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Ford Center Director Ensures Community Entertainment Needs Are Met

By Kate McDonald and Alli Pruitt
Hottytoddy.com interns
kfmcdona@go.olemiss.edu; akpruitt@go.olemiss.edu

The Gertrude Castellow Ford Center for the Performing Arts doesn’t just stay within its foundation, it collaborates between the community and the campus.

Theater enthusiast Kate Meacham spends most of her days in the office making sure her role as the marketing director is fulfilled.

The entrance to the Ford Center. Photo by Allison Pruitt.

“I look at social media and see if there is anything that needs to be posted in terms of getting the word out about the shows and reaching as many people as I can,” Meacham said.

One of her roles is to strengthen community relationships and offer the Ford Center as a resource to on-campus organizations. Meacham said although the relationship between the Ole Miss Theatre Department and the Ford Center is relaxed, part of that has to do with the structure of the building itself. 

“They don’t do many of their performances here partly because of the way the Ford Center was set up initially when they built the building. The administration decided that both music and theatre would get opportunities to use the building but that it would not be a dedicated space for either group,” Meacham said.

The Ole Miss Opera and Theater Department alternate years they perform at the Ford Center and this year the Theater Department showcased “Little Women.”

“It was a great musical. I was honestly very impressed by the cast. The Ford Center had a ton of space and the stage was very visible from wherever you were sitting. I got really into it and really recommend other students to go to the theatrical performances on campus,” said attendee Keely Cox.

In addition to educating and entertaining the campus community, The Ford Center works hard to stay involved in the Lafayette community by hosting storytimes on the Square and donating to the Oxford Food Bank.

One of the many gingerbread houses community members have built and displayed at the Ford Center. Photo via Facebook.

An event that is happening now is the Gingerbread Festival. From now until Dec. 15, gingerbread and candy displays built by members of the community will be on display.

“The first year we called out to people in the community who we thought might be interested and only had four houses, now we average about 25 houses a year,” Meacham said.

The event, which is free, has grown exponentially in the past 10 years and has been a big part of the holiday season in Oxford.

Meacham also ensures the Ford Center’s schedule includes events for children in the community. “Pete the Cat,” a famous children’s book performed live at the Ford Center this year. 

“The kids really love it,” Meacham said.

She said that while the experience at the Ford Center isn’t unique to Oxford, there is something special about being a part of a live show.

“The energy from the audience and their reaction impacts the performer and the performer impacts the audience,” Meacham said.

While keeping a theater running and making sure shows are booked on time, Meacham said it does not stress her out. She said that nothing is truly stressful because everything she does has a reward. For her, that reward is facilitating an irreplaceable experience the city of Oxford should experience at least once. 

“It is something that cannot be repeated by the nature of the fact that when it happens live it only happens once in that exact way. Stopping your life for a moment to really be in something,” Meacham said.

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