Kennedy Center shakes off staid image with new modern festival

Source:AFP Published: 2017/3/9 19:23:41

US composer Philip Glass poses for photographers at a press conference on January 13 in Linz,Austria. Photo:CFP



The Kennedy Center, the giant arts complex in Washington, on Wednesday announced a new bid to shake off its staid reputation with a festival of risque and genre-blurring performances.

Opening next year, the Direct Current festival will bring 80-year-old Philip Glass, often considered the leading living US composer, to the national arts center for the first time.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said that Direct Current, which she intends to make an annual event, was part of a mission to present works that are "fresh and provocative."

Rutter, who has led the Kennedy Center since 2014, said the national institution needed to be asking "where are we collectively in contemporary culture."

There should be no "art that doesn't have a home here. We are not a museum," she told reporters.

The 10-day program in March 2018 will open with the drag cabaret artist Taylor Mac recreating A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, presented last year to acclaim in a 24-hour marathon at a New York theater.

Taylor Mac, whose project aims to sum up music since 1776, will condense the project for the Kennedy Center and gear the performance to Washington, whose contributions to musical history include the funk offshoot of go-go and hardcore punk.

Direct Current will also feature the National Symphony Orchestra performing The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the oratorio by John Adams that depicts the last days of Jesus from the view of his disciple Mary Magdalene.

The Kennedy Center - traditionally separated in sections that include opera, music and dance - will use the festival to present more works that merge categories including Koyaanisqatsi, in which Glass set music to an experimental film on natural landscapes.

Direct Current will complement KC Jukebox, a program of contemporary music that will enter its third season in 2017-18 with performers including Mouse on Mars, the playful and innovative German electronic duo.

KC Jukebox will also see the Kennedy Center atrium transformed with Bedouin tents as visitors soak in music by composer-in-residence Mason Bates and other artists with a theme of California mysticism.

The announcements of the more risque works come as new US President Donald Trump's administration vows to slash cultural funding as part of cuts to government spending other than the military.

Opened in 1971 as a "living memorial" to slain president John F. Kennedy, the imposing building on the Potomac River is maintained by the federal government but the center otherwise does not rely on taxpayer money.

The Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater was originally built as a gift from Japan and will reopen in October after $20 million in renovations.

The nearly 500-seat theater will return with performances by Japanese artists as well as Q-Tip, the rapper from A Tribe Called Quest who a year ago was made the Kennedy Center's first artistic director for hip-hop culture.

The center, which later this year will celebrate the centennial of the birth of Kennedy, will also launch a series for the 100th birth anniversary of Leonard Bernstein.


Newspaper headline: Shaking things up


Posted in: MUSIC,THEATER

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