- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

The Kennedy Center celebrates its 30th birthday tomorrow with an all-day open house gala.
"In every state of the union, we have touring programs and guest artists," says Derek Gordon, vice president for education, who has spent nearly a decade with the performing arts center at F Street and New Hampshire NW. "We've made an impact on the nation."
The 17th annual Open House Arts Festival is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. tomorrow throughout the venue's numerous performance spaces. The more than 30 scheduled performances are geared to appeal to both seasoned theater- and concert-goers and the younger set.
The free afternoon will kick off at noon with the Army Field Band's Ceremonial Brass Quintet along with a 500-voice choir pooling talented singers from several local groups, including the First Baptist Church Gospel Choir. Fabled fireworks from the Grucci family will complement the sonic fanfare.
Acts include the Philip Hamilton Group at 12:15 p.m. on Millennium Stage North. The music of Mr. Hamilton, a jazz vocalist and composer, displays African and Caribbean influences. The National Symphony Orchestra, at 12:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall, offers samplings of its Beethoven Festival. A Washington Opera season preview is set for 1:15 p.m. on Millennium Stage South, and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performs at 4 p.m. in the Eisenhower Theater.
Other acts include the Alison Brown Quartet, Ailey II dance company, the American Chamber Players, Billy Taylor Trio, the Coulibably Brothers, the Brewery Troupe's Crowtations, Eric Mintel Quartet, Venezuelan guitarist Irene Farrera and Fred Garbo's Inflatable Theater Company. Still others are Four Nations Ensemble, Inca Son, jazz guitarist Ken Navarro, Tarika and the Whitman String Quartet.
The NSO's popular musical-instrument "petting zoo" for youngsters also is scheduled.
Mr. Gordon calls the Kennedy Center "still a relatively young institution."
"We've continually taken risks and tried new endeavors," he says and points to the now-defunct American National Theater as one example. The theater brought director Peter Sellars to the District to create productions such as the mid-1980s shows "Ajax" and "The Count of Monte Cristo," which starred Richard Thomas and Patti LuPone.
He also points to the annual Kennedy Center Honors program, which pays tribute to five entertainers for their lifetime contributions to the arts, as another example of the center's national scope. The yearly broadcast of the fall ceremonies, he says, is a perpetual ratings grabber.
The center has reached out to young patrons in order to foster the next generation's love of the arts. Mr. Gordon mentions initiatives led by choreographer Debbie Allen as one of many projects that engage children in the arts. The center also premiered the National Children's Arts Festival in 1977.
Perhaps the center's most pressing concern is keeping its performances accessible to the masses. Toward that end, it presents its Millennium Stage series, an hourlong, free performance program at 6 p.m. daily with no tickets needed. "It's all on the Internet," Mr. Gordon says. "Everybody anywhere in the world can see it."
Plans for the Kennedy Center include expanding the campus and bringing about a museum for the performing arts. New Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser's goal also is to become more involved in producing, not just presenting shows, such as the locally grown Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration beginning in May 2002. The open house will include a short musical revenue of Stephen Sondheim's work.
"This will be the first time in a long time we produced the entire piece at the Kennedy Center," Mr. Gordon says.
"We can never allow ourselves to become stagnant," he adds.
For a detailed list of performances, visit www.kennedy-center.org.


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