Joseph J. O’Donnell’s My Virginia: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

   The Commonwealth of Virginia is truly a magical place to live in. There are many sites to visit for recreation, cultural, and leisurely endeavors. One of the crown jewels to visit is The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in nearby Washington, DC. I had recently asked John R. Dow and Amanda K. Ritchie, from the Center, for their input for this article. Both John and Amanda have forwarded the following historical background’s and picture’s of the Center for our publication, so that our readers can get a glimpse of its history and architectural splendor. They have also included the events taking place there during this month of July so that our readers can plan on attending them.

The Center was named after the late president John F. Kennedy, who had strived to make this country a better place for all Americans to live in. From his challenge to place a man on the moon, to the equalities that he sought for all our citizens, he has become the enlightenment for all of us. One of the most outstanding quotes of his was :

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”

Ÿ President John F. Kennedy

It was in this image that the Center honors his name. I do hope that the readers will enjoy the following information that I had been given to pass along.


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

David M. Rubenstein, Chairman

Michael M. Kaiser, President

Christoph Eschenbach, Music Director

41st Season 2011-2012

President Kennedy’s words resonate more strongly than ever for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the 21st century. The Center, which opened on September 8, 1971, continues its efforts to fulfill President Kennedy’s vision by producing and presenting an unmatched variety of theater and musicals, dance and ballet, orchestral, chamber, jazz, popular, world, and folk music, and multi-media performances for all ages. Each year, the institution that bears President Kennedy’s name brings his dream to fruition, touching the lives of millions of people through thousands of performances by the greatest artists from across America and around the world. The Center also nurtures new works and young artists, creating performances, broadcasts, and touring productions while serving the nation as a leader in arts and arts management education.

The Kennedy Center, located on 17 acres overlooking the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., is America’s living memorial to President Kennedy as well as the nation’s busiest arts facility. Touring Kennedy Center productions and its television, radio, and Internet broadcasts reach millions around the world. As part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone program, more than 400 free performances are offered each year featuring international, national, and local artists. These include daily 6 p.m. concerts on the Millennium Stage—which celebrates its 15th anniversary this season—and concerts of seasonal music in December as part of the Kennedy Center Holiday Celebration. The Millennium Stage performances are broadcast live over the Internet and digitally archived on the Kennedy Center website.

The Center has co-produced more than 300 new works of theater over the past 40 years, including Tony Award-winning shows ranging from Annie in 1977 to A Few Good Men, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The King and I, Titanic, and the American premiere of Les Misérables. In 2002, the Center presented the unprecedented, astonishingly successful, summer-long Sondheim Celebration, featuring new Kennedy Center productions of Sweeney Todd, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Merrily We Roll Along, Passion, and A Little Night Music. In Spring 2004, the Center produced three Tennessee Williams classics, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie. Other recent Center productions include Mame; Carnival!; August Wilson’s 20th Century, the playwright’s complete ten-play cycle performed as fully-staged readings; Terrence McNally’s Nights at the Opera, which featured three of the author’s plays performed concurrently in three of the Center’s theaters; and a revival production of Ragtime which transferred to Broadway in October 2009 and received six Tony nominations. Most recently, the Center produced a major revival production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies, which transferred to Broadway in September 2011.

World premiere performances of Kennedy Center works have been offered through a commissioning program for new ballet and dance works. These works have been created by America’s foremost choreographers – Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, and Merce Cunningham – for leading American dance companies including American Ballet Theatre, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. Since 2001, the Kennedy Center has supported and produced The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in ten seasons of performances at the Center and on extended tours. In 2006, the Kennedy Center created Protégés, a ballet festival highlighting rising stars from the world’s greatest ballet training academies. The Center’s biennial Ballet Across America festival explores the breadth and depth of the art form, showcasing ballet companies in a range of styles from across the country.

The National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center’s artistic affiliate since 1987, has commissioned dozens of new works, among them Stephen Albert’s RiverRun, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music; Morton Gould’s StringMusic, also a Pulitzer Prize-winner; William Bolcom’s Sixth Symphony, and, most recently, Peter Lieberson’s Remembering JFK: An American Elegy. The 2011-2012 season continues under the leadership of Christoph Eschenbach, who serves as Music Director of both the Kennedy Center and the National Symphony Orchestra. In addition to its regular season concerts, the National Symphony Orchestra presents a diverse education program, chamber concerts and a pops series led by Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke.

Washington National Opera, founded in 1956, became a Kennedy Center affiliate in July 2011 and is one of America’s largest opera companies. Drawing inspiration from a rich legacy built on the values of artistic excellence, engagement with a broad community, and a thriving future for the art form of opera and its audiences, Washington National Opera performs fall and spring seasons, and offers training, educational, and enrichment programs year-round. The 2011-2012 season includes productions of Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor, Così fan tutte, Nabucco, and Werther, as well as concerts featuring Angela Gheorghiu and Deborah Voigt.

The Kennedy Center has also co-produced new operas such as John Adams’ Nixon in China, and brought such international opera companies as La Scala in its first ever visit to the United States and Deutsche Opera Berlin in a complete “Ring” cycle. Beginning in 2001, the Center presented the Mariinsky Opera in annual performances over ten years and continues to present the Mariinsky Ballet.

The Kennedy Center presents festivals celebrating cities, countries, and regions of the world, including the San Francisco and Texas festivals, France Danse, Festival Australia, the Arts of Japan, the

Kennedy Center African Odyssey, Art of the State: Israel at 50, Island: Arts from Ireland, UK/KC, celebrating the arts of the United Kingdom, the Tchaikovsky Festival, the French Festival, and AmericArtes, celebrating the arts of the Americas. Other festivals include a six-month celebration of the American arts of the 1940s entitled A New America: The 1940s and the Arts; a month-long salute to the traditional, and contemporary arts of China; America’s Country Music, a highly praised three-week festival; a six-month, citywide celebration Shakespeare in Washington; and an exploration of the culture of Japan entitled JAPAN! culture + hyperculture. The past three seasons saw an exploration of the culture of the 22 Arab nations entitled Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World, an international festival featuring artists with disabilities titled the 2010 International VSA Festival, and maximum INDIA, which celebrated the cultural heritage of one of the most populated countries in the world.

Kennedy Center Jazz presents both legendary artists who have helped shape the art form and artists who are emerging on the jazz scene in more than 30 performances a year. The KC Jazz Club, launched in 2002, hosts many of these artists in an intimate setting. Annual Kennedy Center Jazz events include NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas and the Annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, the first comprehensive festival of this kind to be presented by a major cultural institution, created in 1996 by Dr. Billy Taylor. One of the largest non-profit jazz programs in the United States, Kennedy Center Jazz has produced numerous CD recordings.

The Center reaches tens of millions of people every year through its television programs. These include Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Kennedy Center Honors, broadcast annually on the CBS network, and The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, broadcast on PBS.

In recent years the Kennedy Center has dramatically expanded its education programs to reach young people, teachers, and families throughout the nation. A clear sign of the Center’s commitment to the arts for young people and families is the Family Theater, which opened in 2005. This state-of-the-art, totally accessible theater of 320 seats presents performances for young people. Each year, more than 11 million people nationwide take part in innovative and effective education programs initiated by the Center, including producing, presenting, and touring performances and educational events for young people and their families; school- and community-based residencies and other programs that directly impact teachers, students, administrators, and artists through professional development; systemic and school improvement through the arts and arts integrated curricula; partnerships; creating and providing educational materials via print and the Internet; and the development of careers in the arts for young people and aspiring professionals. These programs have become models for communities across the country. Since its establishment in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has reached more than 18 million theatergoers, students, and teachers nationwide. The Center’s Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell, an annual dance residency program for young people, is now in its second decade.

Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser founded the Kennedy Center Institute for Arts Management—renamed the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center following a $22.5 million commitment from the DeVos Foundation in May 2010—which offers practical training to arts managers and board members at all stages of professional development in the United States and around the world. These programs, which stress core competency in strategic planning, artistic planning, marketing, fundraising, and financial management, have reached arts leaders from more than 70 countries. The centerpiece of the Institute is its regional and national Capacity Building programs, which offer technical assistance to arts managers and their boards through seminars, web chats, and on-site consultations. The Institute’s regional programs currently work with organizations in New York City, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Washington, D.C. A multi-city program in partnership with the Ford Foundation was added earlier this year.

The DeVos Institute also housed the Kennedy Center’s Arts in Crisis program, launched in 2009 in response to the emergency facing performing arts organizations. The program, open to non-profit 501(c)(3) performing arts organizations, provided free and confidential planning assistance in areas pertinent to maintaining a vital performing arts organization during a troubled economy. Throughout the 2009-2010 season, Mr. Kaiser led arts community conversations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

As part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone outreach program, the Center and the National Symphony Orchestra stage more than 400 free performances of music, dance, and theater by artists from throughout the world each year on the Center’s main stages, and every evening at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. Through its MyTix program, the Center also offers reduced and complimentary tickets to young people and active members of the military, and works with members of the underserved community through its partnerships with community organizations. The Center also offers reduced priced tickets through a Specially Priced Tickets program for students, seniors, persons with disabilities, and others with fixed low incomes.

The Center also has been at the forefront of making the performing arts accessible to persons with disabilities, highlighted by its affiliation with VSA, the International Organization on Arts and Disability, with which it shares programs and resources. The Center has renovated three of its main theaters, the Concert Hall, Opera House, and Eisenhower Theater, and these venues, along with the new Family Theater, are now national models for public accommodation.

Kennedy Center Home Page:

Kennedy Center Facebook Page:

Information and tickets: (202) 467-4600; (800) 444-1324

[Hearing Impaired TTY line: (202) 416-8524]


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

2700 F Street, NW

Washington DC 20566

October 2011

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