Contemporary Festivals

Though it began with the ancient Greeks in the 6th century BCE, celebrating the performing arts through festivals is a concept that still thrives today. Theater, film and music are all represented by elaborate international events, many presented annually to thousands of fans.

Cannes Film Festival

Founded in 1946, The Cannes Film Festival in France is one of the oldest, most influential annual film festivals and showcases the vitality and diversity of film from across the world. Though a private event, public screenings are held of the official selections by juries of international artists. Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, Utah, is the largest international film festival in the United States and is just as much a celebrity event as Cannes.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Highlighted by legendary single events like the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, music festivals have become popular events that showcase diverse genres and performers. While regional events like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival and the Berkshire Choral Festival present local music, travelling festivals like Lollapalooza take diverse popular music and culture to locations across the United States.

Shakespeare Festival

There are numerous venues in the world that produce an annual "Shakespeare in the Park" theater event, but one of the best-known is part of the Public Theater's New York Shakespeare Festival. Founded in 1954, performances are held at the 1,800 seat open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Approximately 80,000 people attend the festival each year, which features two-week runs of three different plays (contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare are always included, though other playwrights have been featured). The festival also attracts well-known actors, including Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Al Pacino.



Since 1969, the Kennedy Center's American College Theater Festival has involved 18,000 students and 600 academic institutions from across the United States. Through year-round state, regional, and national festivals, the program exposes students to the work of their peers, offers professional development experiences, and provides individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design.