Friday, December 10, 2010

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts is one of the most majestic and grandest performing arts centers in the nation. Opened in 1971, it honors the nation's 35th president (1961-1963). The center is among the busiest in the nation hosting over 2,000 events a year in its seven venues, foyer, galleries and terraces attracting an audience of over two million a year.

One of the most inspiring aspects is stepping into the center and walking along the Hall of States with flags for all 50 states or Hall of Nations with flags for nations with which the United States has diplomatic ties. These 270-foot-long corridors which reaches 63 feet in height is breathtaking. Both lead to the stunning Grand Foyer featuring chandeliers, mirrored walls, red carpet and windows facing the Potomac. The foyer serves as the lobby for the center's three main venues: the Eisenhower Theater (1,100 seats), Opera House (2,300 seats) and Concert Hall (2,442 seats). Also on the main level is the Family Theater (324 seats).

The Terrace level includes the more intimate Terrace Theater (513 seats), Theater Lab (399 seats) and Terrace Gallery, home to the KC Jazz Club. This upper level includes center's two restaurants: KC Cafe and Roof Terrace Restaurant. Don't forget to take in River Terrace on the main level or West Roof Terrace which offers stunning view of the Potomac.

My first visit to the center was in 2003 to see a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Tell Me On A Sunday" starring Alice Ripley ("Next to Normal") at the Eisenhower Theater.  During the visit I joined in one of the guided tours and took in a Theatre Lab performance of "Shear Madness", a madcap comedy whodunit, that has played the center for 20 years and over 10,000 performances making is the second longest running play in American Theater (#1 is the Boston "Shear Madness"). A return visit in 2008 included attending performances of the "Legally Blonde" tour at the Opera House and a center presentation of "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" at the Eisenhower.

The venue is location for the annual Kennedy Center Honors which celebrates five individuals who have spent their lives enriching the nation and world through the arts. The telecast continues to be one the most entertaining and classiest events on network television. The 2010 honorees were celebrated in a ceremony at the center just last week. These most recent honorees are Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Bill T. Jones, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.

Grand Foyer decked for the holidays
Visit for more information. Free guided tours given by Friends of Kennedy Center Tour Guides Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-1pm. Tours depart every 10 minutes from the Tour Desk on level A near the main gift shop. Of added interest is a tour of the displays and artwork, many of which have been gifts to the United States from other nations.

If using the Metro subway, there closest stop is at Foggy Bottom is a good four blocks away. However the center does offer a courtesy shuttle that departs every 15 minutes.  Click here for more info about directions.


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