Editors' pick

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts photo
Carol Pratt - Kennedy Center
Through 9/7

Page-to-Stage Festival

More than 50 theaters, universities and playwriting collectives will stage readings and workshop new works.
9/12

Susan Graham

Joined composer/pianist Jake Heggie, the mezzo-soprano performs a program that includes the premiere of one of Heggie's works, "Iconic Legacies: First Ladies at the Smithsonian." Presented by Vocal Arts DC. At the Terrace Theater.
9/14
9/18 - 9/19

Seuls

A man struggles with his sense of self after escaping a civil war in his home country. At the Eisenhower Theater.
9/20

National Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra opens its season with Broadway star Sutton Foster and percussionist Martin Grubinger. At the Concert Hall.
9/19 - 9/20

Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Co.

Performance includes the world premiere of "We choose to go to the moon," a collaboration with NASA examining humanity's relationship to space. At the Terrace Theater.
9/25 - 9/26

National Symphony Orchestra Pops

The a cappella sextet, Rajaton, joins the orchestra in music by the Beatles. At the Concert Hall.
9/25 - 9/26

World Stages: Wagner, Max! Wagner!

The German composer is celebrated in Stew and Heidi Rodewald's new song cycle that explores connections between classical music and blues, rock and cabaret. At the Terrace Theater.
9/28

Roe

Lisa Loomers's play about the 1973 case is read as part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival. At the Theater Lab.
9/28

Violinist Itzhak Perlman and Pianist Emanuel Ax

The musicians perform violin sonatas by Mozart, Faure and Strauss. At the Concert Hall.
10/2

Jimmy Cobb Trio

At the Terrace Gallery.
10/2

Jimmy Cobb Trio

At the Terrace Gallery.
10/3

Kurt Rosenwinkel

At the Terrace Gallery.
9/19 - 10/3

Carmen

Washington National Opera's mounting sets Bizet's work in Latin America. At the Opera House.
10/7

Vijay Iyer and the Brentano String Quartet

The jazz pianist and the quartet open the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series with songs by Iyer and Mendelssohn. At the Terrace Theater.
10/9

Jason Moran and Jeremy Denk

At the Terrace Theater.
10/10
10/11

Pianist Jeremy Denk

The Avery Fisher Prize winner performs works by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and others. At the Terrace Theater.
10/11

Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra highlights its Chinese origins by incorporating Chinese instruments with a western symphony to create original works. At the Concert Hall.
10/2 - 10/11

Marikos Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure

The story of a girl who finds her groove while listening to her mom's records is told using dance and shadow puppets. Best for age 5 and older. At the Family Theater.
10/12

Good Kids

Naomi Iizuka's play follows a teen whose group rape is spread throughout her school on social media. Part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival. At the Theater Lab.
10/14

William Neil

The National Symphony Orchestra principal organist performs works by Handel, Gabrieli, J.S. Bach and others with accompaniment by NSO brass and percussionists. At the Concert Hall.
10/15

Jamie Barton

The mezzo-soprano classical works as well as American hymns and spirituals with pianist Bradley Moore. Presented by Vocal Arts DC. At the Terrace Theater.
10/16

Joanne Brackeen

At the Terrace Gallery.
10/16

Joanne Brackeen

At the Terrace Gallery.
10/16

Terri White

The singer performs a cabaret as part of the series curated by Barbara Cook. At the Terrace Theater.
10/17

Derrick Hodge

At the Terrace Gallery.
10/17

Latin Heat: Kids!

A repertoire from Washington Ballet's Latin Heat installation geared towards younger audiences. At the Eisenhower Theater.
10/17

National Symphony Orchestra Teddy Bear Concert: Fiddlin Around

Violinist Glenn Donnellan and bassist Rick Barber show off their instruments' versatility. At the Family Theater.
10/17

Pianist Herbert Schuch

The Romanian pianist makes his D.C. debut with selections inspired by bells. At the Terrace Theater.
10/18

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players

Musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra perform works by Beethoven, and Brahms. At the Terrace Theater.
10/14 - 10/18

The Washington Ballet: Latin Heat

The new installation celebrates Latin culture and features premieres by three contemporary choreographers; Mauro de Candia, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Edwaard Liang. At the Eisenhower Theater.
10/23 - 10/24

National Symphony Orchestra Pops: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

The program of Americana includes an appearance by the comedian/musician and his band. At the Concert Hall.
10/23 - 10/24

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

Paterson Joseph's solo show focuses on the true story of a man born into slavery who went on to do great things in British society. At the Terrace Theater.
10/25

National Symphony Orchestra Family Concert: A Sleepy Hollow-een

Orchestra members dress up for a re-imaging of Washington Irving's story. At the Concert Hall.
10/22 - 10/25

Antigone

Sophocles tragedy is modernized in this version starring Juliette Binoche. At the Eisenhower Theater.
10/6 - 10/25

Beautiful -- The Carole King Musical

The story of the singer-songwriter's rise to fame is told. At the Opera House.
10/26

Master Class: Ronald K. Brown/Evidence

An intermediate to advanced level workshop for adults led by company members from Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. At the Hall of States.
10/26

Salome Chamber Orchestra

Violist David Aaron Carpenter takes the stage with the group in a program of musical season-themed songs. Indian vocalist Ila Paliwal and her ensemble will also perform. Part of the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series. At the Terrace Theater.
10/28

Pianist Evgeny Kissin

The two-time Grammy winner's program includes selections from Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms as well as Albeniz and Larregla. At the Concert Hall.
10/29

Steven Isserlis, cello & Robert Levin, fortepiano

The musicians perform works by Beethoven on historically accurate instruments as part of the Washington Performing Arts Virtuoso Series. At the Terrace Theater.
10/30

Randy Graff

The Tony-winning singer performs as part of a cabaret series curated by Barbara Cook. At the Terrace Theater.
10/28 - 10/30

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence with Jason Moran and The Bandwagon

Jazz musician Jason Moran and choreographer Ronald K. Brown collaborate for a night of jazz and dance. At the Eisenhower Theater.
10/29 - 10/31

National Symphony Orchestra

Pianist Lang Lang performs Grieg's Piano Concerto with the orchestra in a program that also includes works by Wagner and Dvorak. At the Concert Hall.
10/30 - 11/1

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet: Balanchine, Bejart and the Bard

The company's mixed-repertory performance includes ballets by Balanchine and Bejart to mark the 450th year of Shakespeare's death. At the Opera House.
11/6

Marquis Hill Blacktet

At the Terrace Gallery.
11/6

Michele Lee

The singer makes her Kennedy Center debut as part of a cabaret series curated by Barbara Cook. At the Terrace Theater.
11/7

Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9

At the Terrace Theater.
11/5 - 11/7

National Symphony Orchestra

Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, two choruses and the orchestra perform Mahler's Symphony No. 3 in D minor. At the Concert Hall.
11/8

Amit Peled

The cellist pays tribute to the 100th anniversary of Pablo Casals's 1915 tour by performing works by Handle, Bach, Beethoven and a new work by Lera Auerbach on Casal's cello. At the Terrace Theater.
10/30 - 11/8

Darius & Twig

An athlete and a writer rise above their disadvantaged childhood in this world premiere. Best for age 13 and older. At the Family Theater.
11/10

Pianist James Tocco

The program features Liszt's "Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses.". At the Terrace Theater.
11/11

The Shanghai Quartet

Pianist Joseph Kalichstein and violinist Jaime Laredo join the quartet for a program that includes music by Beethoven, Ravel and Chausson. Part of the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts. At the Terrace Theater.
11/13

National Symphony Orchestra

The Coffee Concert features violinist James Ehnes making his orchestra debut in a program that includes works by Prokofiev, Casella and Rachmaninoff. At the Concert Hall.
11/14

Leif Ove Andsnes

As part of the Washington Performing Arts Piano Masters Series, the Norwegian pianist's program includes 13 works with the highlight being Beethoven's Sonata No. 18, "The Hunt.". At the Terrace Theater.
11/12 - 11/14

National Symphony Orchestra

Violinist James Ehnes makes his orchestra debut in a program that includes works by Prokofiev, Casella and Rachmaninoff. At the Concert Hall.
11/11 - 11/14

Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversary

The program celebrates the Tony Award-winning choreographer's five decades of dance-making. Program features new works by Tharp. At the Eisenhower Theater.
11/15

The Choral Arts Society of Washington Choral Arts Chorus and Orchestra

Brahms's "Ein deutsches Requiem" and a new work by Zachary Wadsworth make up the program. At the Concert Hall.
11/17

duo parnas with Ran Dank

Violinist Madalyn Parnas and cellist Cicely Parnas are accompanied by pianist Ran Dank in their Fortas Chamber Music Concerts debut. At the Terrace Theater.
11/18

Sang-Eun Lee

Accompanied by pianist Noreen Polera, the Korean cellist performs works by Stravinsky, George Crumb, Brahms and Rachmaninoff. At the Terrace Theater.
11/19

Ying Fang

The soprano and former Filene Young Artist with Wolf Trap Opera performs Handel, Rachmaninov and Strauss with pianist Ken Noda. Presented by Vocal Arts DC. At the Terrace Theater.
11/20

John Lloyd Young

The singer performs in the cabaret series curated by Barbara Cook. At the Terrace Theater.
11/20 - 11/21

Carmen Lundy

At the Terrace Gallery.
11/19 - 11/21

National Symphony Orchestra

Jiri Belohlavek conducts the orchestra and pianist Igor Levit in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor.". At the Concert Hall.
11/22

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players

The National Symphony Orchestra musicians perform works by Copland, Britten, Shostakovich and Bartok. At the Terrace Theater.
11/22

The Washington Chorus

The chorus is joined by soprano Colleen Daly, baritone Dana Whiteside and the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls in the program includes Vaughan Williams's "A Sea Symphony" and Elgar's "Enigma Variations.". At the Concert Hall.
11/14 - 11/22

Appomattox

Washington National Opera honors the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War with Philip Glass's opera about the two events. At the Opera House.
11/27 - 11/28

National Symphony Orchestra Pops

The orchestra performs the score to "Home Alone" as it is screened in celebration of its 25th anniversary. At the Concert Hall.
11/25 - 11/29

The Joffrey Ballet: Joffrey's The Nutcracker

The timeless holiday production set in Victorian America. At the Opera House.
12/2

American Opera Initiative: Three 20-Minute Operas

Washington National Opera presents new works. At the Terrace Theater.
12/3

The Tallis Scholars

The British vocal ensemble specializes in Renaissance sacred music. Part of the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts. At the Terrace Theater.
12/4
12/4

National Symphony Orchestra

Alt-rocker and pianist Ben Folds debuts his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra as part of Declassified, a new NSO series of Friday night programming with a more laid back approach. At the Concert Hall.
12/3 - 12/5

National Symphony Orchestra

Organist Cameron Carpenter joins the orchestra in Barber's "Toccata Festiva." The program also includes "Mothership" by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates. At the Concert Hall.
12/12

Fresh Cut Orchestra

At the Terrace Gallery.
12/10 - 12/12

National Symphony Orchestra Pops

The von Trapps and Stephanie J. Block join the orchestra and Santa in a program of holiday-themed tunes. At the Concert Hall.
12/13

The Choral Arts Society of Washington

The group performs family-friendly holiday-themed songs. Best for age 5 and older. At the Concert Hall.
12/18 - 12/19
12/17 - 12/20

National Symphony Orchestra

Nathalie Stutzmann conducts the orchestra and singers from the University of Maryland Concert Choir in Handel's "Messiah.". At the Concert Hall.
12/12 - 12/20

Hansel and Gretel

The Washington National Opera stages a family-friendly version of the Grimm brothers' fairy tale. At the Terrace Theater.
12/13 - 12/22

The Washington Chorus

"A Candlelight Christmas" includes a candlelight processional, singalong and holiday songs. The 200-singer group is joined by the Madrigal Lords and Ladies, singers from Maryland's McDonough High School. At the Concert Hall.
12/14 - 12/24

The Choral Arts Society of Washington

The chorus celebrates the season with with singalongs of standard holiday songs. At the Concert Hall.
11/25 - 1/3/16

Elephant & Piggies We Are in a Play!

Mo Willems's book is re-imagined as a vaudevillian musical. Best for age 3 and older. At the Family Theater.
1/9/16

National Symphony Orchestra Kinderclassics: Break It Down!

In this concert, members of the orchestra introduce kids to music and instruments by breaking them down. At the Family Theater.
1/8/16 - 1/9/16

Better Gods

The hour-long performance presented by the Washington National Opera examines the life of the last monarch of Hawaii. At the Terrace Theater.
12/15 - 1/10/16

Matilda The Musical

Roald Dahl story about a girl with special powers is staged. At the Opera House.
12/2 - 1/10/16

Bright Star

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's new musical sets a love story in 1920s and '40s American South. At the Eisenhower Theater.
1/14/16 - 1/16/16

National Symphony Orchestra

Violinist Baiba Skride makes her NSO debut in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19. The program also includes works by Heino Eller and Jean Sibelius. At the Concert Hall.
1/17/16

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players

The ensemble made up of National Symphony Orchestra musicians perform works by R. Strauss, Mozart, J. S. Bach and Mendelssohn. At the Terrace Theater.
1/20/16

Alyson Cambridge

The local soprano presents a program focused on the theme of women's voices. At the Terrace Theater.
1/21/16 - 1/23/16

National Symphony Orchestra

Cellist Daniel Muller-Schott joins the orchestra in Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. At the Concert Hall.
1/19/16 - 1/24/16

The National Ballet of Canada

A U.S. premiere of a dazzling new ballet based on Shakespeare's classic play. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. At the Opera House.
1/19/16 - 1/24/16

The National Ballet of Canada: Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale

The U.S. premiere of a new ballet based on the classic Shakespeare play. At the Opera House.
1/25/16

Thymos Quartet

Christoph Eschenbach, keyboard, and Yann Dubost, double bass, join the quartet in an all-Schubert program. Part of the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts. At the Terrace Theater.
1/27/16

Eric Owens

At the Terrace Theater.
1/28/16

Chad Hoopes and Davod Fung

The violinist and pianist perform works by Dvorak, Prokofiev, Ravel and Franck in this program presented by the Washington Performing Arts Virtuoso Series. At the Terrace Theater.
1/30/16

Behzod Abduraimov

The Uzbek pianist makes his Washington Performing Arts debut with Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and Chopin's Four Ballades. At the Terrace Theater.
1/30/16

Frank Wess Tribute

At the Terrace Gallery.
1/28/16 - 1/30/16

National Symphony Orchestra

Each night the orchestra will perform two or three of the following, Weber's Overture to "Der Freischutz," Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759 "Unfinished" and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92. At the Concert Hall.
1/13/16 - 1/30/16

A Gentlemans Guide to Love & Murder

In this Tony-winning musical comedy, a man must get rid of eight relatives in order to become the rightful heir to a family fortune. At the Eisenhower Theater.
1/31/16

Alexander Tsymbalyuk

The bass singer performs works by Russian and Ukrainian composers make up the program for his area debut. Presented by Vocal Arts DC. At the Terrace Theater.
1/31/16

Orchestre National de France

The program includes late-Romantic and early 20th-century works. At the Concert Hall.
1/27/16 - 1/31/16

American Ballet Theatre: Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty

The company performs the classic fairy tale of a princess cursed to sleep for 100 years by an evil sorceress, until awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince. At the Opera House.
2/6/16

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic

The Bosnian-born pianist makes his Washington Performing Arts debut with works by 20th century composers. At the Terrace Theater.
2/2/16 - 2/7/16

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Led by artistic director Robert Battle, the dance company returns with new and classic works, including Alvin Ailey's signature piece "Revelations.". At the Opera House.
1/30/16 - 2/21/16

OLIVERio: A Brazilian Twist

Charles Dickens's is reimagined as a musical set in Rio with a girl disguised as a boy while searching for her mom. Best for age 9 and older. At the Family Theater.
3/24/16

Tenor Javier Camarena

Accompanied by pianist Angel Rodriguez, Camarena performs selections by Beethoven, Liszt and Tosti. At the Terrace Theater.
4/18/16

Soprano Julia Bullock

Pianist Renate Rohlfing accompanies Bullock in works by Ravel, Poulenc, Cage and others. At the Terrace Theater.
5/1/16

Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci

Pianist Donald Sulzen accompanies Antonacci in works by Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and others. At the Terrace Theater.
5/1/16

The Washngton Chorus

"Parisian Spring" includes works by French composers and French organist Thierry Escaich. With the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls. At the Concert Hall.
'

Editorial Review

Kennedy Center Snapshot

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Sept. 11, 2009

This massive complex overlooking the Potomac River has seven stages (nine if you count the two free Millennium stages in the Grand Foyer) and is one of the best places to catch world-class talent such as Cate Blanchett, appearing in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (Oct. 29-Nov. 21), as well as lighter offerings such as "Young Frankenstein" (Dec. 15-Jan. 10). "In any given year," says Max Woodward, the center's vice president of theater programming, "you can see practically anything you're interested in."

Where to eat? Two in-house restaurants offer the most convenience: the cafeteria-style KC Cafe and the fancier Roof Terrace Restaurant. Off-campus, there isn't much in the immediate neighborhood, but Notti Bianche (202-298-8085; http://www.nottibianche.com) and Dish + Drinks (202-338-8707; http://www.dishdc.com) are good options in nearby hotels.

Concession-stand fare: A cut above: prepared sandwiches and baked goods; beer, wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks.

Tickets: Ticket prices vary widely, depending on the production. Seats for "Streetcar" in the Eisenhower Theater, for example, start at $58 for the side balcony and run to $110 for the box tier. Prime orchestra seats for this show will set you back $80 to $90, depending on the performance.

Getting there: The center is an eight-minute walk from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station. Or catch a free shuttle, departing every 15 minutes from the 23rd Street curb just outside the subway entrance. On-site parking is $18.

Season spotlight: Three Terrence McNally plays, including one D.C. premiere, in three theaters next spring: "Golden Age" (March 12-April 4 in the Family Theater); "The Lisbon Traviata" (March 20-April 11 in the Terrace Theater); and "Master Class" (March 25-April 18 in the Eisenhower Theater).

Kennedy Center Overview

Opened in 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has become one of the nation's busiest performing arts venues, with more than 3,000 performances that play before nearly two million patrons each year. It is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet and the Washington Opera, and hosts artists from around the world. The center's profile raised even higher recently, thanks to a repertory festival of Stephen Sondheim musicals in 2002 and the beginning of a five-year partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2003.
-- Brad Hathaway

Here are the primary venues of the center:

Family Theater
Opened in the former American Film Institute Theater space in December 2005, the 324-seat theater is home to the Kennedy Center's performances for children.

Millennium Stage
Located at either end of the Grand Foyer are the two stages for the free concert series, offering open-to-the-public performances every evening (except Dec. 24) at 6. These shows are simultaneously fed to the Internet and can be viewed live from streaming video-equipped, Internet-connected computers anywhere in the world.
-- Brad Hathaway

Concert Hall
A renovated Concert Hall opened in October 1997 with better acoustics and improved access for people with disabilities. From onstage box seats you can see the conductor's face. Some chorus seats, behind the stage and facing out into the audience offer a "musician's-eye-view" of the proceedings. The handsome hall has plush, dusty-red seats, gold-colored checkerboards inlaid on the fronts of the balconies, and wooden panels placed throughout the house. Among the original features retained are the crystal chandeliers, which have been reconfigured. The embossed hexagonal patterns on the ceiling have been buffed up but remain intact. The largest of the Kennedy Center auditoriums, the Concert Hall has 2,518 seats.
-- Beth Brophy

Eisenhower Theater
A friendly looking bronze bust of Dwight Eisenhower peers down from the box tier of the Eisenhower Theater. At 1,142 seats, the Eisenhower is the smallest of the three theaters on the main level of the Kennedy Center. There is something cozy about sinking into a plush red seat surrounded by wood-paneled walls as the lights high above your head fade and the red curtain rises to reveal a new performance. Although the exclusive box tier claims the most-expensive seats, the orchestra rows often offer a more intimate connection with the performance, because the seats are physically closer to those on stage. The first tier proves a good vantage point for taking in the whole picture and the reactions of the theatergoers below.
-- Nicole Lewis

Opera House
There is no mistaking the grandeur of the place -- the exquisite Lobmeyr crystal chandelier, a gift from Austria, dwarfs the one used in "The Phantom of the Opera." The theater has 2,318 seats and one of the largest stages of its kind in the country. Productions tend to be big and flashy, not to mention pricey, although there's always standing room if the show is sold out. Ballets, musical theater and operas are performed here, and patrons like to get gussied up for a night out at the Opera House, especially on the weekends, but no official dress-code exists. The four levels of the theater can give your legs a real work-out: orchestra, box tier, first tier and second tier. The box tier claims the most expensive tickets and if you are lucky, you'll sit near the White House box, which is reserved by the White House and usually occupied by someone or other from the administration (former first daughter Chelsea Clinton was a fan of the ballet). The Kennedy Center Opera House is perhaps best known nationally as the home of the annual Kennedy Center Honors recognizing lifetime contribution to the arts. Taped at the center in early December, with the president and first lady in attendance, the show normally airs on television the week between Christmas and New Year's.
-- Nicole Lewis

Terrace Theater
Take the elevator in the Hall of States to the second level of the Kennedy Center and you'll discover two things: great theater spaces and great views. The theater closest to the notorious Watergate complex is the 512-seat Terrace Theater. A bicentennial gift from Japan, the interior swims in deep purple with velvet lavender seats, each row on a gentle grade affording perfect sightlines to the stage. The most traditional and the most quirky programming can materialize in this space. Each spring the Terrace Theater presents its chamber music series, showing off new artists and old favorites. Each fall, the theater transforms into a venue for the cutting edge. This theater has an intimate setting and generally cheaper ticket prices. And you can't beat the views if you choose to stroll outside on the Roof Terrace during intermission.

Remember to pick up tickets for the Terrace on the main level in the Hall of States box office. If you arrive unfashionably late and have to wait a few minutes to be seated, don't despair: A TV monitor across from a comfy couch (purple, of course) displays the action on stage.
-- Nicole Lewis

Theater Lab
By day, the Theater Lab at the Kennedy Center entertains children seated on rows of orange-carpeted benches. By night, '70s disco music blares from a tacky hair-salon set and an audience of all ages watches "Shear Madness," the half mystery, half farce that has been ensconced here since the 1988 season. The long-running show, plus staged readings of plays in progress, is the bill for the Lab, originally conceived as an experimental theater space (Willem Dafoe and Gary Sinise played here for free once upon a time). There is no curtain; the set sits naked on stage, giving audiences a sense of being part of the show. Black swatches of material create the theater's walls. Inches behind the fabric lies the production office and dressing rooms. With 399 seats, this is the smallest and sparest of the Kennedy Center's performing spaces; the atmosphere is functional, rather than elegant. It's a place for children to feel comfortable for what may be their first introduction to live theater.
-- Nicole Lewis

The KC Jazz Club enlivens the intimate, roof-level Theater Gallery.

Tours at the Kennedy Center

This Free Tour Is Just the Ticket

By Amy Orndorff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008

There is a certain magnificence about the Kennedy Center with its red-carpeted Grand Foyer. Its seats have held royalty, presidents and those who can pay more than $100 to witness the best that the arts have to offer.

What makes the Kennedy Center extraordinary is that its mission is to make the arts accessible to everyone from America's most notable citizens to its most ordinary ones. You probably know about free Millennium Stage shows daily at 6 p.m., but did you know that you can get into the Kennedy Center's theaters -- without buying a ticket -- as part of free daily tours?

On a recent Sunday morning, the 10 people who stood in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall admiring the organ with its 4,144 pipes and 11 Hadelands crystal chandeliers were in jeans and tennis shoes. They were visitors from abroad as well as area residents, but one thing was clear: Everyone was, well, ordinary.

Members of the Friends of the Kennedy Center, a 500-person volunteer group, lead 45-minute tours whenever someone stops by their kiosk on the main foyer level. Positioned near the elevators from the parking garage, the tour leaders are the first people visitors see when they walk in. A new tour starts about every 10 minutes.

Brochures for self-guided tours are available, but the real fun is going with a docent, who takes guests into the expansive theaters and discusses little-known facts about the center. Did you know that the ceiling in the Concert Hall can be raised and lowered to create the best acoustics possible?

The docents are quick to point out that the nation's home for the performing arts is filled with gifts from other countries: curtains, artwork and even a theater. With that kind of international presence, there's little doubt that the Kennedy Center is truly for everyone.

WHEN SHOULD I GO?Tours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go as early as possible on the weekends since certain theaters close for matinees. During the week, later is better. Take off work early, tour the center, find happy hour deals at the center's kiosks and catch the Millennium Stage show.

WHERE IS IT? 2700 F St. NW (Metro: Foggy Bottom-GWU, with free shuttles). Tours depart from the kiosk on the main level, midway between the entrance plaza and the Grand Foyer. If you can't find it, anyone in a red jacket will point you in the right direction.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION? 202-416-8340 or http://www.kennedy-center.org.