WESTBROOK — Deborah Gilbert’s carefully applied lipstick is vivid and her colorful outfit pops on camera. She exudes poise.
What else would you expect from a television talk show host? Albeit one for a local cable access channel.
But make no mistake, viewers are seeing a seasoned presenter.
A former call-in radio talk show host in Fairfield from the ’90s, Gilbert now hosts her own television show, “Arts & Entertainment with Deborah Gilbert” on Valley Shore Community Television cable access channels, taped in the cozy studio at The Shops At Water’s Edge, Westbrook. The show first aired in July, when COVID had shuttered many arts venues.
She has featured Goodspeed Theater, The Kate, Old Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, Gillette Castle and more.
Gilbert didn’t launch her show because of COVID — it was a long-simmering idea — but the timing was right.
Gilbert recognized “there was a need for arts and entertainment reporting,” she said.
Her show, however, became another way for these groups to get the word out during the pandemic.
“Arts and entertainment organizations dealing with COVID — they’re struggling,” she said.
One of Gilbert’s favorite segments featured Goodspeed Musicals.
“Oh my gosh,” she said of having Dan MacMahon, director of marketing for Goodspeed, on her show.
She notes MacMahon is a “very professional interview” and she was thrilled to present video clips of live musical theater performances at the celebrated venue.
MacMahon said he was happy to be a guest on the show. “Deborah is a pro,” he said. “She knows what she’s doing, the production values — it’s a good quality show. It’s worth subscribing to YouTube on a regular basis.”
And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, her show can help give a boost to local arts organizations, MacMahon said. “I think that any outlet for us — as an arts organization — to reach out to people or know us or who don’t — is extremely valuable now,” he said.
“It all snowballs,” he said about the coverage.
Theater is one of Gilbert’s loves.
“I grew up in musical theater since elementary school,” she said.
As an adult, her most memorable role, she said, was when she performed for six months at the 13th Street Repertory Theater in New York City.
“The most wonderful memory was when I had the lead in an Off-Off Broadway children’s show called ‘Wise Acre Farm,’ where I played Celia Scarecrow, the lead.
But, when trying to get work as a young actor, Gilbert discovered, “I wasn’t good at being another person, I was better being myself.”
This realization later led her to doing local radio and TV talk shows in Connecticut.
For Gilbert, being in front of the camera and hosting a talk show is like coming home.
“I didn’t know if I was ready to come back as a presenter and host of a talk show,” she said. “I decided to go back on camera.”
A decade ago, Gilbert also produced a local cable TV show in New York called “People, Places & Things,” which was simulcast on radio and online. For that show, she recalled, “We went on location a lot and that was hard. That took many hours of production work in the field and in the editing room.
“But I would love to go back out on location in the future. It is very exciting.”
Gilbert, a transplant from both Fairfield and Westchester (N.Y.) counties, moved to Clinton a few years ago, when she was bitten by the television bug again.
She made up her mind that she wanted to debut a show here at her new home on the shoreline. Before launching the program, Gilbert wanted to learn all she could about television production and took on many roles behind the scenes at Valley Shore Television, where she worked as a camera operator and did editing on the professional equipment at the cable access studio.
And Gilbert is still hands-on — she does her own hair and makeup and her clothes on TV are her own, in addition to booking guests and doing all the research, she said.
The show follows a simple format — Gilbert interviews one guest for the half hour. “Arts & Entertainment with Deborah Gilbert” is “live to tape,” meaning what you see on the screen is the actual half-hour show and there is no editing involved.
Gilbert said it’s been good to be back.
“I love to be back on camera. I love to be able to talk about the entertainment industry,” she said.
• To see episodes of "Arts & Entertainment with Deborah Gilbert" on YouTube, go to the wedsite and type in the show's title.
• Contact Deborah Gilbert at email@example.com for further information or to be considered as to being a guest on the program.