Illustration and Article by Evan P. Neidich
The Bijou Theatre, as we now know and love it, has been open for one year. It has been a year full of independent films, dance, opera, live music, theater, and events of all sorts. Though the theater has been around for over one hundred years, this iteration has framed The Bijou as a player in creating community and bringing high art into Downtown Bridgeport.
What is so special about the community in Downtown Bridgeport is that we are a cast of strange and wonderful characters. This is a place where your face doesn’t get lost in the crowd. In Bijou Square you matter and you can really make a difference. Though the Bijou hosts big acts, it often feels like a small town community (basically we’re Cheers down here).
Instead of waxing philosophical about the meaning of art in community building as I am wont to do, I’ve decided to celebrate Bijou’s one year anniversary by having a chat with a few of my favorite characters. Amanda Bowman is the Bijou Theatre’s marketing director. She is a hip, young movie buff with a wicked sense of humor. Marcella Kovac is the owner at The Bananaland, she is a brilliant artist and graphic designer, responsible for the Bijou website, brochures, E-blasts and more. Marcella is representative of the new community of artists that are infusing Bridgeport with new life. Christine Donahue Brown and her partner Kathy Reynolds are the reason why the Bijou Theatre feels like a family. They have taken an old theatre and, with significant effort and intelligence, helped it realize it’s massive potential. These are all people I am happy to know – and I hope you will come down to meet them and other Downtown Bridgeport characters!
Q: What are some of your favorite events during Bijou “year one”?
MARCELLA: Manhattan Short Film Festival, Lisa Lampanelli, and Yellow Dubmarine stick out the most for me at first thought. I love shorts and the fact that everyone from around the world can vote for their favorites, such a cool concept. Also, Lisa had us in hysterics! Yellow Dubmarine rocked all my favorite Beatles tunes with a reggae twist, and we danced all night! Although, I have to say, any given night there is something to enjoy. A visit to the theatre is becoming a staple to our girls nights out!
CHRISTINE: One of my favorite events is the Bijou Blender – the collegiate a capella competition. I also went crazy for Javier Colon and Taylor Hicks – huge talent, and the sweetest guys!!
Q: What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?
AMANDA: Bedlam at the Bijou! Because the only thing I love more than watching a horror classic, is watching a horror classic with a bunch of freaks. We love you film nerds!
MARCELLA: Bedlam at Bijou! Really puts me in the mood for the fall and Halloween. Can’t wait to see all the costumed zombies and walking dead. Also who doesn’t love Godzilla?
CHRISTINE: I am really looking forward to our spoken word series which we hope will serve to motivate and inspire our guests.
Q: What does the Bijou mean to you? Why is it important to you to be a part of it?
AMANDA: I am continually inspired, intrigued and challenged by the Bijou family and the talent that comes through. But you don’t have to work here to know what I mean, just walk through the doors any day of the week.
MARCELLA: It is one of my most treasured spots. It is where I see all my favorite indie films, get my culture fix without having to travel to NYC, share good times with friends, memories with family, work with some of my favorite people… the list goes on. I hope that my part allows other people to develop similar feelings about this special place.
CHRISTINE: The Bijou is our second home. We love welcoming old and new friends. We feel so privileged to play a part in creating a vibrant, interesting, and high quality energy in our downtown.
Q: What does Bijou mean to Bridgeport?
AMANDA: Bijou means “gem” in French. But this is America. The theatre is a historically important landmark poised for Bridgeport’s Renaissance. The Bijou is family-run and dedicated to bringing quality entertainment to a city brimming with potential. Maybe I watch too many movies, but if this isn’t a beautiful underdog story, then I watch too many movies.
MARCELLA: A wonderful piece of nostalgia. An entertainment venue that is unlike any other. One of the keys to unlocking our city’s amazing potential.
CHRISTINE: The Bijou has played host to many of the organizations and businesses in Bridgeport allowing them to host wonderful meetings and parties and great shows. The theatre is a place for them to be proud to bring their guests.
Q: What does Bijou mean to the wider community of Southern Connecticut?
AMANDA: Look out world (and Fairfield county)! We look forward to building a neighborhood together bursting with art, culture and pride.
MARCELLA: It is starting to paint a more positive picture of downtown Bridgeport to neighboring communities. I think as more time goes by, it will be one of the major factors in a complete revitalization. A luxurious way to watch a film.
CHRISTINE: To the community at large The Bijou Theatre is just one more reason to come downtown to see great quality entertainment, and contirbute to the arts industry and surrounding businesses.
Come down soon and become a part of the Downtown Bridgeport Renaissance!