Stephanie Hege of The Virginia Theatre

They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. For Stephanie Hege that love starts and ends with The Virginia Theatre. Having discovered her love for its grand stage in college, Stephanie was able to find ways to stay connected to the Virginia throughout her adult career and is now able to share her love with her own children. We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Stephanie inside the gorgeous Virginia Theatre has she talked about it’s fantastic performance history and changes that have been made to the theatre as well how the theatre has impacted the Champaign community.

Tell us about yourself and how you got involved with The Virginia Theatre


I got involved at the Virginia Theater while doing theater, with my now husband, back in college at the U of I.  And as Rec major, I did an internship at the Springer Cultural Center. Through that internship, I got involved in their arts program, their youth theater program, and some of their special events like the Taste of Champaign. At the end of that internship, Park District had recently acquired the Virginia Theatre and were looking for people to work new positions at the Theatre. I jumped at the opportunity and was able to help with some of the first renovations and fundraising projects. During those early renovations, the Virginia continued with performances, so I worked in the theatre box office for that first year, before moving on to the Special Events Department with the Champaign Park District. I then took a 16-year sabbatical to stay home with my family, before returning in 2019, and eventually taking on the full-time box office manager position a few years ago and I really love it here!  Now my kids perform on this stage in theatre productions.

There have been a lot of fantastic events and performances that have come through The Virginia Theatre - what has been the most memorable one that you've seen here?

The most memorable one for me would be when the Indigo Girls came through in 2019. They had been a favorite of mine throughout my teenage and college years and their show was actually confirmed the day I started working here. I was luckily able to request that night off, bought a front row ticket and watched the show with friends. It was such an amazing experience. But my favorite part about the Virginia is the variety of performances that we bring in. We book national tours like Ann Wilson or Buddy Guy and popular comedians, such as Nate Bargatze or David Sedaris, but then we also have the CU Ballet on the stage with all their local performers or the Champaign Park District Youth Theater program.  We also have three movie series – The News-Gazette Film Series, the Arthouse Experience Film Series with WILL, and our ReWind/Throwback movie series from Rewind 92.5 and Mix 94.5.  These are fun, affordable entertainment for the community. The variety of programming at The Virginia Theatre is what makes us so memorable.

How do you think the Virginia Theater impacts the Champaign community?

We try to be a great community space so that we can have local events like CUTC Musicals, or That’s What She Said, or the Youth Theater Program here using this amazing venue.  Our Arthouse Film Series has now partnered Illinois Public Media and we are bringing in documentaries from local filmmakers such as Greener Pastures in September.  These screenings often include talkbacks with the director or others involved in the film.  We try to stay in touch with what the community needs and wants.  Another great example of this was a couple weeks ago when the air quality was so bad in town so we scrambled together with a few other departments, and were able to let the CPD day camp kids over here to watch a movie so they could get out of being outside. They were supposed to be at the pool and they couldn’t be outside that day, so I am glad we were able to be a resource in that way too. We want to be a part of the community. It’s our goal to be accessible to everybody, both financially and physically, so that we can let this be a place that the whole community can enjoy. We’re always asking our patrons what they’d like to see at the Virginia and are excited when we are able to provide that for them.

What do you like best about the Virginia Theatre?

I love the history of this place!  I am so grateful for all the care the Park District has put into its renovation and the generous donations we have received from patrons and community members to be able to have this amazing 100 year old venue still in use.  You get the beauty and history of all the performers that have been on this stage, along with the benefit of the state of art sound and lighting, and other technical elements we have installed over the past couple years!   It’s such a gift to our community!

It’s our goal to be accessible to everybody, both financially and physically, so that we can let this be a place that the whole community can enjoy. 

What is on the horizon for the Virginia Theater?

The live entertainment industry has changed a lot over the last couple years and with those changes we are no longer releasing one full season all at one time, and instead are booking tours and events as they come all year long. We just announced A Magical Cirque Christmas show is coming back in December, which is fantastic for the holidays and we’ve got Amy Grant in October.  Buddy Guy will be here as part of his farewell tour in November, and he is just a musical legend!  We’ll be adding shows all year long so always be on the lookout on our website or join our ENewsletter to hear about what is coming to town!

If someone wanted to get involved with The Virginia Theatre how would one do that?

Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved here and we are always looking for volunteers. After a short orientation, you can help out with ushering, greeting, taking tickets, all sorts of things, and then you can enjoy some popcorn and get to see the show – it’s a wonderful way to get involved here at the Virginia! As far as getting on the stage, the Champaign Park District and Springer Cultural Center have their Dance and Youth Theater Programs that perform here as well as The CU Ballet or the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company. So by getting involved with one of those productions, you could get on the Virginia stage!

Photo Credits:

Header – Darrel Hoemann

Interior Article Photos – Champaign Center Partnership