The Kennedy Center ranks as one of the nation’s premier institutions for the performing arts. Named for the slain U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, it’s located on the banks of the Potomac River in an imposing white structure. Its two major corridors on the ground floor are named the Hall of Nations and the Hall of States. In the Grand Foyer, there’s a striking bronze bust of President Kennedy. Gifts from nations around the world are on display throughout the building, in the main venues, as well as in special lounges for patrons.
The three major venues in the Kennedy Center are (1) the Opera House, (2) the Concert Hall, and (3) the Eisenhower Theater (named in honor of former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower). The Washington National Opera mounts its productions each year in the Opera House, while the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) performs in the Concert Hall. Various theatrical productions, including both dramas and comedies, are staged in the Eisenhower Theater. Other smaller venues in the building include the Terrace Theater, the Millennium Stage (in the Grand Foyer) , the Atrium, and a (now under construction) Family Theater (in the spot where the American Film Theater used to be housed).
Each year, in September, the Kennedy Center holds an open house for the public at large. A day long event, the open house consists of free performances by many different groups, as well as other activities (such as musical instrument petting zoos for kiddies). The open house serves also to provide visitors with a taste of what the new season’s calendar holds for audiences at the Center.
In 2003, for example, in recognition of Congress having declared the year the Year of the Blues , many different musical groups specializing in blues music were scheduled to appear throughout the then upcoming season at the Center. At the open house, a number of blues groups performed, whetting the appetite of visitors for more of that type of music.
Often the Center’s programming includes major festivals and other special attractions. In 2004, for example, a festival celebrating Tennessee Williams incorporated major productions of three of his most important works– A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie– as well as performances of some of his smaller works.
In the fall of 2005, the Center will be holding a spectacular Festival of China . It will be the largest tribute to China’s cultural heritage ever mounted in the United States. Some of the groups from China will be participating in the open house, previewing their showmanship for prospective audience members. There will be programming featuring dancers, singers, musicians, gymnasts, and fireworks technicians.
Since the Center will also be shining a spotlight on country music this year, programming will include a number of performances by singers and/or groups offering that kind of music.
The open house affords visitors an opportunity not only to see the physical premises of the Center, but also to enjoy enticing previews of what the season’s programming holds in store. Consequently, it’s become a very popular event over the years. Each year, the number of people attending has increased.
Anyone seeking more information about activities scheduled for this year’s open house should visit the web site of the Center–www.kennedy-center.org.