The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is inviting theater enthusiasts to witness readings of new plays and musicals this weekend at no cost. The performances that are joining in on Arts Across America, a group that brings art to people across the nation, will be a showcase for actors and playwrights nationwide to share up-and-coming entertainment with audiences.
The event is one of many held at the Kennedy Center as part of Arts Across America. Its seventh year lineup boasts singers such as folk artist Arlo Guthrie and Mos Def, joining in to help celebrate diversity and innovation in the arts. Many of the events are free, making them a great activity for college students.
“I think especially for students ... to be able to go to the National Performing Arts Center - which serves not just the community but the entire U.S. - and [with] all the groups that the Kennedy Center brings in ... accessible at their fingertips, it is a great opportunity for students in the area,” Senior Press Representative for the Kennedy Center Erin Dowdy said.
This weekend’s event, entitled Page-to-Stage, is a weekend-long event, beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and will continue throughout the afternoon and evening, ending nightly at 11 p.m. Shuttle service from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop will be offered all three days of the event. The center, which often hosts free events, is located downtown at 2700 F St. The shows give area residents the opportunity to preview the theater season before the curtains go up.
Christina Byler, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she thinks seeing the rehearsals and other behind-the-scenes aspects of the play helps her understand the show’s complexity.
“All you see in the final performance is what the characters have come up with and worked on, but when you see the rehearsal you see the process - and that’s the most important part.”
Performances will be an array of readings, workshops and rehearsals, from nearly 40 different theater companies in the area. Included in the list of participants are groups from local universities such as Catholic, Georgetown and George Mason universities. One of the workshops - hosted by David Hunsaker and in partnership with National Museum of the American Indian - will chronicle the different sides of the struggles in the 1800s between the Russians and the Tlingit, in those languages as well as in English. Readings include unique stories such as “The Near East” by Alex Lewin, the adventures of an American archeologist and Arab activist who are searching for an ancient scripture, only to be hindered by characters that are against their mission.
Those who enjoyed “Sweeney Todd” may find the open rehearsal of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” more up their alley. The musical is based on the film of the same name - known as one of the original horror films - about a carnival hypnotist. Audiences looking less for a scare and more for family fare can check out Sunday’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” the childhood favorite about a boy who drew adventures turned into a musical.
There will be more than 10 performances for those who choose to partake in the event to check out - all of which are expected to hit D.C. stages this season, and feature nearly every genre.
“I think it’s fabulous for students because Washington, D.C. has some of the best international culture in the world, and it’s good for students to be exposed to that,” Gabby Ryan, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, said.
If you’re taking advantage of the day off this Labor Day weekend to travel, have no fear: next week is the Kennedy Center’s 24th Annual Open House Arts Festival, a birthday party to celebrate the center’s 37th year.