Five Connecticut residents enjoyed a backstage tour of New Haven’s historic Shubert Theatre on Saturday, the first tour in a series that will continue throughout the year.
Built in 1914, the theater will conduct bi-monthly tours to allow residents and visitors in New Haven to learn more about the theater’s architecture and history. The tours, which are free, will be held at 11 a.m. on the first Wednesday and Saturday of each month.
“We want to encourage people to come to the theater, but we also want to get exposure, make sure people know we’re here, keep the history of the theater going,” said Kathy Apuzzo, the theater’s volunteer coordinator and tour guide.
Walking into the Shubert, it is immediately apparent that the building has embraced modernity. The lobby of the theatre — originally built in 1984 — is decorated with flat-screen TVs, a photo booth, concession stands and an upstairs dining area, which includes a charging station for cell phones.
Saturday’s tour began with a short historical video covering the nearly 104-year history of the theater. Named for producer Samuel S. Shubert, the theater was originally a “try-out house,” auditioning more than 600 shows for Broadway including A Streetcar Named Desire, The Sound of Music and Damn Yankees. Although the theatre originally emphasized musicals, the Shubert has more recently embraced a more diverse line-up of live performances, according to Apuzzo.
“[The theater] brought in drama, comedy, concerts, kid’s show, family friendly shows, so I think they have made a big stride in diversifying content,” she said.
The group also toured the backstage area to see how the theater has incorporated modern features without compromising the history and antiquity of the building. Although they are now electrical, the lights throughout the theater are still in the original style, Apuzzo said. The original stage has not been altered, she added, and renovations have maintained the colors of the original theater.
From 1976 to 1983, the Shubert Theatre closed due to financial issues, according to Apuzzo. When it reopened in 1984, it was heavily renovated. Before the reopening, there was no air conditioning in the building, no lobby and no service elevators, Apuzzo said. More recently, much of the backstage walling was renovated in 2014.
Tour participants stood on the stage and looked out at the 1600-seat theater.
The stage’s original flooring has been maintained since 1914 because dancers prefer it to more modern floors. The old floors, according to Apuzzo, “have a little extra give for dancers.”
Nine-and-a-half-year old Miriana Bornstein — who attended the tour with her mother, Kristen Paiva — expressed awe at the next section of the tour when she saw the dressing rooms under the stage.
“It was really cool seeing where the performers dress up,” she said.
The tour concluded in the theater’s art gallery, where photos and paintings are arranged chronologically from 1914 to the present.
The Shubert Theatre is located on 247 College St.
Nick Tabio | firstname.lastname@example.org