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Kennedy Center cancels performances through August
A section of the Reach, designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Kennedy Center’s first expansion in its nearly half-century history. Justin T. Gellerson/The New York Times.

by Nancy Coleman

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Amid continued coronavirus concerns — and following a contentious debate over its funding — the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Monday postponed or canceled all live events through Aug. 9, including a summer production of “Hamilton.”

The Kennedy Center, a cultural mainstay in Washington and home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera, had already canceled performances through May 22. With nearly three more months of suspended programming, the center said on Monday that in total, since it first closed on March 13, more than 1,000 events and performances have been postponed or canceled.

The Kennedy Center was the focus of partisan scrutiny after the government’s $2 trillion stimulus package — including $25 million for the center — was signed into law in March. The center originally announced it would furlough the National Symphony Orchestra’s 96 musicians along with other Kennedy Center workers, a move it insisted was financially necessary even with the aid from the package, before reversing course and instead cutting its musicians’ pay by 35% through early September.

The orchestra will reschedule its three-week celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and its concerts with Trey Anastasio, Ben Folds and Amos Lee were canceled. The center also canceled a series of performances from the Second City improv troupe.

The entire 14-week run of “Hamilton,” set to begin on June 16 at the center’s Opera House and go through Sept. 20, will be rescheduled, the center and producers of the musical decided.

“During unprecedented moments in history, we look to the arts and artists for hope and creative reflections of humanity, but at this time, we are not able to gather physically, communally, as we have before for the safety of our artists, staff and patrons,” the Kennedy Center’s president, Deborah Rutter, said in a statement. “I am heartbroken by these necessary steps that have emptied our halls that are usually bursting with the sights and sounds of creative genius.”

Many prominent performing arts institutions have already canceled their summer schedules, including the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Others are tentatively hoping to go on: The Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts is making extensive modifications to its space and schedule, and the Muny in St. Louis is still planning to begin a modified summer season in July, with five of its seven planned shows running through late August.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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