Free State Festival 2024 lineup to feature Jana Schmieding, beat scientist and more

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The Lawrence Arts Center has announced its films and headliners slated for this year’s Free State Festival.

Marlo Angell, festival director and LAC curator of film and media, described the festival in a news release Thursday as a “signature community event” that “celebrates the free spirit of Kansas.”

Independent films, live music, comedy and art experiences — many exploring social justice themes and culture — will be on display at several venues across Lawrence.

Musician Makaya McCraven; actor, writer and comedian Jana Schmieding, Mniconjou and Sicangu Lakota; and powwow artist Joe Rainey, member of the Red Lake Nation of Ojibwe people, are this year’s featured headliners.

Schmieding, who’s most known for her work on the TV series “Reservation Dogs” and “Rutherford Falls,” will perform stand-up comedy. McCraven will share his brilliant drum beats, and Rainey’s melodies will reflect avant garde hip hop styles.

Kevin Willmott, KU professor and Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter, will return this year to share his most recent documentary. It pays homage to basketball coach and Kansas City activist Alvin Brooks.

Other presentations included in the lineup are a hybrid film and dance presentation featuring Tristian Griffin, accompanied by live music by Alex Kimball Williams and with projection design by Peter Jasso and visual art by Justin Canja; an Afrofuturist epic by St. Louis filmmaker David Kirkman; a silent film with an all-Indigenous cast featuring “a revisionist re-edit and live score” by Tweesna Rose Mills, Shoshone-Yakama-Umatilla Nations; and much more.

Free State Festival 2024 is set for Tuesday through Sunday, June 25-30. Events and activities will be happening every day at various locations in town.


All-access passes, which grant automatic access to every event, screening and reception, are on sale now on the festival’s website. Passes cost $100 each through Saturday, June 1 and then increase to $125 beginning Sunday, June 2.

Tickets to individual events will go on sale beginning Wednesday, May 15. Visit the festival’s website,, to learn more.

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