The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating 100 years of Irish independence with a three-week festival featuring more than 50 performances and the participation of more than 500 artists.
“Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture,” which kicks off May 17 and runs through June 5, showcases the country’s imprint on theater, literature, music and dance. The festival coincides with a larger global celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which led to Ireland’s independence. It’s fitting that the Kennedy Center is hosting the event since President Kennedy, who would have turned 100 this year, too, was the best-known Irish-American president and the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country.
The festival, which has been in the works for three years, begins with a performance in the Concert Hall directed and hosted by Irish actor and director Fiona Shaw. Irish acts will punctuate a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra, led by Irish conductor David Brophy. Tickets start at $15.
“Performances and events that you don’t want to miss are the Gloaming; the festival-opening performance on May 17 led by Fiona Shaw; the Beckett radio play ‘All That Fall’; and the literary forums,” said Alicia Adams, vice president of international programming and dance at the center.
The Gloaming musical group makes its D.C. debut on June 4. Amid individual careers, the five musicians met in 2011 to explore a new musical direction, and they have been known for extending Irish and Celtic music in fresh ways. Tickets start at $25.
“All That Fall” is a play by Samuel Beckett that is part black comedy, part murder mystery, part cryptic literary riddle and part quasi-musical score. Audiences who see the show May 19, 20 or 21 will sit in rocking chairs to experience the playwright’s first radio play as he intended. Tickets start at $29.
The literary forums include a free reading and discussion on June 1 with authors Colm Tóibín, whose novel “Brooklyn” was turned into an Oscar-nominated film, and Eavan Boland, an author and humanities professor at Stanford University. Other featured writers include Ireland’s first Laureate for Fiction, Laureate for Children’s Literature and the country’s professor of poetry.
Other events include:
• “President Kennedy in Ireland – Documentary Film Screenings” on May 28 at 4 p.m. for $10.
• A solo performance by Irish step dancer Colin Dunne on May 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. for 39.
• A free performance by Celtic rock band Screaming Orphans — four sisters who play melodic pop and traditional tunes — on May 26 at 6 p.m.
• An Irish whiskey tasting on May 26 at 7:30 p.m. for $49.
• Children’s events, including Redhead Day, a free event May 21 that will have musical acts, dance performances and activities before culminating in a parade of redheads and redheads at heart.
“I hope that people will gain a broader sense of Irish arts and culture from all of the performances, readings and music,” Adams said. “It is such a rich culture and we have a chance to showcase some of the best of the Irish.”
“Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture
May 17 to June 5
2700 F St., NW
For more information, please call (202) 467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org/festivals/ireland/.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.