Kennedy Center Honors, Mark Twain Prize Events Postponed

Kennedy Center Honors
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Honorees (L to R) Earth, Wind & Fire member Philip Bailey, Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, actress Sally Field and Sesame Street co-founders Lloyd Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney at the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at Kennedy Center Hall of States on Dec. 8, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Add the Kennedy Center Honors and the Mark Twain Prize to the long list of prestigious awards and honors that are being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors have been moved to March 7, 2021 (the event is usually held in early December). The 23rd annual Mark Twain Prize has been moved to June 20, 2021 (it’s usually held in October).

Many award shows have been delayed due to the pandemic. The Oscars were postponed from Feb. 28 to April 25, 2021. In the wake of that move, the Golden Globes moved from their usual early January date to the Oscars’ vacated date, Feb. 28.

A Recording Academy spokesperson said this week that, despite the Oscars’ move, the Grammys’ plan for now is to keep their Jan. 31, 2021 date.

Other signature events at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. have also been affected by the pandemic. The National Symphony Orchestra opening night gala, originally scheduled for Sept. 26, 2020, will not be held this year. Instead, the orchestra will be launching a special effort to support the orchestra as it celebrates its 90th season in 2020-21. 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 2020-21 season.

The Kennedy Center received $25 million in federal stimulus funds.

New programming for the Kennedy Center will be announced in July within Washington D.C.’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.

“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 in a statement.

Last year’s Kennedy Center Honors recipients were Earth, Wind & Fire, Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, actress Sally Field and the landmark TV series Sesame Street. Comedian Dave Chappelle was last year’s Mark Twain Prize recipient.

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