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Anne Frank

Arts Days: June 12, 1942: History in Her Own Words
Anne Frank’s diary, kept while her family was in hiding from the Nazis during World War II, is one of the most heartbreaking narratives to emerge from the Holocaust. Her journal is by turns funny, sad, and hopeful.

She received the diary on this day, her 13th birthday, and immediately began recording her innermost thoughts, as well as the astonishing story of her family’s hidden apartment in a building in Amsterdam. Through the unbearable tension of nearly two years, when the hidden occupants had to stay utterly quiet so the workers below would not grow suspicious, Anne Frank’s diary was a rare source of comfort for her.

She and her family were discovered in August 1944; all but her father perished in Nazi concentration camps.
History, Literature, Europe, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

Shuffle Along

May 23: May 23, 1921: Breaking Broadway’s Barriers
The early 20th century ragtime and jazz musicians Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had a major hit on their hands when they co-wrote Shuffle Along, the first major Broadway musical by, for, and about African Americans. All told, the show ran for more than 500 performances. It played in Washington, D.C. and other locales before lighting up Broadway, where police were assigned on show nights to help ease traffic congestion.

Shuffle Along also made stars of dancers like Josephine Baker and singers like Paul Robeson. Many songs became popular hits. But by today’s standards, some aspects of Shuffle Along are offensive. For example, though the actors were all African American, they applied makeup to their faces to darken them further, and borrowed stock characters from minstrel shows. As the show’s popularity spread by word of mouth, the audiences were filled with black and white theater patrons alike.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Jazz, Controversial, Theater

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

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

Thornton Wilder

Arts Days: April 17, 1897: An American Wordsmith
His works are read and his plays performed around the world, but when Thornton Wilder started writing stories as a kid, he never dreamt he’d be an icon of American literature one day. While his seminal three-act play Our Town is arguably his best-loved work, with its timeless depiction of life and loss in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, other plays including The Skin of Our Teeth and the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey are also literary classics (all three works netted Wilder Pulitzer Prizes for Literature).

He also revisited and tinkered with old works from time to time. For example, he reworked his play The Merchant of Yonkers into The Matchmaker, which in 1964 hit the Broadway stage as Hello Dolly!, running for 2,844 performances.
Playwrights & Plays, America, Literature, Theater

William Shakespeare

Arts Days: April 23, 1564: All the World’s His Stage
The most famous playwright the world has ever seen, William Shakespeare created unforgettable characters and stories in language so rich that the words move “trippingly on the tongue” (at least that’s how Hamlet put it).

His tragedies, such as King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth; comedies like Twelfth Night and As You Like It; and history plays, such as Henry V, thrive centuries later in part because they are filled with characters who make the same kinds of choices and face the same kinds of problems people everywhere do: broken hearts, office politics, family stuff.

Shakespeare’s 37 plays and 154 sonnets, basically a love poem, are really fun to read aloud. That’s because Shakespeare worked puns, jokes, and insults right into the text. Strangely, little is known about Shakespeare’s life.
Shakespeare, Playwrights & Plays, Innovators & Pioneers, Theater

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

Samuel Beckett

Arts Days: April 13, 1906: Post-Modern Poster Boy
Irish playwright and poet Samuel Beckett is considered the first Post-modernist writer. He explored some pretty bleak subjects in works like Waiting for Godot and Krapp’s Last Tape including loneliness, hopelessness, and isolation. His work attracted considerable attention in his day—and even still—for often tossing all conventions of character development and plot, even punctuation, straight out the window.

Some of his works attempted to capture the inner thoughts and feelings of his characters second by second. Beckett combined words and ideas in such innovative ways that he earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. But because Beckett was such a private person, the fame that accompanied this honor was a double-edged sword.
Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Europe, Theater

Theater collage

Article: It's Not Just a Stage
How to find your way around a theater, onstage and off
Backstage, Art Venues, Theater

Harold Prince

Arts Days: January 30, 1928: Theater Royalty is Born
Harold Prince, American theater producer and director, was associated with many of the best known Broadway musicals of the 20th century.

Born on this day in New York, NY, Prince landed his first job out of college in the office of legendary theater mogul George Abbott. Under Abbott's guidance, he learned the craft of creating original musical theater productions.

Prince co-produced a number of popular musicals in the 1950s and 60s including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cabaret. In the 1970s, he met composer Stephen Sondheim and almost exclusively produced all of Sondheim's musicals.

In 1976, Prince directed his first of many operas for the New York City Opera. Since then he has directed two of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera. Prince received 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, for his work as both a producer and director.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Theater

ARTSEDGE logo

Educators: Educators Portal
Standards-based instructional resources, how-to's, guides and other supports for teaching with the arts
Education, Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Arts

Theater conversations

Audio Series: Theater Conversations
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, in association with The Dramatists Guild, presents conversations from their two-week playwriting intensive at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Backstage

Theater seats

Video Series: The Power of Theater
What does theater "do"? Does it matter in a contemporary, screen-driven society? Drawn from the Kennedy Center Education Department archives, this series examines the way theater impacts modern society and culture.
Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Backstage, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia

Video Series: Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia: Backstage
Go backstage with the artists of Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia to learn about the skill and creativity they use to bring charcters to life, and what it's like to be a professional puppeteer on the road.
Puppets, Literature, Jobs in the Arts, Backstage, Theater

Nobody's Perfect

Video Series: Nobody's Perfect: Page to Stage
Explore the creation of the Kennedy Center's Theater for Young Audiences and VSA Arts production of Nobody's Perfect, including how American Sign Language was incorporated into a lively musical (ASL captioning is included in every episode in this series).
Jobs in the Arts, Language, Literature, Theater, Young Artists, Backstage, Musicals, Accessibility

Blood, Guts, & Gore

Video Series: Blood, Guts, and Gore
These video tutorials offer step-by-step guides for homemade fake blood and other gory stage effects. The series is hosted by stuntman and special effects professional Greg Poljacik.
Backstage, Movies & Movie Stars, Television, Theater, Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects

Knuffle Bunny

Video Series: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical
A Kennedy Center production about family, best friends, baby steps, and memories that last a lifetime
Theater, Puppets, Literature, Animals, Jobs in the Arts

Book stack

Audio Series: Page to Stage
Taking a musical from words on a page to songs on a stage: in this series, follow along as talented playwrights, designers and directors at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts transform classic works of literature into original theatrical productions.
Literature, Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Music

Photograph of the inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy

KC Festival: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration
The Kennedy Center marks the 50th anniversary of a remarkable American presidency
Presidents, America, Dance, Music, Theater, Poetry

She a Gem

2700 F St.: She A Gem
Krystin, Jaleesa, and Amber form a double-dutch team in inner city Philadelphia to compete in their neighborhood pageant. If they win, they’ll receive a special prize: their futures told by Ms. Mary, the local psychic. Will they become a famous singer? A hair dresser? Or maybe a “gem,” a special leader who cares for the neighborhood? Then they meet a pregnant teen from North Philly who can jump double-dutch almost better than any of them. Just as the girls anticipate learning about their futures, they’ll learn something important about her past that affects them all.
The Human Journey, Theater, Controversial, Sports

Long Way Down

2700 F St.: Long Way Down
Sixty seconds. Seven floors. One elevator. Fifteen-year old Will’s brother has just been shot, and Will is ready to follow “The Rules”: 1) “No Crying.” 2) “No Snitching.” 3) “Get Revenge.” But on the ride down, with his brother’s gun in his pocket, his plan is interrupted by a few visitors. Told entirely in free-form poetry, Long Way Down captures the potent minute Will contemplates retaliation. As mysterious guests appear at each floor, Will realizes there might be a bigger story to be told. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?
The Human Journey, Controversial, Theater

Cartography

2700 F St.: Cartography
Inflatable rafts on the Mediterranean. Dark holds of cargo trucks. Family photos wrapped carefully in a backpack that crosses border checkpoints. Cartography explores how the world is alive with movement and migration. Inspired by the artists’ creative work with young refugees from around the world, Cartography asks what part we play in the lives of youth who set out into the unsure waters of their future. From the effects of climate change to war and poverty, this powerful story examines the forces that shape where we have come from, how we have moved, and where we are going.
The Human Journey, Theater, Geography, Controversial

The Play That Goes Wrong

2700 F St.: The Play That Goes Wrong
What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had a Broadway baby? You’d get New York and London’s award-winning smash comedy! Called “the funniest play Broadway has ever seen” (The Huffington Post), this classic murder mystery is chock-full of mishaps and madcap mania. Welcome to opening night of The Murder at Haversham Manor, where things are quickly going from bad to utterly disastrous. With an unconscious leading lady, a corpse that can’t play dead, and actors who trip over everything (including their lines), it’s “comic gold” (Variety) sure to bring down the house.
Theater, Comedy

Wilderness

2700 F St.: Wilderness
This New York Times Critics’ Pick is a pulsating new multimedia documentary theater work from En Garde Arts that speaks to our collective search for connection and hope as families navigate the complexities of their children coming of age in 21st-century America. The production is derived from the real-life stories of six families—narratives exploring issues of mental health, addiction, and gender and sexual identity. Video and projection design combines sweeping landscapes with documentary footage of parents, veering from familiar domestic confines to the harshness of the world outdoors.
Controversial, Theater

From The Mouths Of Monsters

2700 F St.: From The Mouths of Monsters
Can language unleash the beast in each of us? her a mask to help, but the gift possesses supernatural powers that cause her to give words amazing power—and also the potential to cause terrible harm.
Literature, Theater, Science Fiction & Fantasy

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