It’s all happening! The Kennedy Center’s physical and cultural expansion, the REACH, is finally here. In honor of the momentous opening, the Kennedy Center is throwing a free 16-day opening festival filled with concerts, films, art, dance, hands-on activities and so much more. As a special bonus on Opening Day, they’ll be activating the entire Kennedy Center campus—which means you’ll be able to explore the brand new REACH buildings while also kicking back in the original Edward Durell Stone building.
To get you prepared for all 16 days of 100% free fun, we’ve hand selected what we think are the best events happening each day. You can get your free timed-entry passes online at the Kennedy Center’s website (or download the REACH Fest app), but if you can’t get a pass for a day or time you want, don’t sweat it. Many of the events will have standby lines day-of just in case passes become available and some of them will even be streamed online so you can soak up all the fun from the comfort of your home.
Don’t forget, once the REACH is open, it’s always open to you. If you’d rather sip on some coffee and read a book in the ginkgo grove or just want to wander around and check out the space, you can do that. After September 22, timed-entry passes will no longer be required, so you can enjoy the REACH and its year-round programming on your schedule.
Saturday, September 7: The Chuck Brown Band featuring Bootsy Collins @ REACH Plaza Mainstage
What better way to celebrate the REACH’s opening than by dancing to some solid go-go? Join D.C.’s very own Chuck Brown Band (who have been keeping the revered Chuck Brown’s spirit alive for years) as they unite with the acclaimed Bootsy Collins for a night of funky bass lines and hot tunes at the brand new REACH Plaza Mainstage. While passes for this time slot are currently unavailable, you can stream this event online or show up early and wait in the standby line. You never know what will happen.
Sunday, September 8: Flying Lotus @ REACH Plaza Mainstage
Throw on your most comfortable shoes and get ready to dance the night away (and by the night, we mean 8:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) with the producer / artist / director Flying Lotus. If you don’t know his most recent albums You’re Dead! and Flamagra, you probably know him from his work with BYT forever favorite Thundercat, and if you don’t recognize that, you might know him from his directorial debut Kuso. Either way, you’re going to have a good time. Get those passes while you still can.
Monday, September 9: Dave Harris’s “Everybody Black” @ River Pavilion
The festival will feature a reading of Everybody Black, a play by poet and playwright Dave Harris about a black historian hired by wealthy white historians to write the definitive history of “the black experience.” The only catch—he’s never met a black person before. Everybody Black takes a look on how we document and interpret black history through comedy and clever satire. The play won this year’s Mark Twain and Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Awards.
Tuesday, September 10: A Tribe Called Red with Uptown Boyz @ REACH Plaza Mainstage
The First Nations electronic music group A Tribe Called Red makes their way from Ontario to play their combination of hip-hop, club music, reggae and First Nations’ chanting and drumming for a contemporary “powwow step” act. Intertribal drummers Uptown Boyz will open for the group. A Tribe Called Red gets their name from A Tribe Called Quest, which similarly writes and performs music about black American marginalization. The group joins other artists in the Indigenous Cultures showcase at the REACH Opening Festival, bringing together tribes from across Central and North America.
Wednesday, September 11: Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast @ Justice Forum
Bentzen Ball comedy festival alum Off Book are bringing a dash of music and laughs to the REACH. Their podcast involves hosts Jessica McKenna, Zach Reino and their awesome guest getting together to write a 100% improvised musical. For the live show they’ll have Scott Passarella on the keys, so make sure to grab your passes now. Just as a heads up, the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Thursday, September 12: Daybreaker at the REACH @ Presidential Grove
D.C.’s favorite early morning dance party is taking over the REACH for a pre-work celebration that will have you energized and ready to go before most of the city has started their day. Enjoy hot tunes by DJ FDVM and MC Haile Supreme and wind down with a calming yoga session with Atticus Mooney. This is Daybreaker’s first free event, so make sure you’re one of the first 1,000 people at the REACH so you can make the most of the morning. Start time is at 6 a.m.
Friday, September 13: Thievery Corporation @ REACH Plaza Mainstage
Is it really a D.C. party if there’s no Thievery Corporation? The electronica group is one of our city’s most famous exports, but they’re bringing it back home for a concert on the REACH Plaza. Bliss out to their mixture of electronic and world music beats while you relive the first time you saw Garden State. If D.C. was going to have our own Coachella, this would be it.
Saturday, September 14: Shaolin Jazz: Can I Kick It? Blade with DJ 2-Tone Jones @ Justice Forum
Shaolin Jazz has been hosting the District’s most interesting film series for the last few years. The cleverly titled Can I Kick It? events combine classic hip-hop with classic martial arts movies, creating a new live soundtrack for all of your old favorites. We’re especially excited to see them remix Blade because any movie that involves Wesley Snipes playing a vampire that hunts other vampires is a good movie. Just as a heads up, the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Sunday, September 15: Hoop Dreams with Steve James @ Justice Forum
If you’re a film buff or a documentary lover, you can’t afford to miss this screening of the incredibly influential doc Hoop Dreams with director Steve James. The 1994 film was originally supposed to be a short, but it grew into the doc that followed two black high school students from Chicago as they played basketball for a majority white high school in Illinois. Just as a heads up, the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Monday, September 16: Skylight Soundscapes @ Skylight Pavilion
Get zen and zone out at one of the most beautiful additions to the Kennedy Center campus, the Skylight Pavilion. During the afternoon, the pavilion will be filled with looping sounds, cityscapes and projections from all over the world. It’s the perfect spot for you to kick back, relax and soak up all the newness.
Tuesday, September 17: Black Panther Film Screening @ Video Wall
We don’t have to tell you about the magic of Black Panther because you’ve probably already seen the Marvel movie at least once. Regardless, if you’re looking for an excuse to hang out with some friends and check out the REACH at the same time, we highly recommend going to this screening. It’ll give you a chance to see the REACH’s huge new video wall in action. We can already tell we’re going to love watching movies here.
Wednesday, September 18: Hip Hop and Social Justice with Olmeca @ Justice Forum
Hip hop artist / activist Olmeca is swinging by the REACH to talk about the convergence of hip-hop, social justice and his personal experience being homeless and first generation born in the U.S. Get ready for a conversation filled with music, culture and plenty of activism. He’s also spent time living in the jungles of Chiapas and we can’t imagine anything more interesting. Just as a heads up, the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Thursday, September 19: Outside In with Hakim Bellamy @ Justice Forum
Get ready for some hands on storytelling. Hakim Bellamy, Poet Laureate of Albuquerque and a slam poetry champion, is hosting a workshop that involves taking stories from incarcerated adults and juveniles and turning them into creative writing pieces which are then performed. The idea is to merge and layer compassion and perception, creating a story that interweaves both people’s experiences. As a reminder, this workshop is for mature audiences and it’s in the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Friday, September 20: “Inside Jokes” hosted by Reese Waters with Patton Oswalt @ Justice Forum
Comedian Patton Oswalt (who you know from the Internet at large / Parks & Rec / Young Adult / Ratatouille) is teaming up with Get Up DC!’s Reese Waters for an evening of turning comedy inside out. They get inside the creation of jokes and the comedy writing process for a meta look at what makes a good joke tick. Just as a heads up, the Justice Forum is on the smaller side, so we recommend getting there early so you can grab a seat.
Saturday, September 21: Master Class: Beychella with MODELS INC. @ Skylight Pavilion
Learn the ins and outs of Beyonce’s riveting Coachella performance at MODELS INC.’s Beychella class. The class will be led by celebrity choreographer Iran ‘Bang’ Paylor, so you’ll be in good hands. People are going to be so impressed when you break out your moves at the next No Scrubs.
Sunday, September 22: Howard University Marching Band @ Skylight Pavilion
Finish off these 16 magical days of music, dancing, films and hands-on classes with the esteemed Howard University Marching Band. They’ll perform a mixture of classic tunes and current jams, followed by a screening of Beyoncé’s Homecoming. This might just be the perfect opportunity to show off the moves you learned the day before.