THE LEAD ACT – Christopher Heacox and Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University

by Ann Cipperly

As the curtain rises on the 2023–24 season at the fabulous Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University, audiences are eagerly anticipating another robust lineup of performances that include some of the foremost artists and creative talents from the worlds of Broadway, chamber arts, country music, dance, jazz and more.

While the Gogue Center officially opened its doors in August 2019, the planning process had been ongoing for decades. “The university—its students, alumni, faculty and supporters—and the community dreamed of bringing a performing arts center of this magnitude for more than 30 years,” says Executive Director Christopher J. Heacox, who arrived in July 2017 to lead the artistic, administrative and philanthropic direction of the center.

“With immeasurable thanks to John and Rosemary Brown for providing the generous lead gift that ensured the construction of the facility,” he adds, “and to the Gogues for their vision to enrich the cultural landscape of the university and the region, that dream became a reality.”

The 85,000-square-foot center provides multipurpose venue seating for 1,200 patrons in the Walter Stanley and Virginia Katharyne Evans Woltosz Theatre and approximately 4,000 in the soon-to-be renovated Bill and Carol Ham Amphitheatre. The Gogue Center also houses a box office, specialized catering kitchen, wardrobe and dressing rooms, and administrative offices.

The stage within the Woltosz Theatre is larger than most in theaters of comparable size and was designed to welcome large-scale touring shows. Loading docks, located directly behind the stage, can accommodate up to three 18-wheel trucks at one time. Power hookups allow for touring motor homes.

Heacox’s career in performing arts programming spans more than two decades. He joined Auburn from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he served as executive director of the institution’s Opening Nights performing arts series.

He previously served as executive director of both Friday Musicale and the Riverside Fine Arts Association in Jacksonville, Florida, and as managing director of the Porter Center of the Performing Arts at Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina.

“When I arrived at Auburn, there were many artists with whom I had presented in other venues that I knew the East Alabama community would love,” says Heacox. “I’m delighted to introduce these artists and their phenomenal talent to new audiences at the Gogue Center.”

“Feedback from the community definitely shapes the lineup of our season,” says Heacox, who cites the Gogue Center’s Broadway and Country series as examples. “From listening to the community, we learned early on that Broadway and country music were must-haves.”

Touring artists routinely give back to the students at the university and throughout the Auburn-Opelika community. Through the Gogue Center’s K–12 School Performance Series, area schoolchildren have the chance to attend productions they might not otherwise experience. Additionally, visiting artists interact directly with Auburn University students and faculty through artist talks, master classes and lecture demonstration throughout each performance season.

“It has been humbling and inspiring to see how far the Gogue Center has progressed in just these past five years,” says Heacox. “From

opening night until now—despite the challenges of a pandemic—our venue has continued to grow and thrive. Through our K–12 series, educational programming, community engagement and philanthropic initiatives, we have had a transformative impact on the cultural and educational landscape of the university and community. Introducing artists and performances of this caliber to schoolchildren and sharing a wealth of cultural knowledge with Auburn students, faculty and our community has been rewarding for us as an organization as well as me personally.”

The upcoming season features nearly 30 performances, including My Fair Lady, Come From Away and the recent Tony Award-winning production of To Kill a Mockingbird; stage and screen legend Patti LuPone; the avant-garde Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and a brand-new Country Series highlighted by Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan.

The 2023–24 Family Series offers Sunday matinees and accessibly priced $10 tickets. An online calendar for the entire 2023– 24 season can be viewed online at

For more information and details on season sub- scriptions and tickets, contact the Gogue Center box office by telephone at 334.844.TIXS (8497) or via email at [email protected]. To learn more about annual sponsorships, contact the Gogue Center advancement team at 334.844.1675 or [email protected].