EDUCATION

The Kennedy Edge

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 multimedia 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 more than 40 million people around the world each year. 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—now in its 16th year—which are streamed live over the Internet and digitally archived on Kennedy-Center.org.

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 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 the spring of 2004, the Center produced three Tennessee Williams classics, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie. Other Center productions include Mame; Carnival!; August Wilson’s 20th Century, the playwright’s complete 10-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; a revival production of Ragtime which transferred to Broadway in October 2009 and received six Tony® nominations; and a revival production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies, which transferred to Broadway in 2011 and received eight Tony® nominations, winning one for Best Costume Design of a Musical.

World premiere performances have been offered through a Kennedy Center 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 11 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 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 2012-2013 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.