Calling The Artistic Shots Warner Theater's John Bonanni
By William Squier
n the classic Broadway musical Brigadoon a jaded New Yorker discovers an enchanted Scottish village where his life is changed for the better when its inhabitants welcome him into their community. If the town of Torrington, Connecticut, doesn’t exactly materialize out of the Highland mists every hundred years, visiting it had much the same effect on the Warner Theatre’s Executive Director, John Bonanni, when he did so for first time. “I didn’t know that Torrington existed until about a year ago,” admits Bonanni, despite the fact that he lives only about an hour west in Ridgefield, Connecticut. But, he grew curious about the town when he saw that the Warner was looking for someone to take over leadership of the theater in 2011. So, Bonanni drove over to check it out. What he discovered was a spectacularly restored 1,772-seat art deco movie palace, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 82
that had been retrofitted to serve as a multipurpose performing arts complex. Adjacent to the Warner’s mainstage was a 300-seat black box studio theater, a school for arts education and a restaurant/microbrewery. And the facility was situated in the heart of downtown on a charming street that could pass for a 1940’s Hollywood backlot. Intrigued, Bonanni decided to apply for the position. “The interview process took a good four months, which afforded me an opportunity to get my arms around what the possibilities were here,” he reports. Given his vast experience working on Broadway and as a production executive at Radio City Music Hall, it’s easy to see why the Warner’s search committee was sold on hiring John Bonanni. What convinced him to accept their eventual offer was an evening spent in the company of the Warner’s resident community theater. “I took my wife to see the Warner Stage Company’s production of Jesus Christ
Superstar,” he explains. “The first thing that we noticed was that everybody talked to us. Then, at intermission, they continued to talk about the people they knew onstage. And I thought, ‘This is very good. I like this.’ That’s really what captured me. The Warner’s core strength is that the theater is so connected to the community.” The Warner Theatre has been a center of activity in Torrington ever since it was built as a part of the Warner’s Brothers Studios chain of movie houses in 1931. In 1960, the studio sold it to a private owner who continued to show films there for the next ten years. The Northwest
Published on Jul 1, 2012
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