The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of Roger Stevens' many contributions to the performing arts are their true variety and wide influence. He has been a pioneer in government support of the arts and artists, a theatrical producer of international import, and the guiding force behind the establishment and growth of a national cultural center.
In 1961 Stevens was asked by President Kennedy to help establish the National Cultural Center, which years later would be named in honor of the 35th president--The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As chairman of the Center's Board of Trustees from 1961 to 1988, Stevens not only led the Center's fundraising efforts but also guided its programming, which included the commissioning of many new works. Stevens served as President Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Assistant on the Arts from 1964 to 1968, shepherding legislation which established the nation's first National Council on the Arts, later the National Endowment for the Arts, which he chaired from 1965 to 1969.
As a major theatrical producer in New York City and London, he has produced or coproduced some 250 plays (West Side Story, Bus Stop, A Man for All Seasons, Tea and Sympathy, Deathtrap, First Monday in October, and Mary, Mary) and has brought to the stage such writers as Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, and T.S. Eliot.
On Stevens' retirement as Kennedy Center chairman, David Richards commented in The Washington Post: "What will Stevens do now, people wonder. Better they should ask, What won't he do now?"
This unstoppable visionary died February 2, 1998.