Kennedy Center cancels 2020 events, moves Honors, Twain Prize to 2021

WTOP's Jason Fraley reports on Kennedy Center postponements

The Kennedy Center is canceling most of its previously announced performances and events for the remainder of 2020 due to lingering concerns over COVID-19.

That includes moving its flagship red carpet events. The 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors will now be held March, 7, 2021 (typically, it’s held in December) and the 23rd annual Mark Twain Prize will now be held June 20, 2021 (usually held in October).

“Our lives as we have known them have been upended by COVID-19, but the world continues to spin forward and we need artists now more than ever to help light the way,” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said. “I am deeply proud of our staff and artists who have been forging new digital stages for audiences in the nation’s capital.”

New programming will be announced in July within the mayor’s phased reopening guidelines. These events will use the building’s vast indoor spaces and more than 130,000 square feet of outdoor green space to create socially distant programming.

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Opening Night Gala, originally scheduled for Sept. 26, 2020, will not be held. Instead, the orchestra will be launching a special effort to support the NSO as it celebrates its 90th season in 2020-2021.

The previously announced Fortas chamber music series is being re-evaluated with the hope that some programs can be presented safely this fall in alternate venues.

As a result of these cancellations, the Kennedy Center expects to lose an estimated $45.7 million in ticket sales and other earned income during the 2020-2021 season.

The move comes after the Kennedy Center received $25 million in federal stimulus funds.

“The use of the funding doesn’t really change from what had been outlined previously,” public relations director Brendan Padgett said. “More than 80% of the funding is being used to support both furloughed and non-furloughed staff through compensation and benefits. However, the $25 million falls well short of sustaining the Kennedy Center through this prolonged period (March-December), and it does not make up for the millions of dollars in losses we will incur based on today’s announcement.”

For subscribers holding affected tickets, the ticket value will be placed on account and the Kennedy Center will be in contact with future options.

Since closing on March 13, 2020, the Kennedy Center has provided virtual programming that has received more than 26 million views on YouTube and over 30 million views on Facebook.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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