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Pink Martini’s China Forbes grew up in an odd household. Her sister made a movie about it

December 9th, 2016 by admin

Maya Forbes and her younger sister China grew up in unusual circumstances. Their father Cameron Forbes was born into a wealthy Boston family — Secretary of State John Kerry is a relative — and suffered from bipolar disorder. Their mother is African American and met her husband when they worked at a public TV station in Boston in the 1960s. Cameron Forbes was hospitalized at times because of his illness but was a strong, loving presence in his daughters’ lives and became their primary caregiver when their mother attended graduate school in New York.

Both women graduated from Harvard University (as did their father) and went into the arts. Maya Forbes became a screenwriter, first for “The Larry Sanders Show” and later for movies (“The Rocker”) and TV miniseries (“The Kennedys”). China Forbes is the lead singer for Pink Martini and a longtime Portland resident who has released a solo album and is studying opera.

Their childhood has been a continuing source of inspiration. China Forbes has written a number of songs about it and Maya Forbes’ new movie “Infinitely Polar Bear” is a lightly fictionalized account of their lives during the period when their mother moved to New York. Mark Ruffalo plays their father, called Cam Stuart in the movie, and Zoe Saldana is their mother. Imogene Wolodarsky, Maya Forbes’ daughter, plays a character based on the young Maya Forbes.

China Forbes, left, and her sister Maya Forbes. Maya Forbes wrote and directed "Infinitely Polar Bear," a movie about their childhood. (Wally Wolodarsky)

China Forbes, left, and her sister Maya Forbes. Maya Forbes wrote and directed “Infinitely Polar Bear,” a movie about their childhood. (Wally Wolodarsky)

The Forbes sisters laughed easily and teased each other affectionately in a joint interview. Maya Forbes started by talking about how long she worked on the script and got it made with the help of J.J. Abrams, the “Star Wars” director.

“I worked on it and worked on it and tried to get the tone right,” Maya Forbes said. “I wanted a tone that would be both poignant and have a lot of pathos to it but also humor. That took me many years, working on it not consistently but working on it and setting it aside, working on it and setting it aside.

“When it was finally finished I got it to J.J. Abrams, who embraced it and wanted to help get it made. Then we got Mark Ruffalo attached and it took some years to get the financing before we finally shot the film.”

I asked Maya Forbes if it was hard to put her feelings aside and write about herself as a character in a movie.

“Well, I never put feelings aside. I put feelings into the script (laughs),” Maya Forbes said. “I wanted to put complicated feelings across — there was a lot of love but also anger and frustration and for me wanting to take care of my father and have him be OK. For him, wanting us to launch into the world, his two girls, but also wanting us to be with him. All of those complicated feelings I put into the movie.”

At this point China Forbes joined the conversation, and Maya Forbes asked her the same question: “China, do you think it was hard for me to do a personal project?”

“No, but it was such a long time coming in your career,” China Forbes said. “I kept expecting you to do something much more personal than you were doing, and when it finally started it was a relief to all of us. I don’t think there was any hesitation about you tackling the subject matter. I don’t think you were holding back at all.”

Maya Forbes: “It definitely was difficult, but I wanted to humanize somebody I loved. I wanted to do this portrait of a person that I loved who suffered from bipolar disorder and some of the things that were hard about it and some that were really great about it.

“He was a person. He was not just a person with an illness; he was a full person, in some ways a bad father and in some ways a wonderful father. Ultimately a wonderful father, I felt, even though when you put those things on paper it might not look like the greatest father. After having children of my own and reflecting on my childhood I felt that I had learned so much from him and from this whole experience that we went through. I evolved as a person, maybe sometimes too quickly, growing up too quickly. But we all go through life wrestling with different emotions and I feel like I learned how to do all that very well.”

I asked China Forbes how it felt to have her sister make a movie out of their lives.

“I was really excited because first of all it’s an amazing experience to sit in a theater and watch something very close to your childhood on the screen,” China Forbes said. “It’s an incredible gift. When I was at Sundance and I saw the movie, the final cut for the first time, it was like a living, breathing photo album of my childhood. Having lost my dad so long ago it was a gift to see him again. I was just captivated and delighted and crying.

“It wasn’t hard for me, I guess because I’m a songwriter and I put my personal life into my songs. For me, it’s just been a joy.”

Maya Forbes’ daughter plays her in the movie. But who could capture the young China Forbes?

Maya: “I did think about that. I thought about her love of purple (laughs).”

China: “I do love purple!”

Maya: “You really loved it then!”

China: “Lavender, a whole lavender outfit!”

Maya: “I certainly wanted to find a little girl who had a lot of flair. The funny thing is that my daughter, who plays my character, reminds me a lot of China when China was little. She’s a performer, and she plays the “me’ part, and I’m not really a performer.”

China: “Although Maya was the lead in ‘Anything Goes.’ She played Reno Sweeney. And you did some theater in high school. You were in ‘The Fantasticks.'”

Maya: “I was a performer, but not now.”

China: “No, not now.”

Maya: “Oh thanks! … Yes, I looked for a little girl with charisma and flair and has the singing/dancing gene, although it’s hard to find someone who can sing as well as China.”

China: “Awww.”

Maya: “And then my mother found out she would be played by Zoe Saldana, who’s such a graceful, wonderful actress — everyone was happy. My father obviously is not alive but I think he would have really hit it off with Mark Ruffalo. That’s not really what you’re going for when you make a personal project — when you ruffle feathers, you ruffle feathers. But I approached the project with such empathy — I was angry at other people at the time we depict in the movie but I’m certainly not angry now. It didn’t dissipate for a long time but I really wrote the movie from a place of really appreciating what everybody had to go through.”

I asked China Forbes whether she felt that her childhood made her a more artistic person.

China: “I do. I think it’s not an accident that we are both artists because I think when you go through that kind of childhood you need to make sense of it for the rest of your life. Expressing it through writing or music is incredibly cathartic. I think I’ll be having my own internal wrestle with that for a lifetime as well.

“When I look back I wouldn’t change a thing. But at the time, of course, when I was 8, I would have changed everything. Maya really captured the embarrassment of living in an apartment where we didn’t want anyone to come over. Now I have a beautiful house and I want everyone to come over. I righted that part of my struggle and become very home-oriented.”

Maya: “Your house is very beautiful, and you’ve taken part of it from our childhood.”

China: “Yeah, it’s like I’ve taken what’s beautiful instead of what was squalid (laughs) and created this bohemian fantasy (laughs).”

Maya Forbes made “Infinitely Polar Bear,” and China Forbes wrote songs about the same period.

China: “Oh yeah, from the beginning. I put out an album in 1995 and there’s a song called ‘Doorways’ that’s about my dad and a song called ‘I Can’t Cry’ about not being able to deal with your emotions. In the movie my character says ‘I don’t cry anymore’ but Maya’s character totally cries. She’s always the emotional gateway to whatever’s happening with our family. She’s the one who experiences it and I’m sheltered by the older sister and shut down from all feelings. Years later I wrote about that and I had to work to try to undo that shutdown I created for myself as a protection.

“And then of course my song ’78,’ which was the title song of my last album, is all about this exact moment when my mom goes to New York, which is what this movie is about. I wrote a song about it and Maya wrote an entire movie about it. Which is typical because she’s the older one and she’s smarter and will write a really long, 90-page version of it and I’ll write a three-paragraph song (laughs).

Maya: “That is not true! But for you to say it is so sweet! … I want to add one thing about why we’re both artists. Our parents did love art — we went to the movies all the time and the theater all the time, and they really encouraged self-expression. It’s not always the greatest when your kids are expressing themselves loudly and obstinately right and left, but I do think my father — both of them — I think they understood that we were going through a difficult situation and it was important to express yourself even though it wasn’t always fun to hear it.”

China: “I remember one time I was playing and singing so loudly that our cat jumped on my back and chased me out of the room. It was speaking for the family, I think. My dad was really nice and he wouldn’t say ‘Shut up!’ But the cat did.”

Maya: “I couldn’t use that! Unfortunately you can’t train a cat … I’m laughing so hard because I witnessed that moment and it was crazy.”

China: “That kitty was so mean.”

By Jeff Baker | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian July 17, 2015


Pink Martini with China Forbes will be at the Shubert for One Night Only

Friday, December 16, 2016 at 8pm.

For tix:

David Sedaris on The Santaland Diaries — The comedian’s experiences as a wicked department store elf make an off-Broadway hit

November 23rd, 2016 by admin

No matter what you plan on doing this Black Friday Weekend, don’t miss David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES, starring Ian Galligan, here at the Shubert!

This wickedly funny one-man show is guaranteed to get you into the holidays off to a hilarious start!


Check out this article from 1996, when the show first opened Off-Broadway, for a bit of the backstory on how it came to be – and why you should add it to your to-do list this weekend…

David Sedaris on The Santaland Diaries – The comedian’s experiences as a wicked department store elf make an off-Broadway hit

December 13 1996

“I’ve always loved Christmas,” admits David Sedaris with exasperation. “I was surprised when people read The Santaland Diaries and thought I was anti-Christmas.”

Actually, the misunderstanding is natural considering the material: Santaland, Sedaris’ caustic true-life tale of his two-year stint as a Macy’s department store elf who offers more holiday sneer than cheer, comes to wickedly hilarious life in a one-man stage adaptation. The sold-out show has quickly become a popular alternative to traditional holiday shows in theatres across America.

After Sedaris quit a teaching job in Chicago (where he studied painting at the prestigious Art Institute) and moved to New York, the only work he could find was doling out candy canes for $7 an hour. But the North Carolina native’s quirky manner didn’t meld with his new elf persona. “You go from people calling you ‘Mr. Sedaris’ to calling you ‘Crumpet,”’ he deadpans. “It plays games with your psyche.”

Actor Ian Galligan as Crumpet

Actor Ian Galligan as Crumpet

Author David Sedaris in his actual Macy's elf costume

Author David Sedaris in his actual Macy’s elf costume

Sedaris, who turns 40 the day after Christmas, turned those games to his advantage. “I wrote it thinking parody, satire,” he laughs. When acclaimed stage director Joe Mantello first read Santaland Diaries in Sedaris’ best-selling 1994 collection Barrel Fever, he saw it as theater. “David’s writing is so peculiar and twisted,” says Mantello. “I had to bring it to the stage.” With Sedaris, Mantello has made Santaland into a funny and poignant tour de force.

“If you play your cards right, Christmas is a time for getting stuff. I’m happy to give. But,” Sedaris says with an elfin grin, “I don’t want to take any chances on getting.”

THE SANTALAND DIARIES runs at the Shubert Theatre THIS WEEKEND – November 25-27! Ticket are on sale now and include a pre-show holiday reception one hour prior to show, including complimentary cocktail and light hors d’oeuvres. Click here for tickets & information:


Shubert Signature Sangria Recipe – Sparkling White Cranberry

December 21st, 2015 by admin

In celebration of the Holiday season, Diane, our talented Concessions Coordinator, created our signature Shubert Sangria recipe,   This delicious beverage was enjoyed by Staff & Volunteers at our Annual holiday gathering this year, and in the spirit of the season, we would like to share this gift with you.  Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!


Sparkling White Cranberry Sangria

¼ cup Sugar

1 cup Rum (Diane uses Bacardi brand)

1 cup White Cranberry Juice (chilled)

1 bottle Chardonnay (chilled)

1 cup Red Apple

1 cup Green Apple

1 cup Frozen Cranberries

2 cups Club Soda


Combine sugar and rum to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.



Check out this CT Style interview with Al Jarreau – coming to the Shubert THIS Thursday October 22nd

October 20th, 2015 by admin


Click on the link below to see Jocelyn Maminta’s interview with Al Jarreau on CT Style.

This Thursday, October 22nd performance is a benefit for Christian Community Action.














100th Gala “Confessions” from a member of Rex Smith’s Fan Club

April 20th, 2015 by admin

Please enjoy this wonderful recollection from the Shubert 100th Gala, held on Saturday, March 21st, by one of the members of Rex Smith’s Fan Club.  Rex was one of our Honorees that evening, along with Betty Buckley and Barbara Cook. Lucille traveled from New York to see her favorite performer…enjoy her story…71xolE4I-rL__SL290_


The Gala was wonderful, all the men were in tuxes and ladies were in gowns … Rex and Brandon(Rex’s son) were in tuxes – Tracy (Rex’s wife) and Lailina (Rex’s daughter-in-law) were in floor length gowns. Rex looked terrific in his tux – and I believe there is nothing as sexy as a man in a tux. Brandon had on tails – Lailina told me the tux Brandon had on was the one Rex wore in Sunset Blvd. When Brandon tried it on it fit him perfectly – not an inch of tailoring was needed.

Rex was his animated, happy, normal self – working the room (as I say). The dinner was on the Shubert stage – very nicely done – food was good and there were tons of wait staff to take care of everything from drinks to wine to dinner to coffee and dessert. When the time came for the awards, Betty Buckley told some funny stories of what took place on the Shubert stage in shows she performed in – it was great to hear how back in the day she did her own stage make up which actually turned out to be a fiasco … after that the Shubert’s hired a professional makeup artist ….you had to be there to get the full joke. There was a video on a large screen from other stars that performed at the theatre wishing the Shubert another 100 years … Barbara Cook was not able to attend due to illness. Then it was Rex’s turn …Rex talked about the shows he did at the Shubert Theatre and talked a little about his “Confessions” show and he told me later he wants to bring “Confessions” to New Haven, CT and perform it at Shubert Theatre. I thought hmm, maybe the gang can campaign to make that happen – more to be continued on that one….

Rex with fellow Honoree Tony Award winner Betty Buckley

Rex with fellow Honoree Tony Award winner Betty Buckley

Rex sang “This Is The Moment” (from the musical Jekyl & Hyde) as some of his videos from Confessions were being shown on the big over head screen behind him. He sang great with such enthusiasm and his BIG voice – he was perfect. A guy sitting at my table said “I didn’t know how well Rex Smith could sing” : I said “OH THE MAN CAN SING ALRIGHT!” Rex actually got a standing ovation ( by me of course) and another guy at my table – along with some others in the room, but the applause went on for what seemed a very long time – after Rex sang the MC concluded the evening and thanked everyone for coming andhoped everyone enjoyed the evening. Then there was no way for me to get to Rex he was mobbed (politely) with tons of people wanting to talk to him and take pictures with him. Rex was such a gentleman – he spoke to everyone, signed autographs, and continued to take pictures for a long time. Music was playing and people started to dance. Then the crowd started to dwindle out and I saw Rex and Brandon leave the stage and run up the aisle and looked like they were leaving and said they would be right back . That’s when I was able to talk to Lailina and next thing I saw, about 20 minutes later in the back of the Stage, was Rex at the bar talking to more people who had formed a new long line to talk to him and take more pictures with him – that was basically when I waited to talk to him and said good night and he thanked me for coming and to “Keep Showing up” – I said “OK my friend, No Problem”.

Lucille G.

Member of Rex Smith Fan Club

The Shubert, The Stagehands and Me!

February 26th, 2015 by admin

So…10 years ago, in 2005, when I was just a wee lass…

I walked onto the stage of the Shubert Theatre. I was a member of The Nebraska Theater Caravan’s A Christmas Carol.   I was the second Electrician and Follow Spot Operator, a year out of college and touring the states for the first time. Though not originally from New Haven, I had visited friends who worked at Long Wharf and Yale Repertory in previous years and learned about the Shubert Theater – its legendary shows and artists. Then the realization hit me: I was walking into one of my first Theatrical Union operated houses – The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, specifically Local 74, which has been associated with the Shubert Theatre since it’s inception in 1914.   At the end of my 3-day visit, I was lucky enough to be able to sign the basement halls of the Shubert, where many touring companies have signed their names before me. I traveled on home to Iowa, but quickly found myself back in New Haven working for Regional Theaters around Connecticut and found some familiar faces along my journey, those of the Members of Local 74.

Fast forward to 2015, when A Broken Umbrella Theater is scheduled to perform an original work onstage at the Shubert. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to design scenery for this world premiere production. Though various creation workshops and rehearsals a show quickly formed. We wanted to share the inner workings of what happens in the life of theater artists and technicians. And, it occurred to me that theater-goers never get the chance to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each production. When the audience walks into the Shubert, or any other theater in the world, they are treated to a well-oiled and polished spectacle; actors flit in and out of light while scenery magically shifts from one location to another. There is a form of magic produced in front of their very eyes. The Shubert walls disappear and the audience is transported into the world of the show onstage. This magic performed at the Shubert is produced and perfected by the men and women backstage, the Stagehands of Local 74. I have had the pleasure to witness the endless talent of these folks backstage and my goal was to figure out a way to share what I see with the audiences of SEEN CHANGE!. I want to share the feeling I had when I first walked onto the stage at the Shubert. To see the walls of the Shubert Theater as it waits for the start of a performance. To share how the stage transforms into what audiences expects to see – a finished production filled with magic. To see the stage at the end of the night – put to sleep, waiting for it’s next group of weary travelers.

Through this production we have been able to pay homage to the work that goes into all aspects of the theatrical world. To share the lives of the Stagehands who have worked tirelessly to perfect their art along side the actors who perform nightly. I am lucky to have learned from them and look forward to learning more. I am amazed to be onstage at the Shubert, where so many great artists have come before me. I would like to say thank you to the Stagehands of Local 74 – without you we could not have performed our magic.


Janie Alexander, A Broken Umbrella Theatre


A Confession from the lyricist of “Seen Change”

February 17th, 2015 by admin

I have a confession: I’ve never seen a show at the Shubert Theatre! In fact, I hadn’t been inside until a few weeks ago for a rehearsal.I am, however, reminded on a daily basis of the importance of the Shubert and the role it has played in the history of musical theater. You see, I’m a musical theatre writer, and also work for Rodgers & Hammerstein, the licensing and publishing company founded by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. And, on my way to the copy machine shubertseatsatR&Hthroughout the day, I pass four red-cushioned seats from the original Shubert Theatre, on display in our office. So, when I had the opportunity to write lyrics for A Broken Umbrella Theatre’s Scene Change! – a show inspired by and staged at the Shubert – well…”I cain’t say no.”

Scene Change! is a love letter to the Shubert Theatre and the history of musical theatre. The back-stage story involves a creative team in 2015 putting on a forgotten musical that was written in 1944. One of the fun challenges for me was to create lyrics that might have been written in the 1940s as well as present day. Since we also wanted to celebrate the Shubert, the majority of songs were designed to harken back to composers and lyricists who premiered shows in New Haven.

Songs by Rodgers and Hart, who made their Shubert debut in 1925 with Poor Little Rich Girl, inspired lyrics for our tap dance number. The structure of our ballad was based on a Rodgers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific, which had its world premiere at the Shubert in 1949. Other lyrics take inspiration from Cole Porter, Jerry Herman, Lerner and Loewe and Irving Berlin, to name a few. Will Aronson then composed the music, crafting his own blend of pastiche and modern musical styles. Hailing from Guilford, Will has had the good fortune to see many shows at the Shubert.

It is wonderfully strange to think that the first show I see at the Shubert will be my own. I hope that Scene Change! pays tribute to this theater’s brilliant legacy and honors all the artists who inspired me to become one.

Blog Post: Rob Shapiro

Lyricist, SEEN CHANGE!

Rob Shapiro Head Shot




Behind the scenes – The Shubert holiday window paper sculpture tribute along Chapel Street

January 5th, 2015 by admin

I was very excited to be approached by the Shubert Theatre to continue the paper sculpture project on Chapel Street for the second year. The project involved 12 different shops and clients, and we were only given three weeks to complete the work. I called a meeting of Paier College students and explained to them that this would be a very unusual three weeks, but anyone DSCN2880 DSCN2881who wanted to be involved in the project was welcome to sign on. We had 30 people who joined in, dedicating the majority of their time to the project for that period.   Figuring out which show would fit which client was very challenging … and interesting. After we had meetings with every owner, we jumped to the drawing stage, creating thumbnails of ideas. Hull’s was very helpful in providing art materials. We bought all the glue they had and piles of paper; then the cutting began!100th in lobby 1

The three weeks went by as if it were one day. Some students were even sleeping at school. After a lot of coffee and pizza and paper cuts, the work was finally done 15 minutes before we had to install it. Now, it is all history, and you can see the result of our collaboration along the streets of New Haven!


— Vlad Shpitalnik


Vladimir Shpitalnik – Professor in Illustration – Paier College of Art, Hamden, CT


Reflections on the Creation of The Shubert’s 100 Anniversary Commemorative Painting

December 8th, 2014 by admin

  By Tony Falcone, Artist


As a commissioned fine artist, most of my work begins with a commission request by a potential patron to create an image which best represents a particular subject they wish to capture. During my initial meeting with the Shubert Theatre’s 100th Anniversary Design Team, I was inspired by the request to create a painting that would capture the anticipation of the audience just as the curtain is about to rise; no the physical interior of the Theatre, which in and of itself is breathtaking, but the magic that emanates from beneath the curtain just as the performance is about to begin. It was the magic of live theatrethat has engaged audiences for the last 100 years which the Shubert wished to commemorate on this – their 100thanniversary.

My challenge was hot to create that visual and emotional excitement through a painting. Commissioned artwork tends to scare or worry an artist. But I love the opportunity that it provides, especially when the creative process is a collaborative effort with the patron. In this case, I worked with a team that included Shubert staff and administrators, Judi – Falcone Art Studio’s Projects Manager – and me. Their vision created the starting point, and our ensuing discussions inspired numerous thumbnail sketches. Sometimes, the vision comes together easily; other times many sketches are needed. A color study helps to focus the direction and spur discussion towards final composition.

As it turned out, my first color study was off the mark; too representational; too monochromatic.   But a compositional doodle I had done for the team during an earlier brainstorming session was resurrected and unanimously selected as the direction. Well, no worries! Here was an opportunity to go toward abstraction. I embraced the team’s decision, and created another color study – more colorful and somewhat more abstract. In it, I used form and color to capture the magic of opening night and the excitement of the crowd, which translates into an almost palpable aura that connects the viewer of the painting to the experience of the audience.

The result is very different, especially for me, since most of my work is realistic! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

May the Arts be with you,



photo by David Sepulveda


Reproduction prints, signed by the artist, and poster prints, are available to purchase in the Shubert lobby. Proceeds benefit the care and maintenance of our legendary theatre.