Tag Archives: Kennedy Center

Scenes from The REACH Winter Lanterns at the Kennedy Center

It’s time to ring in the Year of the Rat, and there are a bunch of fun ways to do so around DC (see the latest Weekend Round-Up for details on several). The Kennedy Center has already begun the celebration with The REACH Winter Lanterns, a wonderful exhibition of about 100 stunning illuminations. Crafted by Chinese artisans, the display is made up of 10,000 colored LED lights, including the Chinese Four Symbols and 12 Zodiac Signs, Panda Grove, Mushroom Garden, Floral Garden, and Jellyfish Lagoon — all of it delightful and so beautiful.

Along with the lanterns, there are more activities to enjoy. When Sasha and I visited, there was a Beijing Opera make-up demo, panda photo ops, traditional costumes to try on, a calligraphy station, and a paper lantern making workshop. Food trucks are there for bites, and outdoor seating areas warmed by heaters provide a place to eat them.

A special Family Day on Saturday, January 25, will have free fun for all ages from 1:30-4:30pm. Activities will include arts and crafts, a traditional costume photo booth, zodiac stickers, demonstrations of sugar painting and wood block printing, magic shows, and more. Plan to stick around for the Winter Lanterns, which begins at 5:30pm. And the Beijing Bamboo Orchestra is the Millennium Stage performance that evening at 6pm.

The REACH Winter Lanterns will be on display select dates through Sunday, February 2 — this weekend through Sunday, January 26, then Thursday, January 30 – Sunday, February 2. It begins at 5:30pm each evening except for January 26, when it starts at 4pm. All of it is free, though parking at the Kennedy Center is $23. You can try for street parking nearby (though difficult to find a spot), so pubic transportation (nearest Metro is Foggy Bottom) is recommended. And all of the lanterns are outdoors on The REACH campus, so dress warmly! Other activities, however, take place inside.

Here’s more of a glimpse of it all…

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Outdoor, Special Event, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Review: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) at the Kennedy Center

(Photo credit: The Kennedy Center – Jeremy Daniel)

[Note: This review was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who is helping cover activities geared toward younger children as mine have aged out of them.]

Spoiler alert: the Pigeon may not get to drive the bus, but he does fly to new Kennedy Center-worthy heights. What a treat for Washington, DC, area families and holiday season visitors to experience the world premiere of Mo Willems’ and Mr. Warburton’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!), running now through January 5, 2020, at the renowned performing arts center. After that, the Pigeon flies off on tour.

Willems’ simple tale of a tantrum-prone pigeon with a see-it, need-to-have-it affliction is elevated with a thicker plot, toe-tapping musical score, seamlessly choreographed dance and puppetry, and a highly-talented ensemble. Not sure who stole the show more, the personified bus engine getting all the laughs or the surprise tongue-wagging character getting all the wide-eyed stares. And this children’s show is made complete with obligatory, city-themed one-liners for the adults.

If you’re familiar with Willems’ engaging writing style that makes his award-winning books (and readers) come to life, you may be expecting lots of audience interaction. I was anticipating direct solicitation of kids reactions or conversations with the characters — but the Pigeon only veered off-stage once to engage with the audience. Despite this, the one-hour show kept everyone, toddler to adult, captivated. The mostly elementary school-aged audience and their parents were enthralled in the non-stop action, quickly escalating story, and life message-carrying ending.

KFDC Tip: Get some energy out before showtime with a Pigeon-guided, augmented reality tour of The Kennedy Center. You can download the “Tour the Kennedy Center” app on your smartphone, in which you are instructed to scan various kiosks throughout the center. Complete the tour to receive a few cute mementos at the Information Booth. Show memorabilia is also available for purchase in the Family Theater lobby and Gift Shop.

And if your kids are yearning for more, they’ll be happy to learn that Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) is part of The Kennedy Center’s new Education Artist-in-Residence program, Willems being the very first resident. He has developed a series of multidisciplinary programming that lets kids experience the traditional arts in non-traditional ways. Next up from Willems is “Jazz Doodle Jam!” where kids are actually instructed to doodle during the live jazz concert, the band improvising based on the artwork.

Learn more and find tickets to all of Mo Willems’ upcoming events at the Kennedy Center, including sensory-friendly showings of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) here.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!)
Where: The Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: Through January 5, 2020
Tickets: $20


Filed under 2019, All ages, DC, Fall, Live Entertainment, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

T(w)een Scene: “Long Way Down” at the Kennedy Center

A pre-show photo op with Long Way Down author Jason Reynolds

This past weekend, Owen and I caught a performance of Long Way Down at the Kennedy Center. Based on the award winning novel by Jason Reynolds, the show presents the story of Will, a 15-year-old boy who is about to seek revenge for his older brother’s murder. Riding down the eight floors of his apartment building, his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband, Will at first is just thinking about The Rules: 1) No Crying 2) No Snitching 3) Get Revenge. That is, until he encounters a few people from his past on the way down.

The characters who join Will in the elevator have died, each of them killed by gun violence at some point during Will’s life. But they return as the people they would be now — the age they would be and with a perspective of what happened to them. There is Uncle Buck, childhood friend Dani, Uncle Mark, his father, Buck’s killer Frick, and, finally, his brother, Shawn.

One of the most amazing things about the show is that all of the characters are played by just one actor. Justin Weaks does a superb job bringing them all to life (literally, in a way). For over an hour, it was just him on stage, and he had us all mesmerized the entire time.

As Will interacts with every person, and we learn more about each of their lives and deaths, we also get a peek inside Will’s mind — his grief, anger, frustration, heartache — as he contemplates all that has happened and what he is about to do. He begins to question his intent to follow The Rules. And as the elevator doors finally open, and Shawn asks, “You coming?” it’s almost as if there’s a collective gasp as everyone in the audience holds their breath.

Needless to say, this production is immensely powerful and riveting. I highly recommend it for about ages 12+ and have to note that this is just as much for adults as it is the YA audience for whom it was written. (Owen had read and really enjoyed the book already. While I hadn’t read it yet, he told me what it was about, so I knew what to expect going in. Either way, and even without knowledge of the book, it’s a very compelling show.)

Long Way Down is running at the Kennedy Center, with several shows remaining from Thursday 11/1 – Sunday, 11/4, and there are still some tickets available for just about all of them.

And as shown in the photo above, Jason Reynolds was there for that first performance to sign books and take photos before the show. He also spoke afterward and noted that the story isn’t just about gun violence, but about “humanizing the people that feel this kind of pain.”

His book and this production convey that brilliantly.

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Filed under 2018, DC, Fall, Live Entertainment, Teens, Theatre, Tweens, Weekend

The Kennedy Center’s OLIVÉRio is a Clever Twist on the Dickens Classic

OLIVÉRio is running at the Kennedy Center through February 21

OLIVÉRio is running at the Kennedy Center through February 21

It’s always fun to see a fresh spin on a classic story, and OLIVÉRio: A Bazilian Twist at the Kennedy Center makes it fun, indeed. This re-imagined version is a play within a play set in Rio de Janiero, a location that couldn’t be more different than the original’s England. And while the musical follows the same general storyline, there are many “twists” that make it vibrant and light. A colorful set, Brazilian sounds of samba and bassa nova, buoyant dance numbers, comedic moments, and some clever surprises are an interesting and entertaining contrast to Dickens’ darker tale.

Owen and I caught a performance this past weekend, and we both enjoyed it, especially after seeing a more traditional Oliver production in the fall. It was neat to compare the two — and be transported to the tropics on a winter afternoon. On stage in the Family Theatre, young guests also receive a guide to the show that explains this twist and offers ideas to make the most of the theatre experience. And it seemed that much of the audience did just that, as the applause was quite enthusiastic as the cast took their bows.


OLIVÉRio: A Bazilian Twist will be at the Kennedy Center through February 21. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up, but I think even some children a bit younger could appreciate it, too. Run time is just over an hour, and shows take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $20.

Disclosure: KidFriendly DC received complimentary tickets from the Kennedy Center to see OLIVÉRio: A Bazilian Twist, but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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Filed under DC, Live Entertainment, Music, Theatre, Weekend, Winter