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Hedda Hopper

Arts Days: February 14, 1938: The First “Gossip Girl”
Imagine you’re a movie star in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Say you’re spotted out partying on Valentine’s Day with someone other than your sweetheart. You can bet that Hedda Hopper, an actress with a large network of contacts, would have written all about your scandalous escapade in her gossip column.

Today’s celebrity publications like People and Us Magazine owe a huge debt to columnists like Hopper, who started writing decades ago about celebrities’ off-screen shenanigans. Wearing one of her trademark hats, she would go to big Hollywood parties, chat with all the celebrities, and uncover the juiciest news and rumors.
Fashion, Popular Culture, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars

Jules Verne

Arts Days: February 08, 1828: A League of His Own
Would you believe that the submarine hadn’t even been invented when Jules Verne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, kicking off the sci-fi genre with a splash?

Even as a child, Verne was a visionary, writing adventure stories that previewed today’s modern conveniences and technological wonders including tall skyscrapers, gas-powered cars, helicopters, and even television.

But sometimes his imagination and curiosity got him into deep trouble. At 12, he snuck his way onto a ship bound for India, but luckily got caught before the ship left. Let’s just say that father Pierre was none too happy. Little Jules responded, "I shall from now on only travel in my imagination." And so he did.

While his early stories, like the one about exploring Africa in a hot-air balloon, were rejected by publishers, Verne stuck with it. Eventually that story, with a few changes, appeared in print in 1863 as “Five Weeks in a Balloon.” From then on, Verne wrote new works every year until he died.
Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Europe

High School Musical

Arts Days: January 20, 2006: Musical Theater’s Comeback
Sad but true, in a movie age of stunning special effects and computer animation, the days of musical theater seemed to take a back seat.

That is until the jump start sparked by Disney's original television film High School Musical, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that tells the story of Troy and Gabriella–two high school juniors from rival cliques that audition together for the high school musical.

The film premiered on this day in 2006 and since then has become a phenomenal sensation around the world.
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists

James Earl Jones

Arts Days: January 17, 1931: The Man with the Velvet Voice
It's hard to believe but actor James Earl Jones--known for his smooth, deep basso voice--once suffered from a severe stutter.

At college, where he planned to study medicine, Jones enrolled in acting lessons to conquer his speech impediment. A stunning improvement gave Jones an appetite for further theatrical experiences and he switched his focus to theater. After graduation, he moved to New York City to pursue acting, supporting himself with behind-the-scenes manual labor jobs.

In 1957, Jones made his Broadway debut, which caught the attentions of both stage and film directors and launched him to star status. In 1969, he won a Tony Award for The Great White Hope, and garnered an Oscar nomination for the film adaptation. He won a second Tony Award in 1987 for his work in Fences, and was also a 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree.
Broadway, Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

Sundance Film Festival

Arts Days: January 18, 1985: Sun Screened!
The Sundance Film Festival is the largest cinema festival in the United States, established to showcase American-made films and attract filmmakers to the state of Utah.

The first festival was held in 1978, originally known as the Utah/US Film Festival. But thanks to the involvement of actor and Utah resident Robert Redford, as well as the strong, supportive response from Hollywood studios eager for a venue to celebrate their works, the festival was propelled into the national spotlight.

In 1985, the Sundance Institute took over management of the festival, changing its name to the Sundance Film Festival. Today this annual event is the premier showcase for new work by both American and international independent filmmakers.
Inventions, Art Venues, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Porky Pig and Daffy Duck

Arts Days: January 06, 1936: Be-Be-Be-Before the Bunny
Moviegoers were introduced to an adorable pink, pudgy, stuttering, Porky Pig in the Warner Brothers cartoon Gold Diggers of '49. Porky was the first animated character created by the studio and was featured in numerous cartoons and shorts, including regular roles in both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He is best known for his signature line that closes all of his cartoons, "Th-th-th-that’s all folks!"
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Celluloid Film

Arts Days: January 14, 1873: Better Films Through Chemistry
Cellulose nitrate, or celluloid, was originally trademarked on this day by John Hyatt for use in billiard balls.

Less than ten years later, inventor George Eastman experimented with the compound looking for an alternative to the glass plates used in photography. Eastman discovered celluloid could be melted down into a strong, yet extremely thin film, and in 1885 he introduced the first transparent photographic film.

With this, Thomas Edison’s notable invention, the motion picture camera, was able to record images in 1891, thanks to celluloid’s flexibility and strength. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that celluloid is a highly flammable material. Many lives were lost in theater fires and manufacturing accidents.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Evita

Arts Days: January 10, 1996: Evita Hits the Big Screen
Casting catastrophe and celebrity coup? The film adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1978 Broadway musical Evita stars pop music singer Madonna and Spanish actor and singer Antonio Banderas. The story traces the life of Eva Perón, beloved Argentinean first lady and spiritual leader.

Prior to the film’s release, critics were skeptical of the casting, unsure if Madonna was best suited for the lead role. Evita, however, was warmly received and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.
Broadway, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Latin America, Popular Culture

Jaws

Arts Days: June 20, 1975: Something’s Fishy
When a killer shark decides to vacation at a tourist beach town, you clearly have the makings of the first summer blockbuster action film.

Director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws fast-paced, suspense-filled thriller came ashore on this June day, and caused waves of attention and ticket sales.  Even before the first sight of the lone fin sweeping through the water, composer John Williams’ theme music adds to the film’s sense of impending terror. Audiences quickly covered their eyes as the menacing great white begins to attack innocent swimmers, and as the adventure to track and destroy him tensely unfolds.
Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Animals, Composers, Music, Popular Culture

Mel Brooks

Arts Days: June 28, 1926: Blazing Laughter
He acts. He directs. He writes movies and songs. And he makes us laugh!

Mel Brooks is one of the funniest, most versatile fellows ever to grace a movie screen or write a tune. The shows he’s created, like The Producers and TV’s Get Smart series parodies everything from Adolf Hitler—yes, Hitler—to TV detective shows to scary movies. Brooks’s longtime creative partnership with actor Gene Wilder paved the way for some of his most popular comedies including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

Most importantly, Brooks used satire to push comedy a little bit further than anybody had before, sometimes leaving audiences a little bit shocked—but always laughing.
Broadway, Comedy, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars

Dick Smith

Arts Days: June 26, 1922: Master of Makeup
Wrinkly faces—wow! Bleeding limbs—ew! Movies absorb us completely into the action when makeup convinces us that a character really is 100 years old—or turning into a possessed demon before our terrified eyes. And over decades of work in TV and movies from The Exorcist and Taxi Driver to The Godfather and Little Big Man, makeup artist Dick Smith pioneered new techniques in the use of foam rubber, paint, fake blood, and other materials to generate stunning special effects.

Smith developed new ways to create masks for actors, using bits of latex attached to their faces one piece at a time (rather than one big piece that constrained their facial movements and looked more fake). He also experimented with prosthetics and small pouches called bladders that were inserted under an actor’s latex “skin” and manipulated to make it look like the actor had something creepy—a bug, a new body part, whatever—moving underneath.
Innovators & Pioneers, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects

First Drive In

Arts Days: June 06, 1933: In a Parking Lot Near You
When Richard Hollingshead got the notion to create an outdoor theater showing films you could watch from your car, he experimented with cars and equipment in his New Jersey driveway.

First, he mounted a projector on the hood of a car and hung up a screen. Then, Hollingshead rearranged cars until he figured out a way everybody could see from their front or back seats. On this night, cars streamed into the world’s first drive-in to see a movie called Wife Beware. Each car was charged 25 cents for admission. In addition, each rider paid a quarter. Even though Hollingshead placed large speakers near the screen, movie goers parked in the back rows couldn’t hear well.

Still, the idea caught on and drive-ins began popping up everywhere, with 5,000 or so operating at the peak of the craze.
Art Venues, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Innovators & Pioneers

Universal

Arts Days: June 02, 1912: A Movie First!
The movie industry’s first major studio was officially formed on this day when several smaller studios merged. A couple of years after it opened, Universal Studios bought a piece of land in the San Fernando Valley and began churning out movies (the first full length feature was 1913’s Traffic in Souls).

The hits starting racking up for Universal: scary stuff like Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame helped the studio keep its momentum going as more studios were forming during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Universal has acquired and been acquired by numerous other companies over its colorful history, but it’s still the studio responsible for many wildly successful films, from Jaws to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to Back to the Future.
America, Movies & Movie Stars, Art Venues

Judy Garland

Arts Days: June 10, 1942: A Star Is Born
At 13, singer/actress Judy Garland was signed to the MGM Studios—a bit old for a child star, but still on the young side for adult roles. But a series of movies with Mickey Rooney, such as Love Finds Andy Hardy, helped the studio find the right place for the teen, who shot to worldwide superstardom in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will always be identified with Garland.)

Her fans loved her voice so much that any movie in which she didn’t sing was pretty much guaranteed to disappoint at the box office. On the other hand, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls, filled with memorable songs, were big hits. Garland is still considered one of the greatest vocal interpreters of the 20th century.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Music Legends, Musicals, Music, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Jimmy Stewart

Arts Days: May 20, 1908: Mr. Stewart Goes to Hollywood
Born in a small town in Pennsylvania not unlike Bedford Falls, the setting of his film It’s a Wonderful Life, actor Jimmy Stewart enjoyed huge success in several film genres: comedies such as The Philadelphia Story and Harvey; suspense thrillers including Vertigo and Rear Window; and films in which an idealistic fellow beats the bad guys as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

His first acting experiences, both on stage and in film, were interrupted by World War II. Stewart, the first major American movie star to fight in the war, enlisted in the Army, flying planes for the Army Air Corps. When the war ended, more film offers came in, and he resumed a busy acting career. This 1983 Kennedy Center Honoree was nominated for numerous Academy Awards®. He took home two.
America, Movies & Movie Stars

Bob Hope

Arts Days: May 29, 1903: You Gotta Have Hope
The man with the famous ski-jump nose knew how to make them laugh. British-born Leslie Townes Hope—whose stage name was Bob—was one of the first stand-up comedians, mastering the art of writing and delivering jokes with impeccable timing. Nobody had more one-liners at the ready; nobody was better at poking fun at himself to get a laugh.

Over the course of his career, Hope, a 1985 Kennedy Center Honoree, would find fame on the vaudeville circuit, the radio waves, the stage, the silver screen, and on TV. He made more than 50 films, many with close friend Bing Crosby. Bob Hope died at the ripe old age of 100.
Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars

Mel Blanc

Arts Days: May 30, 1908: Toon Talker
Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, Foghorn Leghorn, the Tasmanian Devil—all famous cartoon characters, right? Well, they have another thing in common. The same fellow, Mel Blanc, supplied their voices in thousands of cartoons from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Working for Warner Brothers and the animation house Hanna-Barbera, Blanc delighted generations of children with his boundless range of cute, silly, or booming voices that gave life to dozens of animated animals and people. He kicked off his career in 1927, working on a radio show called The Hoot Owls. As his career soared, he pushed for recognition of his work in closing credits of the cartoons (voice actors typically were not mentioned). He also practiced techniques for keeping his voice healthy, such as minimizing the amount of work of voices that were hard on his vocal cords.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Television

Clint Eastwood

Arts Days: May 31, 1930: Dirty Harry, Anti-Hero
Action-picture star Clint Eastwood took a circuitous route to Hollywood fame. After stints working as a truck driver and serving in the U.S. Army, Eastwood took a screen test in Los Angeles in 1954, promptly landing a small part in a long-forgotten horror film. With that, he landed roles in other films, starring on the hit TV show Rawhide, and working in a series of “spaghetti Westerns” (given that nickname because they were filmed in Italy).

When he got back to the U.S., Eastwood directed his first movie beginning the behind-the-camera work that would win him as much acclaim as his acting. From the Dirty Harry series of films, in which he first uttered his immortal catchphrase, “Go ahead—make my day,” to his work directing the haunting Mystic River and poignant Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood mastered the art of filmmaking.
Movies & Movie Stars

Star Wars

Arts Days: May 25, 1977: The Force at the Box Office
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

Almost as soon as those ten words began their crawl across movie screens around the U.S., a pop-culture phenomenon was  underway.

The first movie, A New Hope, was later revealed to be Episode IV in a six-episode series that tells the compelling story of good triumphing over evil. A simple-yet-complex science fantasy epic sprung from director George Lucas’ imagination, Star Wars—with its sequels, prequels, books, games, TV shows, and the toys it spawned— has become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects

Orson Welles

Arts Days: May 06, 1915: A Reel Visionary
Whether directing films or acting on stage, George Orson Welles’s theatrical talents were unsurpassed. It probably helped that he was a creative child: He painted, played the piano, and performed magic tricks.

When Welles was a young man, important connections advanced his career. Playwright Thornton Wilder introduced Welles to directors who gave him his first stage roles. He also made a name for himself writing, acting in, and directing radio plays. His radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938 terrified listeners convinced that aliens were actually invading our planet. And then there were movies like Citizen Kane and many others now deemed American classics.

Welles also pioneered new filming techniques, such as using “deep space,” in which scenes in both the foreground and background stayed in focus. Using this method, action can take place in two parts of a single frame. He also would place the camera near the floor to shoot up at a person so he appeared to loom above, larger than life.
America, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Theater, Movies & Movie Stars

Multiplane Camera

Arts Days: May 01, 1940: Animation Toon Up
When Walt Disney invented the multiplane camera, the art of animation took an official giant leap forward.

This special camera used stacks of glass. The lower stack was painted with objects that do not move, such as furniture, and the upper stacks displayed figures that do, including a certain famous Mouse. When these elements work together, the result was a screen filled with detailed characters that moved realistically, scenery that cast “shadows,” and the visual richness we’ve since come to take for granted in today’s animation.

In 1937, the short, The Old Mill, became the first animated work created with the multiplane camera. But because it was so expensive to use, from then on Disney and his staff reserved the multiplane camera for feature film projects only.

By the way, the American Film Institute has named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the greatest animated film of all time.
Inventions, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

3d Glasses

Arts Days: May 02, 1986: Image Maximus
It’s wild how putting on a pair of funny glasses in a movie theater can make you feel like an electric eel is swimming right into your face, or a helicopter is hovering about an inch over your head, but that’s exactly the effect that super-sized IMAX movies give when they’re designed for 3-D viewing.

When the 20-minute Transitions was shown on this day in Canada, it stunned viewers with some of its illusions: eggs appeared to break in your lap, and logs seemed to roll off a conveyor belt into the theater.

As the science of 3-D has developed further and IMAX theaters have opened around the world, more feature length 3-D movies have delighted viewers with their crazy, in-the-thick-of-the-action sensations. Now just imagine for a moment watching a 3-D IMAX film on the largest IMAX screen in the world in Sydney, Australia. It’s 96 feet high—the equivalent of an eight-story building. No wonder IMAX is short for “Image Maximum.”
Inventions, Movies & Movie Stars

Rajaharischandra

Arts Days: May 03, 1913: Hooray for Bollywood
“Bollywood” is a catchy term for the Hindi-language film industry featuring big dance numbers, lots of emotion, and many attractive actors. The nickname is a play on the words “Hollywood” and “Bombay,” a city in India now known as Mumbai, where most filming takes place.

When Raja Harishchandra premiered on this day, crowds flocked to see the film about an Indian king who sacrifices his kingdom and family in honor of a wise man named Vishvamitra. The silent movie was such a smash that more copies had to be printed. Overnight, the Bollywood phenomenon was born.

Today’s Bollywood movies typically run for two or three hours; are filled with song and dance; tell interwoven stories about boys and girls falling in love; and almost always have a happy ending. Many have become hits around the world. Outside of India, the highest-grossing Bollywood film to date has been Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, filmed in New York City, of all places.


India, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, World Cultures

Paramount Pictures

Arts Days: May 08, 1914: Lights, Camera, Action!
Back in 1912, an entrepreneur named Adolph Zukor thought he could bring more movies to the middle class by contracting a group of actors to make a fixed number of movies every year. So he started the Famous Players Film Company. Famous Players partnered with a startup called Paramount Pictures Corporation to distribute its films to theaters; a few years later, it officially merged with Paramount.

Under Zukor’s leadership, Paramount owned all the components of the movie-making apparatus. It employed superstars of the day, like Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino, and acquired film production studios. Paramount even bought hundreds of movie houses around the country where the finished movies would be shown.

The company has been through many mergers since those early days, and has once or twice come close to closing up shop, such as during the Great Depression. Today, however, the company is still growing strong.
America, Movies & Movie Stars, Jobs in the Arts, Art Venues

George Lucas

Arts Days: May 14, 1944: Hollywood’s Sky Walker
Growing up on a quiet walnut ranch, George Lucas seemed about as far removed from a life making Hollywood blockbusters as you might imagine. But his career as an award-winning filmmaker was launched at the University of Southern California, where he won a prize for one of his early sci-fi shorts. More career-making breaks followed, including Lucas’s turn directing and helping to write American Graffiti.

But even the film’s hit reception paled in comparison to the attention Lucas got for writing and directing 1977’s Star Wars. The film’s intergalactic storyline and technological achievements piled up Academy Awards® and broke most box-office records. The movie’s sequels and prequels, from The Empire Strikes Back to The Phantom Menace, trace the paths of characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—now household names across the world.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects, Popular Culture

Katharine Hepburn

Arts Days: May 12, 1907: Kate the Great
For the woman who carried home the Oscar® for Best Actress more times than any other, four times out of 12 nominations, Katharine Hepburn’s first forays into acting weren’t always successful.

She began acting in college plays from which she was fired more than once for stumbling over her lines. But her athleticism, beauty, and emerging talent got her noticed, and she soon began landing small roles. Big parts in Little Women, Bringing Up Baby, Woman of the Year, and other critical and commercial hits raised Hepburn to the level of Hollywood royalty, even as she shunned Hollywood’s glitz.

When she died at 96 years of age, the lights on Broadway went dim for an hour in honor of the woman many now deem one of the greatest actors of all time.
America, Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

The Bride of Frankenstein

Arts Days: April 22, 1935: Monster Love
This 1935 horror film opens with an actress playing Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the book from which the Frankenstein movies are based, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. “Shelley” is explaining what happened when the Monster tells Dr. Frankenstein he wants a mate. While this was a subplot in Shelley’s book, the makers of this movie managed to get a whole motion picture out of it.

The actress who played Mary Shelley—and who played the bride, too—was Elsa Lancaster, and her role vaulted her to stardom. The Monster’s loneliness in the first Frankenstein movie makes us feel sympathetic toward him, and in The Bride of Frankenstein, we also feel a little bit sorry for him when the Bride rejects him shortly after being brought to life by Frankenstein. Still, when he goes on to kill everyone around him and destroy Frankenstein’s laboratory, we’re reminded that this is no ordinary love story.
Tragedy, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & Movie Stars

Charlie Chaplin

Arts Days: April 16, 1889: The Little Tramp
Charles Spencer Chaplin was only 14 when he got his first role in a play, and he liked it so much that he soon hit the vaudeville circuit as a comedian. In 1913, he started making silent movies, developing instantly recognizable characters like “the Little Tramp.” He starred in early cinematic masterpieces like City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator, in which Chaplin combined humor with pointed commentary against the politics of Adolf Hitler, who was rising to power as the film was made.

Chaplin formed United Artists with other stars of the day to secure more control over their work. He wrote scripts and soundtracks, directed himself and others, and generally worked in most every aspect during those early days of film. Charlie Chaplin was one of the world’s first real movie stars and is considered one of the greatest creative talents of 20th century film.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars

Marlon Brando and Man

Arts Days: April 03, 1924: The Godfather of Acting
Though he never cared for the glitz and glitter of fame, few would question that Marlon Brando was perhaps the most accomplished actor of his day—or of any period since movie making began. While studying at the Actor’s Studio in New York City, Brando adopted the “method acting approach,” where he disappeared into the fictional characters he was asked to portray.

His unforgettable performances including Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire or Vito Corleone in The Godfather, stuck with viewers long after the movies ended because of Brando’s believable performances. A rebel by reputation, Brando was described by some directors and fellow actors as difficult to get along with while other colleagues said he was funny, generous, and professional. But his reputation didn’t stop him from racking up awards, including winning two Academy Awards® and being nominated for eight.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Theater

Kinetoscope

Arts Days: April 14, 1896: The Very First Movie Projector
The kinetoscope was a huge lumbering machine that paved the way for the movie projector that makes the Cineplex and video cameras possible for 21st century film buffs. Although Thomas Edison really didn’t have much hope that “moving pictures” would go far, he knew this machine could display a series of still shots—of say, a horse jumping over a fence—so quickly that it would give the illusion that the horse was leaping right before the viewer’s very eyes.

The viewer, by the way, was peeking into the machine through a hole at the top, so only one person at a time could see the show. Edison set up the kinetoscope in a little building he called the Kinetographic Theater and invited dancers, acrobats, and others to perform for him as his invention acted like a camera as well as a projector.
Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Movies & Movie Stars

Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors

Arts Days: April 12, 1945: Anime Nation
Anime, a special kind of movie animation unique to Japan and often inspired by Japanese comics called manga, has a huge following these days among kids and grownups alike all over the world. But on this day, when Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was screened for the first time, director Mitsuyo Seo had just followed the orders he was given by the Japanese government: make a film promoting the heroic exploits of the Japanese navy.

Seo’s 74-minute movie, which features a character named Momotaro— an important figure in Japanese folklore whose name translates to “Peach Boy”—was full of talking animals wearing military uniforms and spouting propaganda. But his creation planted the seeds for decades of anime to come, created now by hand or more often with computer software.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Japan

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