The REACH for Cultural Representation
May 28, 2021 @ 8:00pm
Through a series of weekend festivals stretching from May 27 to October 2, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage will highlight a range of artists who represent different aspects of D.C.’s rich culture.
Diana Ezerins, director of public programs at the Kennedy Center, says in building the Millennium Stage Summer Series, she focused on bringing art forms to the stage who aren’t usually included within the Kennedy Center’s programming at large.
“The whole point was to showcase different communities in our city,” she says.
Each weekend has a theme that brings D.C.’s cultural diversity into focus. The mini-fests feature performances, workshops, yoga, dance instruction and educational programs. Because the festivals will be held at The REACH, the Kennedy Center’s campus expansion designed to facilitate shared artistic experiences for the community, Ezerins says there’s plenty of room for visitors to stretch out and stay safe during the ongoing pandemic — even as restrictions begin to ease.
She hopes this in-person festival series will bring people together in a way that has been missing from everyone’s lives for over a year.
“Right now, we’re learning to be together again,” she says. “I wanted to create something that would embrace what I’m hoping is this renewed sense of community, awareness and care for each other.”
The first mini-fest, spanning Memorial Day weekend, speaks to this idea with the theme “SAMASAMA: All Together Now!” SAMASAMA is an organization that curates events and partnerships “to highlight diasporic narratives and facilitate nuanced dialogue.” As sama-sama’s literal meaning is “all together” in Tagalog, this mini-fest serves to both celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) narratives and bring DMV residents from all backgrounds together.
Co-founder and co-curator of SAMASAMA, Les Talusan, who is also a local DJ and photographer, is kicking off the summer series with a DJ set at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.
“The mission of SAMASAMA remains honoring ancestral and indigenous roots while pushing creative boundaries to grow our understanding of current and future generations’ multicultural identities,” Talusan says.
On June 3-5, The REACH invites locals to celebrate the DMV drag community at The Wig Party festival curated by popular performance artist Pussy Noir, whose acts focus on genderqueer imagery. The event is in partnership with The REACH’s Culture Caucus, of which Pussy Noir, known offstage as Jason Barnes, is a member along with co-producer Don Burke.
With many Capital Pride events postponed or canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, Burke says holding this event during the month of June is a small consolation but no replacement.
“We intentionally wanted to have the festival during Pride month, but it’s by no means meant to replace D.C. Pride,” he says. “We were offered the choice between June 3-5 or a weekend in August, and knew we simply had to make sure we’d be celebrating the talent and history of the D.C. drag community during Pride month.”
When asked how it feels to have the opportunity to showcase the drag art form and represent the drag community at such a high-profile venue as the Kennedy Center, Burke says, “It feels fan-freaking-tastic, darling! We are so excited to be bringing this festival to life. Beyond being the first festival of its kind in the District, we are honored and thrilled to have the chance to give so many drag [and] queer artists a chance to slay on the nation’s stage. We see this festival as a chance to establish drag as a respected art form in the art world, and to celebrate local D.C. area drag artists and history.”
Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind series that puts diversity, inclusivity and community at the forefront of each performance and experience.
All events in the Millennium Stage Summer Series are free. Tickets are available every Friday for the following Thursday to Saturday. Learn more, including how to preregister for events, at
Check out SAMASAMA at www.samasamaart.com or on Instagram @samasamaart, and Les Talusan at www.lestalusan.com or on Instagram @lestalusan. Check out The Wig Party and Pussy Noir on Instagram @thewigpartydc and @gracedrones.
The REACH at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org // @kennedycenter
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