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Kennedy Center Set to Reopen in September to Mark 50th Anniversary

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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is preparing to reopen its doors to the public this September with a series of events to celebrate its 50th anniversary, after remaining closed for months due to the pandemic.

“I can think of no better way to reemerge from the darkness of these last many months than to reopen with a vibrant, season-long celebration of the Center’s rich history and the bright future of the arts in our nation,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter in a statement.

“At the heart of our planning and preparation, even as we continue to navigate health and financial challenges, is the desire to present a season and a fresh patron experience that taps into our 50 years of history as the National Cultural Center. We will reawaken those stories and ensure that all are invited to participate and tell us their own. But we also want to continue shining a light on the future of the performing arts with works and initiatives that speak to the promise of America’s greatest asset—the human spirit and diversity of our artists,” Rutter continued.

As part of its half-centennial celebration, the center will reopen all its stages and campus for a series of events that will last for a year.

In addition to an opening concert curated and hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas, there will be two new immersive, interactive exhibits, and a new life-sized statue of former President John F. Kennedy will be unveiled on the grounds of the REACH.

Two consecutive weekends of performances and free activities will also be held on the REACH campus.

Some of the events scheduled under the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary season include:

National Symphony Orchestra Concert of Remembrance (September 10):

To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, reflect on the ongoing loss from Covid-19, and to honor the healthcare professionals who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, a commemorative program featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by NSO music director Gianandrea Noseda will take place in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

Two 50th Anniversary Weekends in September (September 11–12, 18–19):

On the weekends of, September 11-12 and 18-19, the Center invites the community to participate in a range of free activities for the public including the world premiere of Ragamala Dance Company’s Fires of Varanasi, yoga, meditation on the REACH lawn in the morning, dance sanctuaries throughout the campus, and more.

On Sunday, September 12, select local community and school groups will work with current Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems to create a large-scale public art “playscape” on the REACH Plaza that will remain installed for a significant portion of the 50th Anniversary season. Conceived by Willems as a culminating event for his residency, We Are All Connected is inspired by one of his abstract pieces of art, consisting of interconnected colored dots and lines, showing how we are all connected in unexpected ways. The collaborative installation will be paired with live music, book readings, activities, and more—a festival of creation designed to bring people together.

On September 18, in addition to morning yoga and meditation, the Center will celebrate National Dance Day with lively, participatory activations for the public throughout the REACH and the Kennedy Center campus. Additional details about programming and access will be made available in the coming months.

50th Anniversary Celebration Concert (September 14, 2021):

The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary will officially kick off on September 14 with a 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert, a celebration and re-launch of live, in-person performing arts in America. Echoing “An American Pageant for the Arts,” the 1962 event conducted by Leonard Bernstein, this special evening will be curated and hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas and will bring together the NSO with preeminent artists of our time to recognize the great performance traditions that have enriched our varied cultural heritage and the bright future that lies ahead.

50 Years of Broadway at the Kennedy Center:

Over the past half-century, the Kennedy Center has launched and presented numerous iconic new musicals—such as Pippin, Annie, and Les Misérables—plus thrilling revivals from its stages to Broadway. In a star-studded concert featuring Broadway’s best talent and backed by an onstage orchestra, in the spring of 2022, 50 Years of Broadway at the Kennedy Center will celebrate many of the great musical theater moments from throughout the Center’s history.

Leonard Bernstein’s MASS at 50 (September 15–17, 2022):

As the concluding event of the Center’s 50th Anniversary season, Leonard Bernstein’s MASS will return to the Center in September 2022. Directed by Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director of WNO, this monumental work will be re-staged in the Concert Hall and feature the NSO along with 2020 Marian Anderson Award winner Will Liverman as the Celebrant.

Introducing The Kennedy Center Next 50: Lighting the Way Forward Through Art and Action:

As the Kennedy Center looks forward to the next half-century and beyond, it celebrates the cultural leadership of the past, present, and future with the belief that artists shape and influence our country and world. The Kennedy Center Next 50 identifies 50 leaders and organizations that, through sustained excellence of artistic, educational, athletic, or multi-disciplinary work, uplift society and move us toward a more inspired, inclusive, and compassionate world.

To view the full schedule and read more on the center’s anniversary season, you can click here.

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