Birmingham’s Virginia Samford Theater, opened in 1927, has had a long and storied history. On its opening it was called the Little Theater. It was a centerpiece in Birmingham’s cultural life, and the city’s theatrical tradition can be traced back to that opening in 1927.
As the Second World War depleted the city’s pool of working actors and crew, the theater closed. After a decade of inactivity, the building was acquired privately and donated to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, as the school’s Town and Gown troupe was searching for a permanent performance space. It was also renamed the Clark Memorial Theater. In 1999, the UAB was looking at selling the landmark building, threatening to close the book on a Birmingham cultural institution, but the city’s Metropolitan Arts Council intervened. The historic theater was restored, and renamed after Virginia Samford Donovan, the benefactor whose donation enabled the purchase by MAC.
Much of the theater’s season is devoted to plays and musical theater, including many of the obligatory classic Broadway productions. However, activities onstage include music, dance and comedy, and even lectures and talks by authors and performing artists. In addition to the historic main stage, the newly added Martha Moore Sykes Studio features additional productions in a more intimate, cabaret-style atmosphere. In addition to the theater’s featured performance activities, the STARS Arts Education Program offers training to local youth in acting, dance, and voice. Students of the program are given hands-on, on-stage experience in bringing theater to life, ensuring the continuation of Birmingham’s own theatrical legacy.
Virginia Samford Theater Information
- Public Transportation: Good (accessible by BJCTA buses 12, 44, and 50)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Approximately 140 performances per season (September-August)
- Ticket Prices: Vary widely ($10-250, most shows about $20) depending on performance, date, and seating choice
- Membership: Donations of $50 and more to the Theater are tax deductible, and garner benefits such as: recognition in event programs, special event invitations, ticket vouchers, and other benefits with greater donations.