Free State Festival 2023 Lineup Announced

music collage

The Lawrence Arts Center is proud to announce the selected films and headliners for Free State Festival 2023 slated for June 26-July 2. This signature community event celebrates the free spirit of Kansas through independent films, live music, comedy and art experiences in venues throughout the city of Lawrence. 


  • An Evening with Boots Riley. The acclaimed filmmaker from Sorry to Bother You discusses the current television writer’s strike, his music career with The Coup, and journey to film in this moderated conversation.
  • Standup comedy performance by Chris Estrada, co-creator, star, writer and executive producer of the hit Hulu series This Fool based on his upbringing in South Los Angeles.
  • No Place Like Home: The Struggle Against Hate in Kansas screening and Q&ADirected by Oscar winner Kevin Willmott and inspired by the C.J. Janovy book No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism in LGBT Kansas.

  • Music performance by neo-classical piano prodigy BLKBOK. BLKBOK’s dexterous arrangements and melodic scores audibly illustrate experience across pivotal moments in American history.
  • Screening of Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple’s Gumbo Coalition and conversation with Janet Murguía (President of UnidosUS). Presented in partnership with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
  • We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment documentary screening, Q&A and live music performance. Ignited by punk’s invasion of the Great Plains, America’s gawkiest and greatest lost rock band battles conformity in Reagan-era Kansas.
  • Garden City, Kansas documentary screening and Q&A. On the High Plains of the US, a bomb plot led by militant white supremacists threatens a thriving town made up of immigrants from around the world.
  • Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul with live score by DJ Spooky. Regarded as a rare work in African American cinematic history, this silent classic boasts biting social commentary on issues of race and gender.
  • Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill screening and tribute concert. Sill combined the electricity of Janis Joplin, soulful poetry of Leonard Cohen, and a complete lack of public recognition for her innovative, brilliant work before her premature death at the age of 35.

  • Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting screening and Q&A featuring Haskell Indian Nation University’s Rhonda LeValdo.
  • CONVERGE: Dance PerformanceRegina Klenjoski Dance Company and Tristian Griffin Dance Company unite to produce an exciting evening of concert dance by nationally celebrated choreographers making thoughtful work rooted in identity, race, gender, and social justice. 
  • On These Grounds screening and Q&A. Police presence in the classroom turns controversial when a video showing a white officer throwing a black teenager to the ground goes viral.
  • Film Flights: A short film and beer pairing event in collaboration with Free State Brewing Co.
  • ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ We Will Speak screening and Q&A. With fewer than 2,000 fluent speakers left, a small group of Cherokee activists race to save their language from extinction.
  • 1970s Lawrence Short Film Showcase by the Watkins Museum of History
  • An interdisciplinary arts panel by Lawrence Talks
  • Passholder receptions & more to come! 

The Free State Festival is made possible through programming support from community partners and grant funding from the City of Lawrence’s Transient Guest Tax program. Media partners include Kansas Public Radio and Lawrence Business Magazine.

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the Lied Center of Kansas, Liberty Hall, Audio-Reader Network, the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Film and Media Studies, the Watkins Museum of History, the Cider Gallery, Downtown Lawrence Inc., the Lawrence Public Library, the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, Theatre Lawrence and Lawrence Talks.

This project was supported in part by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

All access passes are now on sale! Individual tickets go on sale in May.

For additional information and press image requests, please contact Lawrence Arts Center Curator of Film & Media/ Free State Festival Director Marlo Angell: