John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC)


Two figures a man and a woman, she is seated over the male while he lies bare chested on the bed

Mary Stuart Masterson and Jeremy Davidson in the Kennedy Center production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as part of the Tennessee Williams Explored celebration. Photo by Joan Marcus

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC is the national center for the performing arts, opening in 1971 and named after President Kennedy, a lifelong supporter of the arts. The Kennedy Center also serves as a national model for arts education and outreach programs.

In FY 2004, the Kennedy Center received an NEA Creativity grant of $55,000 to support Tennessee Williams Explored, a unique celebration of the great American playwright. During the spring and summer of 2004, the Kennedy Center brought to stage brand-new productions of Williams's greatest works: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire. The Kennedy Center partnered with the Shakespeare Theatre, which produced “Five by Tenn,” an evening of five one-act plays - three of them world premieres - directed by Michael Kahn. In addition, Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Thomas starred in Letters from Tennessee: A Distant Country Called Youth, a one-man show of letters written by Williams. The Washington Opera also participated separately, presenting the East Coast premiere of Andre Previn and Philip Littell's operatic reconception of A Streetcar Named Desire.

To explore the work of Tennessee Williams is to explore stories that are uniquely American, essentially human, and thus capable of touching and teaching us a great deal about ourselves. The Kennedy Center included educational programs as well, such as Events for Students that involves students in discussions with cast members and directors and ArtsEdge, an online, standards-based curriculum regarding the plays.

(From the 2004 NEA Annual Report)