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Masks

Arts Days: March 05, 984 B.C.E.: Party Hearty
If you ever go back in time, ask the ancient Greeks to throw you a crazy party.  For example, the Greeks spent every spring celebrating their god of fertility, Dionysus, in a festival called—you guessed it—the Dionysia, which was especially big in Athens. Entire towns would drop everything to dance, tell stories, and drink lots of wine.

Somewhere along the way, a man named Thespis thought it would interesting to act out the stories that were always told at these gatherings; he is thought to be the first person to ever appear on a stage pretending to be someone else and speaking lines of a play. In other words, he may well have been history’s first actor, though we will never know for sure. In time, the Dionysia was a place where both sad plays (tragedies) and funny ones (comedies) were performed for and enjoyed by a crowd of thousands.
Greece, Theater, Tragedy, History, Geography

Uncle Sam

Arts Days: March 13, 1852: Say Uncle
Within the printed pages of the daily New York Lantern, a certain patriotic fellow made his debut on this day. You know the guy: wears a tall hat printed with stars, a pair of red-and-white striped pants, a white beard, a somber expression. Give up? We’re talking about Uncle Sam, who in editorial cartoons and advertisements over the years has come to be the personification of the United States. Here’s the back-story: A man named Frank Henry Temple Bellew was the first to draw Uncle Sam for the Lantern.

Bellew’s drawing was based on a real person named Samuel Wilson, who helped feed U.S. troops during the War of 1812 with meat packed in barrels bearing the initials “U.S.” It was meant to indicate government property, but the folks unloading the beef joked about “Uncle Sam’s” latest shipment. Later, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast conceived of the stars-and-stripes outfit in which we are most accustomed to seeing Uncle Sam today.
America, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Folklore, History, Military

King David Kalakaua

Arts Days: February 12, 1874: The King of Aloha
Before Hawaii became America’s 50th state, it was a monarchy ruled by King David Kalakaua I. Kalakaua is credited with helping to revive and support Hawaiian art forms like hula dancing; instruments like the ukelele; and martial arts, like Lua.

You see, some religious missionaries on the Islands thought these activities were improper. They had spent years before Kalakaua was elected to the throne trying to suppress various elements of Hawaiian culture, including its languages and art customs—even surfing!

But Kalakaua believed that these traditions and activities were important for native Hawaiians to learn, enjoy, and share with others to help keep Hawaii’s unique cultural history alive.  For his efforts, he was nicknamed “the Merrie Monarch.”
Dance, America, Geography, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Folklore, World Cultures

Roots

Arts Days: January 23, 1977: Rooted in Front of the TV
Nearly 100 million television viewers tuned in to ABC's Roots, a miniseries based on the autobiographical novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley.

Roots traces four generations of Haley's African American family, beginning in 1767 with the character Kunta Kinte, who is captured by slave traders in Gambia, Africa, to the author himself in 20th century America.

The show ran for eight consecutive days and became the most watched program in American television history, captivating audiences across all racial, gender, and ethnic lines. This landmark television event has been called "the single most spectacular educational experience in race relations in America."
Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Popular Culture, Africa, Geography, History, Literature

Arthur Miller

Arts Days: June 21, 1956: Just Said “No”
Sitting in the hot seat before the U.S. Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), playwright Arthur Miller was pressed to reveal his alleged ties to Communists. Or at least to name people Miller considered sympathetic to Communism and the Soviet Union.

Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, ostensibly about the 17th century Salem witch trials, raised eyebrows among senators like Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was also suspicious of where Miller’s sympathies lay, knowing that the playwright had attended several meetings of the Communist party in the 1940s. McCarthy and others were on high alert for Communists thought to have infiltrated the government, the arts, and other institutions in the U.S.

Miller, one of numerous writers, actors, and others suspected of having Communist ties, refused to identify anyone and was ultimately convicted of holding Congress in contempt.
Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, History, Theater

Kodachrome

Arts Days: June 22, 2009: Photo Finish
Kodachrome was the favored film of many a photographer over the course of its 74-year history, but it simply could not compete with the rise of today’s digital media and development. When the company pulled the plug on Kodachrome, it accounted for only one percent of sales of all the film Kodak sold. Until then, it had been famous for the richness of color it imparted to photos and for the ability of images to retain their deep hues, even decades after they had been taken.

However, using the film meant you had to engage in a special, complex development process, or hire someone to do it for you, which made using Kodachrome more expensive for the photographer than other types of film. Still, many thought the extra cost was worth it.
Visual Arts, Inventions, History

Jester Sommers

Arts Days: June 15, 1560 : A Motley Fool
When you’re the guy charged with making the King of England laugh, you’d better bring your A-game to work every day (the king was known for ordering jail time or even execution for pals, servants, and wives who displeased him).

Jester William Sommers evidently knew how to tickle the king’s funny bone by entertaining him with jokes, stunts, and gossip. The court jester’s role was part stand-up comedian, part confidante; a good “fool” could also share bad news with the monarch that no one dared to for fear of being punished. It’s believed that Sommers had, by royal decree, a lot of leeway with Henry VIII. You see, he might be performing a skit for the king, but would tuck in a useful tidbit, sometimes in the form of a riddle, about something going on behind the king’s back.
Comedy, History

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

Bernstein! Inside the Music

Multimedia Series: NSO Young People's Concert - Bernstein! Inside the Music
As an equally-famous conductor, composer, and musician, Leonard Bernstein not only conducted music by the world’s greatest composers, he also wrote many important works for orchestras.
Composers, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Music Legends

Selma

2700 F St.: Selma: A Film and Live Music Event with the NSO, Jason Moran, and Others
Experience Ava DuVernay’s film on a big screen with Jason Moran’s acclaimed score for the film performed live by a full orchestra conducted by Ryan McAdams. This event coincides with the one-year anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Music, History, America

American Revolution

Cuesheet: American Revolution, Produced by Theater Unspeakable from Chicago, IL
Chicago’s award-winning Theater Unspeakable returns to take on the challenge, telling a big story on an impossibly tiny stage! Using only 7 actors and their bodies, the show recreates the entire American fight for independence in 50 minutes. Combining tongue-in-cheek humor with a dash of derring-do, American Revolution displays the company’s signature imaginative physical theater.
America, History, Theater

Words of Vision and Revision

KC Connection: Words of Vision and Revision
Take a deeper dive into the words of great Americans and consider how history can inspire change through great art and creativity, including one's ability to be a "citizen artist."
America, History, Presidents

JFKC

KC Connection: JFKC: A Centential Celebration of John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy believed that to be an active artist was to be a true American citizen—someone who uses their creativity to improve lives and change society for the better.
Presidents, America, History

The Human Journey

Collection: The Human Journey
Beginning in October 2018 through July 2019, The Kennedy Center, National Geographic Society, and the National Gallery of Art will present a range of multidisciplinary performances, exhibits, and immersive discussions that tell this larger story through a personal lens.
Africa, America, Asia, Europe, Family, Geography, History, World Cultures, The Human Journey

USA flag

Audio: Unpacking our National Anthem
Examine the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the countless ways it has been adapted by musicians
Military, Music, America, History

Silent Night

2700 F St.: Silent Night
Based on the true story of a wartime ceasefire, Silent Night makes its WNO premiere in the centennial month of World War I’s end. The year is 1914 and the Great War has just been declared, dividing nations and sending millions into battle. As Christmas Eve falls on a battlefield near Belgium, soldiers in French, German, and Scottish trenches begin recalling songs of home, stepping into no-man’s-land for a spontaneous truce. Once sworn enemies, they trade their weapons for merriment and camaraderie—resulting in one miraculous night of peace.
The Human Journey, Europe, Opera, History

Anastasia

2700 F St.: Anastasia
Inspired by the beloved films, the romantic and adventure-filled new musical Anastasia is on a journey to Washington at last! From the Tony Award®–winning creators of the Broadway classic Ragtime, this dazzling show transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Anastasia features a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, a lush new score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (also the acclaimed composer/lyricist team for the Kennedy Center production of Little Dancer), and direction by Tony Award® winner Darko Tresnjak.
Europe, History, Musicals

moon

Audio Series: Art/Space
How do composers hear space? What does space sound like? Is there music in space? Narrated by Roger Launius of the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, this series looks at the way music and outer space connect.
Space, Science, Music, History

Jazz In DC

Audio Series: Jazz in DC
Take a tour through jazz history in Washington, DC! Pianist Billy Taylor and saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess lead listeners through their hometown's music scene in this six-part audio series.
America, History, Jazz, Music, Geography, Art Venues, Music Legends

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

Cuesheet: The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis’ Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award–winning book comes to life in a staged concert reading. Told through Kenny’s ever-witty perspective, The Watsons Go to Birmingham captures hilarious family antics alongside poignant observations of Birmingham’s tragic church bombing. Experience the beloved story of a family’s bond and endurance amidst one of the darkest periods in America’s history.
The Human Journey, Family, America, Theater, Music, History

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