Our 10th Anniversary

With the closing of our Spring 2023 Season and announcement of our Fall 2023 Season, we are reflecting on the past ten years and celebrating all the successful performances and events that have brought us to where we are today. We are committed to expanding and improving our offerings to better serve our community, and we invite you to join us.

Check out all of our 10th Anniversary information below!

Special Events

  • Fall 2023 Season Reveal & 10th Anniversary Celebration

    • Friday, June 2, 2023 at 7:30 PM
      • All Season Subscribers may now reserve their tickets to our Fall 2023 Season Reveal. The general public may begin reserving their tickets on Monday, May 22 at noon. All reservations must be made by Friday, May 26 at noon.

Celebrating A Decade of OPAC by Brian Graves

Celebrating A Decade of OPAC

By Brian Graves
Senior Reporter, The Anniston Star

Every town has a center – not just geometrically, but socially.

A place where people gather. Where memories are made.

The building located at 100 Choccolocco Street in Oxford, Alabama is such a center.

It became the center of education in 1921 when a $40,000 building became the Oxford Loyal Loan School, later becoming Oxford Elementary School.

It became the center of government and justice in 1952 when the city of Oxford made it the official city hall and police department with a jail.

As the turn of the century approached, the city was growing and the responsibilities of governing as well.

Those larger and more complex responsibilities called for a more modern and larger structure than the old schoolhouse could provide.

The seat of city government moved to the outskirts of town leaving the building at the center vacant.

An idea which had been sparked decades earlier by the Oxford Arts Council now seemed to have an ideal space with which to make that idea into a reality and to make the town’s center more of a centerpiece than just the center.

Oxford decided in 2011 to construct a performing arts center. It would restore the old building to its former glory and attach a state-of-the-art 1,200 seat theater.

On May 17, 2013, the city of Oxford formally dedicated the city’s new town center – the Oxford Performing Arts Center – with a performance of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

That first season consisted of only four shows, but OPAC began almost from the beginning to tune up as is required for any fine musical instrument.

Season two expanded to 15 performances as the stars discovered Oxford and brought rock, jazz, classics and gospel to the stage.

Choccolocco Street became Broadway for the first time during the 2015 season as “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” became the first Broadway musical to hit the theater’s boards and face the OPAC footlights.

Artists who once seemed unimaginable performing in Oxford, Alabama, began visiting with a wide range of musical genres from the Vienna Boys Choir to The Oak Ridge Boys.

That third season also marked the first appearance of the Atlanta Pops Orchestra which has since made OPAC its Alabama home stage.

The theater began to see upgrades to its production tools and to the theater itself which got a makeover into a classic performance palace with box seats and a movie theatre organ.

The ground floor became “The Studio,” which plays host to both small musical groups and community gatherings.

OPAC was quickly becoming not just a centerpiece for Oxford, but one for the entire region.

Holding to its goal of low ticket prices without service fees, OPAC began building bigger and bolder seasons which were quickly endorsed and accepted by its local patrons and sponsors.

Audiences came to appreciate the comfort factor of having a professional entertainment venue just down the street and one without any high status necessary to attend.

Current OPAC Executive Director John Longshore, who has served in that position for eight of the center’s 10 seasons, describes OPAC as “Oxford’s living room.”

It has become just that.

Blue jeans and T-shirts are just as welcome to a classic concert as tuxedoes and dresses are welcome to a country or rock concert. And, all your friends from out of town are just as welcome and made to feel right at home.

It is just like enjoying entertainment on your living room television – but the pictures and sounds are of a quality only live performances can offer.

That quality comes by way of a production team equipped with both the professional training and the passion for making each performance memorable for both the entertainers and the audience.

Adding to that are those at the box office who aid in getting your tickets; the hospitality and concessions team which provides food, drinks and snacks to those performing and those attending; those who design and print your programs; and the volunteer ushers who guide you to your seat with a smile.

OPAC also began dividing its seasons into a series of specific theatrical genres including chamber music, country, tribute artists, children’s, pops, a sprinkle of “season extras” and Broadway.

Bringing the best of Broadway, especially when the number one iconic show proves difficult to bring to the OPAC stage, brought about one of the largest challenges ever to the center.

“The Phantom of The Opera” was a show that seemed like it would be only a phantom to Oxford.

That changed when a unique collaboration between OPAC and the Jacksonville Opera Theater produced a successful nine day run of the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber show in 2017.

As part of the production, OPAC acquired a chandelier which had toured the Broadway road tour.

OPAC struck a bargain with the props company and one of the most iconic pieces in Broadway history now hangs above and lights OPAC audiences.

The world discovered OPAC in 2022 when its inaugural Rubato International Piano Festival brought 21 young piano artists from ten countries – ranging from China to Australia – to the OPAC stage.

The participants spent a full week in Oxford, learning from some of the top piano instructors from across the country and enjoying Oxford hospitality.

Students from Oxford High School’s media department produced a livestream so the families of the pianists could watch from around the globe.

Plans are already in place for the second Rubato competition in August 2023.

The Martin – Lett Gallery, named for two founding members of the Oxford Arts Council, opened in July 2014. The gallery, located off the main lobby, exhibits different displays throughout the year. Artists may be local or may be represented by out-of-state galleries. Most art is for sale.

The Wren’s Nest Gallery features the works of artist a native Alabamian, who returned home from a career in tropical medicine to pursue another lifelong ambition - Wildlife Art. The Gallery at OPAC offers Larry K. Martin, Martin's original paintings, prints, Giclées, and collectibles to individuals and to the trade.

The idea of being a center for education has been renewed with a process now begun to expand OPAC with an Alabama Children’s Museum and a school for the performing arts adjacent to the theater.

OPAC even has a sense of the whimsy and not so serious.

A visit to OPAC for a free Christmas showing of holiday cinema classics “Elf” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” have become family traditions.

And, that jail which was once in the basement now holds restrooms decorated with mug shots of celebrities who strayed off the stage.

When the 10th season finally comes to a close in May 2023, OPAC will have been host to 305 performances by a list of artists longer than the catwalk is high.

The Charlie Daniels Band, Styx, Patti LaBelle and Crystal Gayle.

“Fiddler on The Roof,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Producers” and “42nd Street.”

Music, dance and drama as varied as the audiences who watched and listened and continue to watch and listen.

As the curtain goes up on OPAC’s second decade, it does so with the stars still falling on Alabama and landing on the stage of the Oxford Performing Arts Center with audiences on their feet cheering for more.

More is coming and the best is yet to come.