Free State Festival to return next week with outdoor film screenings, music and other events

photo by: Free State Festival

Free State Festival returns this summer with "Cinema al Fresco" outdoor film screenings and other events.

The annual Free State Festival is returning this summer with a variety of events, including outdoor film screenings that will begin next week.

As the Journal-World reported in March, after being disrupted by the pandemic last year, the Free State Festival, which is put on by the Lawrence Arts Center, announced a two-part plan to return this summer, beginning with its “Cinema al Fresco” events. Part One will be a series of outdoor events from June 21 through June 27, including film screenings, discussions and live music in open-air environments around Lawrence.

Marlo Angell, director of new media for the Arts Center, said the festival would kick things off on Monday with a screening of the family-friendly and crowd-pleasing movie “Triumph,” written by Lawrence’s Michael D. Coffey. The movie stars “Breaking Bad” actor RJ Mitte, as the Journal-World previously reported. “Triumph” will be screened outdoors at 9 p.m. on the lawn of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St. Admission is free but registration is required, and participants should bring their own lawn chairs or blankets.

Other screenings and events next week include a screening of “End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock” on Tuesday, a short film showcase on Wednesday, a screening of the movie “Hairspray” on Thursday, and a presentation of several short silent films that will have live musical scores and interpretative audio descriptions on Sunday, June 27. Admission to some events is free, though registration is required, and others require a ticket. The full schedule, links to register for free events or to purchase tickets are available on the Free State Festival website,

On Friday, June 25, the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive, will show another film with ties to the area. Angell said “For Madman Only: The Stories of Del Close,” is a brand new documentary about Manhattan’s legendary improv guru Del Close. The screening will have drive-in and outdoor seating, with lawn chairs welcome. Doors open at 8 p.m., and music will begin at 8:30 p.m., followed by the film at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 per car and can be purchased on the festival website.

Angell said the festival would continue its celebration of local talents on Saturday, June 26, with a screening of Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott’s newest movie, “The 24th.” The 2020 film, about the experience of Black soldiers during the Vietnam War, was Willmott’s latest film with Spike Lee, as the Journal-World previously reported. “The 24th” will be screened as a drive-in at 9 p.m. at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive. Doors open at 8 p.m., and a Q&A will begin at 8:30 p.m., followed by the film at 9 p.m. Admission is free but registration is required, and guests must arrive by 8:30 p.m. to guarantee their reservation.

The Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., and the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St., will also have open exhibits during the festival. Ashlyn Pope’s ceramics collection “Witnessing Dandelions” is currently on display at the Arts Center. Pope’s body of work “discusses her own Gullah history, as well as the past and present of the Black community,” according to the festival website. Beginning Friday, June 25, at the Cider Gallery, people can visit “Garden of Eden” by Tonja Torgerson, in which Torgerson uses prints, cut paper, and collage to create a “fallen Garden of Eden in which life-size figures grapple with the recognition of their mortality.”

Part Two of the festival will occur later in 2021, and festival organizers hope to announce dates for an indoor portion of the festival later this summer.


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