The home stage for the University of the Arts and touring Broadway shows.. In Short The Merriam has been a Philly institution since 1918, when it opened as the Shubert Theater. Many a famous face has graced the stage over the years, including Ethel Merman and Laurence Olivier. In 1971, the University of the Arts purchased the almost-1,700 seat theater. A decade later, a big renovation project brought back much of the majestic theater's glory, including refurbished original murals and bas reliefs.