Kennedy Center Announces 50th Anniversary Celebration

By Francisco Salazar

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced plans for its 50th Anniversary season.

The anniversary will begin in September 2021 with a grand reopening of its stages and campus and will culminate in September 2022 with an interpretation of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” which opened the center in 1971. The Mass will be staged by Francesca Zambello and will star Will Liverman.

There will also be a concert curated by Michael Tilson Thomas and the center will unveil two immersive, interactive exhibits, and a new life-sized statue of John F. Kennedy on the grounds of the REACH.

There will also be a new cultural leadership initiative (Kennedy Center Next 50), 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,” and seven commissioned works for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), including a new symphony by Philip Glass and works by Mason Bates, Missy Mazzoli, Angélica Negrón, Joan Tower, James Lee III, and Peter Boyer.

The season will also include 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.

In a statement Deborah F. Ritter, President of the Kennedy Center said, “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. 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. ”

The entire symphony and opera 2021-22 seasons will be announced in the coming weeks and the company will continue to abide by safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.