Kennedy Center to reopen in fall 2021, announces lineup for 50th anniversary season

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the nation’s performing arts center as designated by Congress, has announced plans for its 50th anniversary season. 

The season is slated to begin in September 2021 with a grand reopening of its stages and campus. The anniversary season will feature four artist residencies; numerous new works; Washington National Opera (WNO)-led series of operatic works inspired by D.C.’s many monuments and iconic buildings, Written in Stone; seven commissioned works for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO); the premieres of eight social justice works from the Center’s Cartography Project; and new play commissions under the auspices of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

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To open the 50th Anniversary season in September, the Kennedy Center will host two consecutive weekends of performances and free activities on the REACH campus. 

"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 F. Rutter. "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." 

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Upcoming events include:

National Symphony Orchestra Concert of Remembrance, Sep. 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.

World Premiere of Ragamala Dance Company’s Fires of Varanasi, September 11–12, 2021

In a Kennedy Center co-commission, award-winning choreographers Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy and their Ragamala Dance Company premiere Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim as a site-specific dance experience on the REACH grounds.

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.

Written in Stone, March 5–25, 2022

WNO has commissioned four teams of world-renowned artists, musicians, composers, and librettists to create a series of works to be performed together as a single evening. Inspired by Washington D.C.’s iconic monuments and the ideals embodied by President Kennedy, Written in Stone’s four intimate stories will celebrate the diversity and acknowledge the struggles of today’s America.

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Spring and summer 2021 activity, as well as the full 2021–2022 seasons for theater, dance, ballet, jazz, young audiences, Fortas Chamber Music, NSO, and WNO, will be announced and go on sale in the coming weeks and months. As the Kennedy Center moves towards a full re-opening, it continues to prioritize the health and safety of artists, staff, and patrons.