World-class performances at home

Fourth Estate/Peter Njoroge

The Center for the Arts launches Mason Arts at Home 


As the Mason community practices social distancing, the Center for the Arts (CFA) sits totally empty. Yet Mason’s hub for all things art and music has not given up on its mission to bring quality performances to the Mason community. Shortly after the university announced campus closures and online instruction, the CFA announced its own online initiative: Mason Arts at Home. 

For those who crave live music, theatre and art, Mason Arts at Home offers the next best thing while following stay-at-home procedures. The platform provides daily programs and events for the Mason community hosted by artists, filmmakers, musicians and magicians in theirespective homes. 

Adrienne Bryant Godwin, the director of programming at the CFA, said, “We created Mason Arts at Home as a service, really, to connect these artists with our patrons and students as well.”

Some weekly events include magician Bill Blagg’s Magic Monday. Blagg was scheduled to perform at the CFA during the spring season and has decided to go on with the show from his home in Wisconsin. 

A community favorite, the Visiting Filmmakers Series, also continues online as filmmakers spanning different expertises from around the world talk about their films and experience in the cinema world. 

“We had all of these artists, student artists and also professional artists, who have been with us. They are still there, they are creating work, they want to share it,” Godwin said. “And we also had our [Friends of the CFA community] both on-campus and off-campus who still wanted to have these experiences.”

In order to ensure that creation and innovation continues amid this pandemic, the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) has also funded the 2020 Alumni Artist Support Initiative. This fund helps artists create digital content during the pandemic as well as fund new works. Godwin said that the CFA plans to exhibit the work at the center once Mason reopens and performances resume.

The first recipients of the digital content portion of the funds are alum Rebecca Wahls and her colleague Rebecca Ballinger. They created a web series called “Rebecca and Becca in Space” where they play two astronauts who received word that they will remain in space indefinitely. 

Filmed through group FaceTime, Wahls and Ballinger created the web series from their homes and coordinated with School of Theatre professor Mary Lechter, who makes a guest appearance, and the CVPA to get their series out to the Mason community. 

As many of us can relate to, they were some technological obstacles that Wahls and Ballinger had to overcome. In one episode, they sang a song together but had lagging issues that threatened synchronization. With digital content, creativity extends beyond the performance and includes responding to technical challenges in real time. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the CVPA has been in contact with its current students and alumni to let them know that they are not alone during this time. “[The Mason School of Theater] is really good at making sure that all of us alumni know what’s going on and know about opportunities like this,” Wahls said. 

There is also the possibility that once Mason is reopened and the CFA resumes live performances and events, Mason Arts at Home will continue to be a platform where the CFA can connect artists with the Mason community digitally. 

“One of the good things about this, is that it forces us to flex our digital muscles and allow us to see what audience we can reach through these virtual platforms,” Godwin said. “We are starting to realize that there is a whole world of opportunity out there.”