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Free State Festival Announces Headliners John Waters, Cameron Esposito, and Boots Riley

The Lawrence Arts Center is proud to announce the following headliners for the 2020 Free State Festival: writer/director/artist John Waters, comedian/podcaster Cameron Esposito and filmmaker/musician Boots Riley. The festival is slated for June 22-28 and will include a dynamic program of speakers, film, art, and performance. In support of 50/50 by 2020, a national movement to increase the representation of women’s voices in the film industry, this year’s Free State Festival will shine a special spotlight on female representation on the big screen. Film submissions will continue to be accepted through March 2 and art submissions are now open for a juried exhibition inspired by the legendary drag queen Divine. The Divine art exhibition will be on display during the festival and will be juried by Mark Mothersbaugh of the band Devo.

John Waters has written and directed sixteen movies including Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, Cry Baby, Serial Mom, and A Dirty Shame. He is a photographer whose work has been shown in galleries all over the world and the author of nine books: Shock Value, Crackpot, Pink Flamingos and Other Trash, Hairspray, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs, Art: A Sex Book (co-written with Bruce Hainley), Role Models, and Carsick. His latest work is Mr. Know-It -All, The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder. John Waters is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His contributions to cinema have been honored by the British Film Institute, the French Minister of Culture, the Locarno Film Festival and the Writers Guild of America. “Indecent Exposure,” a retrospective of Waters’ art was exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts.


A woman with a black leather coat

Cameron Esposito is a standup comic, actor and writer who has appeared across television and film and, most recently, in print in the New York Times. You may also know Cameron from her popular interview podcast, Queery. Her first book, Save Yourself, is forthcoming in March 2020 from Hachette/Grand Central Publishing.


A man in a blue coat

Boots Riley is a provocative and prolific poet, rapper, songwriter, producer, screenwriter, director, community organizer, and public speaker. Boots Riley wrote and directed Sorry to Bother You, a comedy fantasy sci-fi film, in his directorial debut. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Fest and opened to strong critical acclaim in theaters nationwide later in 2018. He is the lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. Fervently dedicated to social change, Boots was deeply involved with the Occupy Oakland movement. He was one of the leaders of the activist group The Young Comrades. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Tell Homeland Security-We Are the Bomb.


This year’s Free State Festival is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Lawrence Transient Guest Tax program, The Hall Center for the Humanities at KU, Kansas Public Radio, and Mainline Printing. Community partners include: Transformations Charity Gala, The Cider Gallery, The Dole Institute of Politics, The Raven Bookstore, Haskell Indian Nations University, The Commons at KU, The Lied Center, The Watkins Museum of History, The Lawrence Public Library, eXplore Lawrence, the Kansas News Service, Lawrence Talks, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the Spencer Museum of Art.