(Laura's note: 4/7/07: Due to the popularity of this entry and pictures, I have to put this disclaimer. Please do not use my pictures without my permission. It is offically copyrighted material. Email me if you'd like to chat about it. Thanks.)
Also at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, we watched a short documentary called “She’s a Lady”*. The film, which won for Best Alabama Documentary, traces the history of Birmingham’s Lyric Theatre, and efforts to restore it. The theatre opened in 1914. It was quite a hub of activity. Luminaries such as Mae West, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and the Marx Brothers performed there. When the theatre closed in the late 70s, it was a porn house.
In conjunction with the film, Birmingham Landmarks Inc. decided to open the Lyric for one day so the public could see the theater for themselves. Here are some pictures of what the Lyric looks like right now.
Walking into the house of the Lyric, you have to be very careful where you step. If you left the designated area, the floor was so weak that you could fall through.
This is the view from the stage. An historian was there to explain to us that the Lyric was one of the first theaters in Birmingham to allow Caucasians and African-Americans to sit in the same theater. Throughout the rest of the city, theaters were either "white" or "non-white". As was the custom back in the days of segregation, African-Americans were only allowed to sit in the two balconies.
Stage Left - the "Box Seats"...
Stage Right - more "Box Seats". A picture of the ceiling...
Chunks of ceiling fall at random times... The next shot is a picture of the fire curtain. According to the historian, the curtain prevented the audience from hearing the backstage area. However, the actors could frequently hear the audience loud and clear. The artwork is original - and faded.
While other cities prefer to turn their historic theaters into parking lots, Birmingham respects its diverse - and at times, difficult history. And they certainly have a nice way of making a Yankee feel at home.