schedule of staged readings for new works, to build on the success of our springtime one-act contest judged by the legendary playwright Terrence McNally and Broadway Producer Tom Kirdahy. 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 our stage.
If we let The Guild fade away and 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 but to keep doing what we were doing.
The Bijou Actors Guild was rebranded and The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport was launched, with the Smiths serving as Co-Artistic Directors.
After a brief search, we settled into the Gonzaga Auditorium on the campus of Fairfield University the following August. It was here we staged our powerful and well received production of Phyllis Nagy’s ethereal adaptation of The Scarlet Letter.
While we search for a new permanent home, VTC will continue the mindset we started with at The Bijou, and we look forward to providing an alternative theatre choice to the people of Greater Bridgeport for many years to come.
Please join us as we peel back the onion layers of life and reality to get a good look at what makes humanity and society tick.