The Bama Theatre stands in the midst of the Downtown Strip on Greensboro Avenue, at odds with the more modern facades surrounding it, but standing with the dignity and pride of a place that knows its historic and cultural value. Carrying just about every arts medium imaginable – from concerts to a working art gallery to movies to live musicals – the Bama Theatre appeals to a wide range of audiences, and with its ever-changing unique events running year-round, it more than deserves its place in the Tuscaloosa Arts Community’s hearts.
Watch the video (above) to take a visual guided tour of the Theatre by Public Relations Director, Kevin Ledgewood.
Finishing construction in 1938, the Bama Theatre was actually a federally funded project under the Public Works Administration that was established to bring jobs and a steady income to men during the Great Depression Era. The Theatre was one of the first buildings in Tuscaloosa to have air-conditioning, and is still the only atmospheric theater in the entire state, thanks to its rich and interesting architecture (the term “atmospheric theater” refers to the twinkling lights installed in the ceiling that give the audience the feeling that they are in an outdoor amphitheater).
The Arts Council of Tuscaloosa, which oversees the events and overall health of the Theatre, actively work to ensure that the historical value of the Theatre stays intact. The Arts Council runs restoration projects pretty regularly to keep the premises’ aesthetic intact and give the audience the feeling of stepping into another time, while updating the technology to keep it modern and outfitted for the best possible shows and events.
If you ask Kevin Ledgewood what his favorite attraction of the Bama Theatre is, he would say the Film Series that the Theatre puts on three times a year. The Series runs for six weeks at a time, screening one film once a week – Tuesday at 7:30pm – that would not typically be shown in a commercial theatre or on a streaming service.
These films are chosen by the Arts Council and are exclusively foreign or independent films, including films such as “RBG” about the exploits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the collection of shorts from the Manhattan Film Festival; “Disobedience” following a woman returning to a Orthodox Jewish community after her estranged father dies. “RBG”, “Disobedience,” and the collection of shorts were all shown during the recently wrapped Fall Film Series.
In the same vein, the Bama Theatre makes an effort to screen as many nominees as they possibly can before big award shows like the Oscars so that die-hard film fans can be fully informed when the shows come around.
The Bama Theatre has two in-house performance companies, which debut their projects exclusively at the Bama Theatre. Their past performances have included “Hello, Dolly!”; “The Sound of Music”; and “Mary Poppins”; all of which are scheduled semi-regularly and usually have a run-time of about one week.
But, these companies also prepare special holiday performances for the celebrations between the months of October and December. Most recently, the Theatre hosted a band of performers to put together a rendition of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for a one-night showing on Saturday, October 27th to get the audience into the “spooky spirit.” Each December, the Theatre also choreographs a special winter holiday show; this year, they have scheduled “Babes in Toyland.”
“Babes in Toyland” will be performed December 7, 8, 9.
Alongside the performing arts, screenings, and architecture, the Bama Theatre also hosts concerts. These concerts are scheduled as they become available, and though they are not the most common entertainment hosted by the venue, when they do appear, tickets run out quickly and the audience fills the area.
Currently, there are none scheduled for the rest of the fall semester.
Bryan Adams, Joan Baez, The Police, and Alabama Shakes are all past performers that were so memorable that they were photographed during their iconic sets; these photographs were printed to poster-size and are currently hanging up in a waiting room in between the performing space and the “Bama Bar,” which sells patrons drinks and snacks before and after shows.
On days that the Arts Council has not already dedicated to their own events, the Bama Theatre is open for reservations. With multiple different locations inside the venue – including an art gallery, cafe, staging areas, as well as the performance space – the Bama Theatre is the perfect rental venue for galas, parties, fundraisers, and everything in between.