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You’ve missed going to the movies this year and the movies have missed you, too!  We’re proud to present this year’s festival in TWO ACTS! 

Streaming films at home helped get us through one heck of a year by immersing ourselves in stories that made us laugh, cry and simply just escape the world at large. But after cheering through The Booksellers and cringing through Cats, we are ready to dip our toes back into the communal act of film-watching and invite you to test the ‘Waters’ with us. 

Act One of the Free State Festival gives you a reason to break out the comfy lawn chairs and permission to stay up past your bedtime for an entire week of cinema al fresco. We’ll have you hopping from one outdoor screen to the next to stamp your passport with stories of laughter, resistance, resilience and triumph! 

Arrive early and watch the sun go down with live music, panels, art, podcasts, activities, video messages from your favorite celebs, prizes and themed goody bags. So go ahead and embrace the accompaniment of crickets during The 24th, appreciate one another’s laughter during For Madmen Only, and shake that noise-maker during Hairspray. It’s time to ditch that couch and head for the stars…

This summer’s Free State Festival program was produced by the Lawrence Arts Center and simply would not be possible without the luminous support of the following partners and sponsoring organizations:

The National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Lawrence, Explore Lawrence, Haskell Indian Nations University’s Hiawatha Center for Justice, Lied Center of Kansas, Theatre Lawrence, Lawrence Public Library, Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, Mainline Printing, KU Film and Media Studies, KU Department of French, Francophone and Italian Studies, Lawrence College and Career Center, Douglas County Fairgrounds, the Cider Gallery, Kansas Public Radio, Audio-Reader, Downtown Lawrence Inc. Transformations Charity Gala, the Watkins Museum of History, the Spencer Museum of Art, Downtown Lawrence Inc., Breakout Lawrence, Game Nut, KJHK and KU Department of African and African-American Studies.

And there is still more to come! Once it’s safe to gather again in theatres, Free State Festival will return for a SECOND ACT with headliners Boots Riley, John Waters and Cameron Esposito and even more independent film screenings. Dates to be announced soon.. stay tuned to! 


Marlo Angell – Director/ Founder

Ben Ahlvers – Director

Amy Albright – Marketing & Graphic Design

Gwen Asbury – Intern

Kelly Rodriguez – Production Manager

Melanie King – Event Coordinator





Advisory Board

Laura Kirk / Misti Boland / Chris Blunk / Jon Niccum / Tom Carmody  / Christie Dobson / David Hollond / Jeremy Osbern / Rebekka Schlichting

For further information on the festival, sponsorships, or volunteer opportunities, please contact: