Washington, D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened the REACH September 7, an expansion that included three new sunlit pavilions, 130,000-square-feet of greenspace and public gardens, and 72,000-square-feet of interior space, all designed, by architect Steven Holl, as a home for non-traditional programming, with an emphasis on active participation and access.
“The REACH really is open to everyone. It is about inviting people to explore different facets of the arts,” says Robert Van Leer, senior vice president of artistic planning at the Kennedy Center. “If they already love the arts, maybe it is about finding different parts of the arts. Or if someone thinks ‘well, that’s not for me’ or ‘that place isn’t for me,’ that it can be for them. It is such a broad spectrum of possibilities, creatively and experientially. There is something for everybody.”
Until September 22, more than 1,000 artists and more than 500 free events will participate in the REACH Opening Festival. Here are some upcoming highlights:
September 9: Spotlight on Theater
The full day of activities will include a host of inclusive, interactive, and innovative storytelling.
Composer-violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain joins forces with spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph for The Just and the Blind, a multimedia treatment of racial profiling and the prison-industrial complex, which begins at 8 p.m.
At 8:15 p.m., playwright Dave Harris will be on hand for a reading of Everybody Black, his award-winning 2019 play satirizing approaches to black history.
And throughout the day, New York’s celebrated Broadway Collective will offer acting, singing, and dancing master classes for young musical theater lovers.
September 11: Spotlight on Classical and Broadway
Oscar, Tony and Grammy winner Alan Menken will lead a master class at 11 AM. At 8 PM, he will be part of a special performance entitled The Music of Alan Menken, in which Broadway stars Norm Lewis, Megan Hilty, Adam Jacobs, and Patina Miller sing his classic songs accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.
September 14: Hip Hop Block Party
The brainchild of rapper-producer Q-Tip, the all-day party will include performances by iconic rap trio De La Soul; New York rapper Pharoahe Monch; West Coast emcee Ill Camille; and D.C.’s own Grammy-nominated rapper Kokayi, presenting an eclectic set with special guests Nick Hakim, Kamau, and Substantial.
September 15: Family Day
At noon, author and illustrator Mo Willems will host MO-a-PALOOZA LIVE!, a concert featuring songs from his stage adaptations, including the forthcoming Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical).
Squonk Opera, an interdisciplinary Pittsburgh ensemble, will present Hand to Hand, in which live music meets original storytelling and a pair of gargantuan puppet hands. The event begins at 1:30 PM.
In an interactive performance, New York- and Los Angeles-based arts educators Story Pirates adapt kid-created stories into a sketch comedy revue, and guests will be invited to create Infinite Monsters in an interactive installation program devised by Australia’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre. This starts at 3:30 PM.
At 6 PM, Grammy-winning entertainer Dan Zanes will perform his greatest hits with support from Haitian American jazz vocalists Claudia Zanes and Pauline Jean and Mexican percussionist Yuriana Sobrino.
“Sitting on the lawn watching a movie or listening to an outdoor concert are just great family activities and we’ve already had a lot of people sprawling out and sitting on the plaza to watch a performance under the stars,” Van Leer says. “There’s all kinds of ways families can engage, even if it is just to walk around or roll down the hill.”
September 20: Spotlight on Comedy
Second City will present celebrity alumni Rachel Dratch and Jon Glaser in sketches, workshops, and improv jams throughout the entire evening, beginning at 4 PM.
Patton Oswalt will perform at 6 PM, 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander will perform at 8:30 PM, and Last Comic Standing finalist Rachel Feinstein and other national headliners will take part in Standup Showcases all night long.
September 21: National Dance Day
In honor of the 10th annual National Dance Day, three-time Emmy winner Debbie Allen will guide visitors through the day’s mainstage activities and present students from her own dance academy.
At 1:30 PM, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck will discuss her documentary, Ballet Now, and perform her “pointe-to-pop” moves from Charlotte OC’s "Medicine Man" music video.
Additionally, festival-goers of all ages will have the chance to learn the official 2019 National Dance Day routine, take part in a locally inspired line dance, and attend public dance classes in styles ranging from Indian classical and Chinese ribbon to tap, salsa, and dancehall fusion.