- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nearly a century ago Ireland formally unshackled itself from the United Kingdom after centuries of warfare with British rulers across the Irish Sea. And on May 29, 1917, the scion of one of the Emerald Isle’s most powerful families in America was born — and would become the 35th president of the United States.

Beginning Tuesday through June 5, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host a three-week-long celebration of all things Irish with “Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture.”

In addition to highlighting Irish music, dance and theater, the festival serves as part of a global commemoration of the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising, the armed rebellion that led to Ireland’s independence from Great Britain.

“I think we have a wonderful array of artist representing various aspects of the arts and culture,” said Alicia B. Adams, the Kennedy Center’s vice president of international programming and dance, and the curator of the festival.

“We’ll also be celebrating the 100 years [since] JFK’s birth. And we will launch that on May 29, which is his actual birthday,” Ms. Adams said of Kennedy, who was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ireland.

To kick off the proceedings, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will offer remarks at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Tuesday evening.

Two-time Olivier Award-winning actress Fiona Shaw is serving as the festival’s artist in residence. On May 31, Miss Shaw will host an evening of readings of poems by W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson. Violinist Liz Knowles, who specializes in Celtic music, will accompany the proceedings.

Ms. Adams says the festival also will celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616. The Irish, she said, have had a longstanding relationship with the Bard, even though the poverty-stricken folk typically eschewed stories about royalty.

“Shakespeare was always writing about the nobility while the Irish were starving,” she said. “But they have [embraced] Shakespeare.”

“Ireland 100” will feature performances from some of Ireland’s most renowned contemporary musicians, dancers and theater companies, as well as literature readings, documentary screenings and other events.

For tickets and more information, visit online at Kennedy-center.org/festivals/ireland.

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