For better or worse, the average American’s first thoughts of Birmingham focus on the darkest elements of its history: fire hoses, segregation, Bull Connor and more. But like any city, there’s more to Birmingham than that, and a Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!–style game show is looking to prove it.
Hosted by Virginia Samford Theatre on Aug. 7, Can You Repeat That? is a benefit for the Birmingham History Center, as the nonprofit is still in the process of securing a permanent residence. The show will feature luminaries from Birmingham’s political and cultural history answering questions from Birmingham’s past, drawn from the collective research of the Birmingham History Center, John Morse of BhamWiki.com and, filling the Peter Sagal role hosting the game show, Max Rykov.
“We’re not going to tell the whole story of Birmingham in two hours. It’s not a purely educational lecture,” said Rykov, who has hosted a number of fundraisers that blend humor and education. “It’s not just 1963; there’s so much more to Birmingham than that.”
The 12-person panel will include Mayor Richard Arrington Jr., Frank Stitt and James Spann — arguably the most important men in Birmingham’s political, culinary and meteorological histories, respectively — as well as witty Weld columnist Courtney Haden, No More Bull! series contributor and UAB history professor Pamela Sterne King, Lyric Theatre advocate Glenny Brock and magisterial BSC history professor Randy Law. Comedian Christopher Davis, Laura Kate Whitney of REV Birmingham’s REVIVE project, City Councilman Jay Roberson and AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald round out the list.
The panelists will be asked questions about the various legends and curiosities of Birmingham’s civic mythology, including a bluffing round featuring the participation of Mayor William Bell and Oak Hill Cemetery’s historical reenactors. Without giving away too many details, Rykov mentioned stories about Birmingham’s alleged ghost infestation; the public health career of Louise “Lou” Wooster, the madam who tended to the sick and dying during the city’s cholera epidemic of 1873; and everyone’s favorite alcoholic elephant, Miss Fancy.
“It’s a city with many stories,” Rykov said. “Some of them are tragic, some of them are hilarious, some of them are confusing and quirky, and we’re presenting them all in a lighthearted but educational way.”
Can You Repeat That? will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Virginia Samford Theatre on Aug. 7. Tickets are $25 and will raise money for the Birmingham History Center to find a new permanent residence. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page or call (205) 202-4146.