National Festival

National Festival

One male and two female students sit on the floor, laughing..

Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

Each April, the Kennedy Center welcomes about 125 outstanding theater students to the KCACTF National Festival. Student awardees in design, performance, directing, playwriting, stage management, dramaturgy, arts leadership, and theatre criticism, are invited from all eight Regions. 

Through master classes, presentations, conversations, and staged readings, students learn from and connect with established theatre artists, as well as their peers from across the country.

The next National Festival will take place April 7 - 12, 2020. 


Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.


Regional nominees and award-winners receive further information and a link to an online form, which must be filled out shortly following the Regional Festival. 

The KCACTF National Office books and pays for round-trip transportation to D.C. for all students coming to the National Festival. Flights typically arrive by mid-day on Tuesday and depart on Saturday. (Some disciplines may have different schedules, depending on the year.) 

KCACTF provides hotel for all students during the National Festival. Most students will be in double rooms, with one roommate. The hotels are within walking distance of the Kennedy Center, or staff will arrange for shuttle service. 

Per Diem
Students receive a per diem of $40/day for each full day of the National Festival, and $20/day for travel days. Per Diem checks are mailed to students in advance. 

While at the National Festival, students spend their days in master classes and discussions with professional theatre artists, attending concert readings of award-winning plays, and visiting D.C. theatres. Each discipline has its own unique schedule, with some cross-over and collaboration between disciplines. The days span 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM, with lunch, dinner, and others breaks built in. 

The discipline schedules are available a couple weeks in advance of the National Festival and will be emailed to the students. 

Parents/Faculty Mentors

Parents and Faculty are welcome to attend any National Festival events that are open to the public. Each Irene Ryan candidate and partner will receive one comp to the Irene Ryan Scholarship Auditions, and each Musical Theatre fellow will receive one comp to the Musical Theatre Showcase. Additional tickets will be available for purchase at the Kennedy Center's Box Office. Parents or Faculty interested in attending concert readings of plays should ask their student to contact the KCACTF National Office to add their name(s) to the guest list. 

Please note that we strive to treat students as professional artists, and prefer that students contact us regarding questions about their family or faculty guests and take responsibility for communication regarding travel and their National Festival experience. 

Irene Ryan Coaches

Each Irene Ryan candidate will have an assigned twenty-minute time slot to stage and rehearse their audition on the Terrace Theater stage. These slots are on Friday of the National Festival, some time between 1:00 and 4:00 PM. The candidates are allowed to invite faculty acting as their Irene Ryan coach to the staging rehearsal. This rehearsal period and the public events are open to faculty mentors, but the master classes are for participants only. The candidate should contact the KCACTF National Office in advance of the National Festival to arrange for staff to escort the coach into the Terrace Theater at the assigned time. Faculty mentors must arrange their own travel and lodging. 

A group of students take a selfie in a room completely lined with show posters.

Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.


The Musical Theatre Showcase will take place on Thursday, April 9, 2020. Tickets will be available soon from the Kennedy Center Box Office. 

A close up of a young black female actor straightening her hairband.

Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.


The Irene Ryan Scholarship Auditions and National Awards Ceremony will take place Friday, April 10 in the Terrace Theater. Tickets will be available at the Kennedy Center Box Office. 

Six actors stand in a row, at music stands.

Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.


Concert readings of the top Ten Minute and Short Play finalists will take place through the National Festival. The schedule will be finalized toward the end of March.