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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Kennedy Center offers Cate Blanchett, hip-hop, 'The Addams Family'

By Jacqueline Trescott
Blanchett arrives for the Academy Awards last month. (Getty)

The Kennedy Center is stretching its artistic offerings in the 2011-2012 season to attract younger audiences with performers such as hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari and vocalist Nellie McKay.

At the press conference Tuesday the band, OK Go with Pomplamoose, generated a lot of excitement. The center announced the band, winners of the Grammy for its video "Here It Goes Again," will help celebrate the 14th Anniversary of the Millennium Stage on June 23.

In its expansive programming for 2011-2012, the center is also offering marquee artists in plays and concerts. Among the highlights announced Tuesday by the center, are the return of award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, starring in the only U.S. engagement of "Uncle Vanya" from the Sydney Theatre Company. Holland Taylor, most recently in the much-talked-about television series "Two and a Half Men," will portray Ann Richards in a play about the Texas governor.

For those who consider Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" a seminal part of their musical lives, John Legend and The Roots, with the National Symphony Orchestra, will recreate the only time Gaye performed the entire album. That concert happened one night in 1972 at the center.

As always the crowd-pleasing musicals of Broadway will have a spotlight at the center. And the 2011-2012 schedule is extremely crowded. The center is producing its own revival of "Pal Joey," the Rogers and Hart classic of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" fame. The script, originally done by John O'Hara, is being given a new treatment by Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally. The center is organizing a reunion of many of the voices from its celebration 10 years ago of master lyricist Stephen Sondheim's plays. The new season will also mark the 5th anniversary of Barbara Cook's "Spotlight," a program Cook curates with talented Broadway voices. Next season she'll add her own.

The touring musicials will include "Memphis," the 25th anniversary production of "Les Miserables," as well as "Billy Elliot the Musical," "La Cage aux Folles," "Come Fly Away" and "The Addams Family."

In the 2011-2012 season the center will mount an international festival called "The Music of Budapest, Prague and Vienna," with appearances by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia and gypsy music from Hungary's Katona Jozef Theatre. The center will also produce "Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America," where entertainers will branch out across the region, including visual artist Nick Cave and dancers Project Bandaloop. The jazz programming will have a two week festival of swing music, called unsurprisingly, "Swing, Swing, Swing." The center's Grand Foyer will be opened to dancing. The jazz festival will include a tribute to the late pianist Billy Taylor with Ramsey Lewis, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Danilo Perez.

Speaking of the festival, Michael M. Kaiser, the center's president, said, "The three all have strong music traditions but the composers' music sounded different from each other. There are other connections -- Mozart was born in Austria, and debuted Don Giovanni in Prague in 1787," Kaiser said.

David M. Rubenstein is the largest single donor to the center. (Reuters)

The outreach to younger audiences is a formal initiative, funded by a new $10 million gift from center chairman David M. Rubenstein. The Rubenstein Arts Access Program features The Millennials Project, geared to build audiences between 18 and 30 through younger acts. The gift also supports MY-TIX, which opens up the center and reduces its ticket prices, for some performances, to the underserved, underprivileged and armed services members.

As part of this effort, on September 10, the center will have a free ticket giveaway in honor of the center's 40th birthday, and a raffle for tickets to the Kennedy Center Honors and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The digital generation has been missing at the center, said Rubenstein, the chairman of the center since May 2010. His new gift brings his current donation to $20 million, the largest single donor to the center. "This is a downpayment on the effort to bring younger people to the center, and also people of all walks of life," said Rubenstein. "This is designed to say we are serious about this."

The older demographic, however, is not going to be neglected. The National Symphony Orchestra is saluting the 75th birthday of go- go meister Chuck Brown at the NSO annual Labor Day concert at the U.S. Capitol. The evening is called "Legends of Washington Music: Sousa, Ellington and Brown."

The NSO, conducted by music director Christoph Eschenbach, will open its season with Joshua Bell. The orchestra will also premiere a new work by composer and musician Bill Banfield, delivered by Washington's favorite a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. The NSO Pops season will feature it new principal pops conductor Steven Reineke.

In ballet, the center will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet company. The Paris Opera Ballet, who haven't performed at the center since 1993, will be among six companies appearing. Contemporary dance will be showcased through seven companies, including the Mark Morris Dance Group. Morris will stage its signature: "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato."

There will be some bittersweet moments in the dance programming, said Kaiser. "The appearances by the Merce Cunningham Company will be the last performances by his company, which is closing in December," said Kaiser.

The Washington National Opera, which earlier this year became an official part of the center's affiliates, will mount five productions that it hasn't done in Washington, and also present evenings with Deborah Voigt and Angela Gheorghiu.

The performances for young audiences, which are nominated for two Helen Hayes Awards for last season, will have three commissioned works. VSA, the organization on arts and disability, will continue its playwrighting program and its annual young soloists program.

More on this story:

Kennedy Center 2010-2012 season

By Jacqueline Trescott  | March 8, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Kennedy Center  
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One great way to bring in younger audiences would be to de-canonize classical music beyond the unquestionably great yet familiar offerings of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, etc. and introduce modern classics from film composers.

In our era, film is analogous to ballet of old, and there are so many wonderful scores from composers like Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and Gabriel Yared that are being ignored in concert halls and classical stations alike or sidelined for "Pops" concerts. There is a progression from Yared's "The English Patient" (essentially G Major, G Major 7, B Major, B diminished, F dim 7, D7) which is as complex and important as anything from "Tristan and Isolde", elegantly encapsulating the main character's dreamy mystery, pathos, betrayals and passions.

To a lesser extent, video games also contain some singularly artistic outputs which would stand up to serious criticism. Nobuo Uematsu for one had the challenge of imagining lush orchestral tapestries within the technological confines of an 8 or 16-bit system. In Japan, video game concerts are a ritual outpouring of cultural appreciation, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be so in America, too.

Including film and game orchestral scores will certainly broaden the orchestral medium and save it from stagnation.

Posted by: music1an | March 8, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"...which opens up the center and reduces its ticket prices, for some performances, to the underserved, underprivileged and armed services members."

Reducing ticket prices to those groups is great, but how about an across-the-board price reduction so that even general members of the public can afford to see an opera? I'm not going to pay $60-$75 for a single nose-bleed seat.

Posted by: mrjmlw | March 8, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The Kennedy Center needs to make parking at that facility "AFFORDABLE." In this recession, few can really afford to pay $30+ to park for an hour or two in their garage. Perhaps someone can donate transportation by large buses to and from the center. I love their productions but cannot afford the parking even if I get a fee ticket as a senior on very, very low income because I am unemployed and also for those trying to live on a few dollars from social security -- these costs are prohibitive. But the new programming sounds exciting!!!

Posted by: hotezzy | March 8, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

When is Nellie McKay coming? She's not referenced after the first paragraph and she's not on the linked page to the Center's website.

Posted by: calliope_81 | March 8, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

To make it 'young person' friendly, they not only need to bring in more music and events of particular interest to them, but they've also got to reduce ticket prices across the board and esp. parking. $20 for evening parking is ridiculous. Everywhere else in town it goes for $8-10 after 5pm--and at Strathmore it's now free in the evenings. Someone needs to clue Michael Kaiser in on this fact--or the effort will be useless.

Posted by: commonsense101 | March 8, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

There is a FREE shuttle from the Foggy Bottom metro to the Kennedy Center every night. This is a great way to avoid paying the parking garage cost.

Posted by: sdposter | March 8, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

OK Go and Pomplamoose are two different bands, just FYI.

Posted by: sophiegrace111 | March 8, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, someone from the Going Out Guys or other clued-in fact-checker type should have read this article before it was published. I'm totally out of it when it comes to newish music, and even I know Pomplamoose and OK Go are two different bands.

The Post has totally forgotten what EDITING is all about. Shameful. Bad writing and no editing means I can't trust the newspaper to get the FACTS straight!

Posted by: red_hawk1968 | March 9, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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