20 Years of Millennium Stage
Jenn Tisdale | Mar 17, 2017 | 9:00AM |

Nothing in life is free, unless you’re at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage every night at 6 p.m. For twenty years the Millennium Stage has been a constant source of innovative, interesting, fun and at times weird programming all for the price of none. This year marks their 20th anniversary so we reached out to the fine folks of the Kennedy Center and asked if they could take us on a little tour of some of their favorite performances.

King Sunny Ade

One memorable moment occurred when the Nigerian guitarist and songwriter King Sunny Ade was performing on Millennium Stage. At one point during the show King Sunny was playing hard and sweating when a man in the audience wearing spectacular Nigerian clothing stood up, walked to the stage in a dignified manner, pulled cash from his pocket and reached up and pressed the bills to King Sunny’s forehead. The ushers and I were taken by surprise, but fortunately, another audience member explained to me the tradition of “spraying”, which is a way of showing respect and appreciation for musicians in Nigerian juju music. – Garth Ross, Vice President, Community Engagement

>>>>>>>>>>>> Here is a Featured Event >>>>>>>>>>>>
Thursday 03/30
Carlos Mencia from Mind of Mencia @ Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse
$30 / $30
Carlos Mencia is undoubtedly one of today’s most popular entertainers and comics. Whether it is man-on-the-street interviews, studio comedy, commercial parodies, nationwide sold-out tours, or films, Mencia demonstrates an extraordinary ability to connect with a wide and diverse audience. Mencia comes from a humble background, born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the 17th of 18 children. His parents sent him to the United States when he was about three months old, where he was raised in Maravilla Projects in Los Angeles, California by his aunt and uncle. In his early teens, Mencia moved back to Honduras because his family wanted him to avoid the destructive gang culture of East Los Angeles. When Mencia later returned to Los Angeles, he showed such educational prowess that he was immediately promoted to the tenth grade. Soon after, he successfully graduated from Garfield High School. Mencia began his career doing stand-up on amateur night. After he found success on the L.A comedy circuit, Mencia was named “International Comedy Grand Champion” from Buscando Estrellas (the Latino version of Star Search). This led to appearances on “In Living Color,” “The Arsenio Hall Show,” “Moesha” and “An Evening at the Improv.” In 1994, he hosted the HBO comedy series “Loco Slam” and in 1998 he hosted “Funny is Funny!” on Galavision. Mencia released a comedy album in 2000 called “Take a Joke, America” that showcased his brand of humor. Mencia continued his journey up the comedy ladder by headlining “The Three Amigos” tour with Freddy Soto and Pablo Francisco in 2002, which sold out in record time around the United States. He was also featured in the independent films, “Outta Time” and “29 Palms” and starred in guest spots on “The Shield” and “The Bernie Mac Show,” among others. In 2002, he received a CableACE Award nomination for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special for his HBO special. That same year, Mencia was featured on “Comedy Central Presents.” Mencia remained busy and after the success of his solo dvd, “Carlos Mencia: Not For The Easily Offended,” “Mind of Mencia” went into development. The show was an instant hit and after the first season, Comedy Central signed Mencia back for his own original stand-up special, “Carlos Mencia: No Strings Attached.” The special was the first Comedy Central Stand-up Special DVD to achieve Platinum sales status. “Mind of Mencia” debuted on Comedy Central in early 2005. It became one of the strongest shows in the network’s history, averaging about 1.5 million total viewers. “Mind of Mencia” was executive produced by Carlos Mencia and Robert Morton (“Late Night with David Letterman”). In the summer of 2007, Mencia starred opposite Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan in the Farrelly Brothers’ hit feature film, THE HEARTBREAK KID (DreamWorks). In the fall of that year Mencia headlined a nationwide comedy tour titled “Carlos Mencia Live Presented by Bud Light.” The highly anticipated tour brought Mencia face-to-face with his fans from September 2007 through December 2007. Shortly thereafter, Mencia taped a new comedy special for Comedy Central, “Carlos Mencia: Performance Enhanced,” that aired in May 2008. Since 2007, every holiday season Mencia has embarked on a USO Tour to the Persian Gulf to entertain the troops serving overseas. For his 2008 trip, Mencia visited Kuwait to host “Operation MySpace,” an exclusive concert for American Troops in the Middle East alongside Jessica Simpson and The Pussycat Dolls. The special aired on FX in April 2008. Mencia’s 2009 USO tour had stops in Turkey, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Qatar, Afghanistan, and many other countries. In July 2008, Mencia began his tour, “At Close Range” at Red Rock Amphitheatre in Colorado. The tour was sponsored by Bud Light and co-promoted by Icon Entertainment and Live Nation. Larger than all of his previous tours, Mencia performed in 80 cities across the country. In the summer of 2009, he kicked off a nationwide comedy tour entitled “The Administration of Laughter” which brought him to excited audiences all around the country. In March 2010, Mencia starred in the family comedy OUR FAMILY WEDDING (FOX Searchlight) alongside America Ferrara and Forrest Whitaker. In the last couple years, Mencia chose to go back to his comedic roots, performing at a number of comedy stores throughout the country – allowing him to share his newest material with smaller and more intimate audiences.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Ok, back to the article! >>>>>>>>>>>>

Ivy Sole

My favorite moment at Millennium Stage was seeing two little boys, about 3 years old each, have a “dance battle” during the Ivy Sole concert – I’m pretty sure they even tried spinning on their heads at one point! By the end of their dance off, they were holding hands and dancing together! If you missed it, check out the footage of the Ivy Sole performance here!! – Ariel, Program Manager, PAFE

Unexpected Dance Parties

My favorite moments happen any time guests come to see a Millennium Stage performance and then unexpectedly find themselves participating in a dance party in the audience seats or in front of the stage. It is this moment of contagious participatory joy that elevates the shared performance watching experience to another level. – Matt Kettenburg, Production Manager

Secret Sisters

One of my favorite Millennium Stage performances is when the Secret Sisters performed in August 2015. Hailing from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the sisters were armed with just their beautiful harmonies, one guitar, and hilarious repartee. – Margot Pien, Program Coordinator, Community Engagement and Millennium Stage


My favorite Millennium Stage memory would be experiencing Merry TUBACHRISTMAS for the first time. Hundreds of tubas players and audience members filled the whole Concert Hall. Tubas and sousaphones played all over, giving a real surround-sound effect of festive holiday music. You immediately felt the camaraderie and the community between the players. For an instrument that usually gets relegated to the background of musical pieces, it was thrilling to hear the richness of the deep, brassy sound brought into the spotlight. – A.J. Jelonek, Production Assistant, PAFE

Sharing Memories

Since we livestream and archive our performances, when I am really proud of what we have accomplished on stage, I can take it home and share the memory with my family and friends. Even if they live across the country, they can share in the artistry we present, and see the impact of our work. They can also see I’m geeking out about the artist I’m introducing to the stage. – Bobby Hunter, PAFE & Millennium Stage – Production Coordinator

Suzanne Farrell Ballet

My first, favorite, and most memorable Millennium Stage performance was seeing the Suzanne Farrell Ballet perform in 2010. I was a dance major at the University of Maryland at the time and couldn’t afford tickets to the ballet so I came to the free show and was blown away. I had learned about Ms. Farrell as a young dancer and was so inspired by her expressivity that to see her dancers on stage in real life in front of me FO FREE was peak happiness. – Courtney Burke, Marketing Manager

Lisa Shaw: The Mother of All Cabarets

This is one of my favorites. I may be biased; it’s my wife. She knocked it out of the park and had an audience of 300+. – Jeremy Birch, Manager of Publications