Free State Festival to kick off next month with Cheech Marin, Fantastic Negrito and a smorgasbord of culture

photo by: Associated Press

In this photo from March 14, 2017, actor and author Cheech Marin participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his new book, "Cheech Is Not My Real Name: ... But Don't Call Me Chong", at AOL Studios in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Lawrence’s Free State Festival — a showcase of film, music, art and ideas — will be back Sept. 17-23 for its seventh year, this time with an emphasis on activism.

While some of the events will be free to attend, others will cost anywhere from $5 to $30 per ticket.

Here are a few of the scheduled highlights:

The festival will kick off with Cheech Marin, who will headline the “Ideas” portion of the festival with a talk on Chicano art. Marin, one-half of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, is a longtime art collector who plans to open the Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry in Riverside, Calif., in 2020. His talk will be at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. Tickets cost $20.

Also featured as part of the “Ideas” portion will be New York Times Best Selling author Craig Johnson, who created the Walt Longmire mystery series, the basis for the hit A&E drama “Longmire.” Johnson will do a reading and a book-signing at 6 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Lawrence Arts Center. Tickets cost $30.

Combining rock, blues, folk and funk, Fantastic Negrito will lead the musical charge for the festival. The musician has performed on the campaign trail with Sen. Bernie Sanders, and his latest album, “Please Don’t Be Dead,” has been playing on repeat for Free State Festival founder and director Marlo Angell.

“Once we booked Fantastic Negrito, the whole thing just started to come together, and our theme ‘Art and Activism’ became clear,” she said.

Fantastic Negrito will perform from 9 to 11 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Lawrence Arts Center. Tickets cost $20.

photo by: Associated Press

Fantastic Negrito poses backstage with the award for best contemporary blues album for “The Last Days of Oakland” at the 59th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The festival will also feature a number of short and feature-length films, including two by Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott. “BlacKkKlansman,” Willmott’s most recent collaboration with Spike Lee, will be shown for free at 8 p.m. Sept. 19 at Liberty Hall. Although there’s no charge, a ticket is still required.

Willmott’s other film, “William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas,” is a documentary about Emporia’s famous newsman. It will be shown at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at Liberty Hall. Tickets cost $8.

Many films in this year’s series feature stories about the struggles of people living on the fringes of society.

Lawrence’s popular Transformations Charity Gala will be the subject of a short film about the experiences of drag performers. “Transformations” centers on four Kansas performers who participate in the annual drag talent show at Liberty Hall and will run alongside another drag-related film, “Dragtivists.” The films are scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 23 at Liberty Hall. Tickets cost $5.

Haskell Indian Nations University will be part of the festivities with a special screening of “Mankiller,” which tells the story of Medal of Freedom recipient Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller, who overcame rampant sexism and personal challenges, became the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief in 1985. A Q&A with filmmaker Valerie Red-Horse will take place after the screening. This free event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at Haskell Indian Nations University Auditorium.

For a full list of films being shown at the festival and available Q&A sessions with filmmakers, see the festival’s website.

The festival will also feature various art exhibits and experiences, such as electronic performer Luke DuBois’ “Mind Expanding VR Experience,” a virtual reality project that “puts the user on a psychedelic adventure,” according to the festival’s website. This and several other exhibits are available during the festival’s run, with specific times and locations to be announced.

The festival will conclude with an after-party with the JC Brooks Band, an R&B/soul group, starting at 9 p.m. on Sept. 23 at The Bottleneck. Tickets costs $10.

Tickets for festival events go on sale Friday. Ticket prices and a full list of films, performers and exhibits are available at


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.