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The Kennedy Center

Direct Current

DIRECT CURRENT, the Kennedy Center's two-week celebration of contemporary culture, returns for a third season. With special emphasis on female creators, works new to the District of Columbia, and interdisciplinary creations, the 2020 spring immersion showcases some of the most provocative, original, and pioneering voices in the arts today. DIRECT CURRENT takes place March 8–21 at the Kennedy Center—including the indoor and outdoor spaces of the REACH—and around the city.

DIRECT CURRENT’s wealth of offerings span the artistic spectrum, from the D.C. premieres of two major new operas to an interactive light show and bold new experiments in dance. Prominent female creators in attendance include Ellen Reid, Jeanine Tesori and Patti Smith, while performers range from Chris Thile to Washington National Opera. All told, DIRECT CURRENT’s third season offers a snapshot of contemporary culture through a thoughtfully curated collection of work by some of today’s foremost cultural risk-takers.

March 11
jaimie branch’s Fly or Die
March 13-14
p r i s m
March 14
Live from Here with Chris Thile
March 14
Camile Meza and the Nectar Orchestra
March 15-20
Blue
March 19
Fukiko Takase + Dustin O’Halloran – 1 0 0 1
Erica Rebollar – Variations
March 21
Patti Smith, Jesse Paris Smith, and Rebecca Foon

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women’s suffrage. To honor this milestone centennial, DIRECT CURRENT 2020 not only shines a light on female artists and their work, but also collaborates with the Vital Voices Global Partnership for their annual Global Mentoring Walk on International Women’s Day 2020 (March 8) and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards (March 11).

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame punk icon and National Book Award-winning poet Patti Smith leads an evening of music and poetry with her daughter, the composer, instrumentalist, and activist Jesse Paris Smith; and Canadian cellist and composer Rebecca Foon, a co-founder of the Esmerine ensemble.

At the independently owned and operated D.C. basement dance club U Street Music Hall, Mija— “EDM’s next superstar” (Nylon)—heads an all-female DJ lineup during the festival’s DJ Showcase (March 13).

To amplify the mainstage offerings, each evening during DIRECT CURRENT there will be a free live multi-genre performance on the Millennium Stage or in other Kennedy Center venues, where the voices of female creators will once again predominate. Comedian Sarah Sherman (aka Sarah Squirm) shares her signature mix of feminism, self-loathing and performance art (Millennium Stage, March 21). A wealth of additional free events will be announced soon.

DIRECT CURRENT is thrilled to present the D.C. premieres of p r i s m, the surreal and haunting first opera by composer Ellen Reid; and Blue, a new chamber opera on race, violence, and reconciliation from Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and award-winning librettist-director Tazewell Thompson.

Patti Smith, Jesse Paris Smith, and Rebecca Foon lead the audience in the D.C. premiere of Little Sunrise, an interactive lightshow by trailblazing Danish-Icelandic visual artist Olafur Eliasson.

A music and dance double-bill features the East Coast premiere of 1 0 0 1 (2019), performed live by its creators: choreographer and Company Wayne McGregor member Fukiko Takase, “a diabolo of a dancer” (Evening Standard, UK) and composer Dustin O’Halloran.

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Upcoming Events


jaimie branch's Fly or Die (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Wed, Mar 11, 2020

Rolling Stone says Jaimie Branch sounds like “Art Ensemble of Chicago jamming at an art-punk loft.” For more than a decade, the Brooklyn–based trumpeter/composer has joined diverse acts like William Parker, Spoon, TV on the Radio, and Bell Orchestre, always down to play with anyone from jazz masters to doom metal bands. Now, she’s touring with music from her critically acclaimed sophomore album FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise, a sharply focused work that’s “highly sensitive, a bit stormy, and completely brilliant” (Free Jazz Collective).

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Forte—A Film by David Donnelly (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Mar 12, 2020

The REACH hosts the D.C. premiere of Forte, David Donnelly’s new film which challenges outdated notions of classical success and spotlights the strength of three diverse women.

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Ellen Reid / Roxie Perkins: p r i s m (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mar 13 – 14, 2020

Witness the D.C. premiere of p r i s m, Ellen Reid’s surreal, haunting opera which explores the trauma of sexual abuse and the elasticity of memory that can follow in its wake. Set to a libretto by Roxie Perkins, p r i s m was recently recognized with both the Music Critics Association of North America’s “Best New Opera Award” and the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

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Women DJ's (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Fri, Mar 13, 2020

This season, at the independently owned and operated D.C. basement dance club U Street Music Hall, Mija—“EDM’s next superstar” (Nylon)—heads an all-female DJ lineup during the festival’s DJ Showcase. This event also kicks off U Street Music Hall’s 10-Year Anniversary Week celebration.

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Chris Thile: Live from Here (live national broadcast) (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Mar 14, 2020

Attend a live broadcast of Live from Here, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated, weekly variety show hosted by Chris Thile (of both Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers). In this Concert Hall event, Thile welcomes an all-female lineup of exciting guest artists.

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Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Mar 14, 2020

Arriving on the New York jazz scene in 2009 from her native Chile, singer/guitarist Camila Meza made a name for herself immediately, delivering what the New York Times describes as “an appealing combination of lightness and depth to all material... Her improvising, on electric or acoustic guitar, is serious business.” Drawing inspiration from American jazz, Latin American music, and popular songs across decade and genre, Meza wows audiences with her rare combination of talents: fantastic singing, complex guitar work, and vivid musical storytelling. She’ll be performing music from her newest recording, Ámbar.

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Washington National Opera: Blue

Mar 15 – 28, 2020

In the D.C. premiere of Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s new contemporary opera, a family struggles when their teenager is shot by police.

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Fukiko Takase + Dustin O'Halloran: 1 0 0 1
Erica Rebollar: Variations
(part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Mar 19, 2020

As we approach the age of AI, how will a new form of consciousness manifest inside a body? What will happen to our soul? 
Award winning composer Dustin O’Halloran (Marie Antoinette, Lion, Transparent) teams up with choreographer Fukiko Takase to explore ideas of technology, humanity, and mind-body dualism in 1 0 0 1, their new electronics-forward, existentialist performance piece inspired by Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell1 0 0 1 shares the program with Variations, an in-depth look at the “theme and variations” structure by Erica Rebollar.

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Patti Smith, Jesse Paris Smith, and Rebecca Foon (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Mar 21, 2020

DIRECT CURRENT’s mainstage season draws to a close with an evening of music and poetry from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame punk icon and National Book Award-winning poet Patti Smith; her daughter, the composer, instrumentalist and activist Jesse Paris Smith; and Canadian cellist and composer Rebecca Foon.

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