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Feel like Brando or Hepburn! Go backstage at New Haven’s storied Shubert Theater

NEW HAVEN -- One of the nation's most historically important theatrical venues is right her in New Haven: the Shubert Theatre.

"We’re known as the birthplace of the nation’s greatest hits," says Executive Director John Fisher.  But you don't just have to sit in the audience, you can go behind-the-scenes.

The Backstage Tour begins with a short video about the theater, built in 1914. Its rich history includes 600 pre-Broadway shows and 300 world premieres.

"Marlon Brando in the world premiere of Streetcar Named Desire, Oklahoma, South Pacific, King and I, My Fair Lady," says Fisher, recalling some of the shows that have graced the Shubert. "It’s a 'who’s who' of American theater."

The tour takes folks into the elegant audience space which holds 1600 people in red, velvet chairs or box seats.

"You came to the theater to see who was sitting in the boxes," explains tour guide Kathy Apuzzo. Visitors see a small loading dock and amazing graffiti art adorning backstage walls featuring signatures from cast and crew. "They all put their mark on the theater backstage and you don’t get to see that unless you come on the tour."

Then, walk onstage - like Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn - and see the infamous ghost light, lit 24 hours, 7 days a week.

"You talk to stage hands, they’ll tell you there’s a good spirit presence in the building that watches over the theater," says Apuzzo.

Go under the stage. See original beams and cast dressing rooms.

"You get to picture those fancy girls in their dresses, doing their makeup in front of that lit-up mirror," says Sarah Ingles of East Haven, seeing the backstage area for the first time.

Due to tough economic times in New Haven, the Shubert closed in 1976 but didn't stay dark for long. The curtains rose again in grand style in 1983, positively impacting the city's status as a cultural destination in New England.

"We’ve basically morphed into a performing arts center," says Fisher. "So, we do music, dance, theater, community events."

The tour ends in a gallery dedicated to hits from the past and present.

"Just being in here where people stood and acted 100 years ago, it’s awesome," says Ingles. A dramatic production with a glimpse of reality. "It’s a fun time for everybody," says Fisher.

The Shubert Theatre's Backstage Tour is free and open to the public on the first Wednesday and Saturday of each month at 11 a.m.  Click here for more information.