Mason Celebrates Creative Spirit of the Community with Summer Festival of the Arts

Posted: April 14, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Jim Carroll, director of Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra
Mason jazz studies director Jim Carroll will lead the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra during a Festival of the Arts performance.

By Catherine Ferraro

Festival of the arts logo

The word festival comes from feste, meaning feast, and originated between 1200 and 1460. From the religious festivals of ancient Egypt to present-day festivals such as Mardi Gras, these events continue to be an integral part of social life. They also serve to enhance cultural experiences by connecting arts and society.

In recent years, there has been a national and international expansion of festivals and special events. The trend shows no sign of stopping; Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) will hold the first Mason Festival of the Arts on the Fairfax Campus this summer.

From Thursday, June 12, through Sunday, June 29, the three-week festival will include performances by Mason’s professional theater group, Theater of the First Amendment (TFA); the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra; the Fairfax Choral Society; the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra and the World Children’s Choir.

In addition, CVPA will hold a Community Arts Weekend on Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, featuring booths for local artists and vendors, as well as free community arts performances on the arts plaza and in the Concert Hall lobby.

Rick Davis
Rick Davis, artistic director for the Center for the Arts and Theater of the First Amendment
Photo by Evan Cantwell

“The Mason Festival of the Arts is making a statement to the world about the quality, diversity and energy of the cultural life of our greater Fairfax community,” says Rick Davis, artistic director for the Center for the Arts and TFA. “I see it as a transformational moment in the life of this incredible area in which we live.”

Shining a Spotlight on the Arts

The Mason Festival of the Arts developed out of a roundtable discussion about two years ago among William Reeder, dean of CVPA; Paul D’Andrea, Robinson Professor of Theater and English and founder of TFA; Charlie Joyce, organizer and past president of the Arts at Mason Board; Kevin Murray, managing director of TFA; and Davis.

Paul D'Andrea
Playwright Paul D’Andrea will have his “Two-Bit Taj Mahal” premiered at the festival.

Theater of the First Amendment was established in 1990 as Mason’s professional theater group with a motto of “we entertain ideas.” TFA strives to give playwrights the resources they need to create new work and to give audiences thought-provoking plays.

TFA develops and produces new plays, including new translations and adaptations of classic work. The organization also produces regional premieres of recent work. Despite its many accomplishments, TFA has struggled to build an audience and create awareness about the organization.

“When we first began thinking about how to promote TFA, we also wanted to find a way to shine the light on the many arts organizations in Fairfax,” says Murray. “In addition to highlighting the arts in Fairfax, the festival aims to celebrate arts education and bring together the community, students and professionals, artists and audiences.”

Festival as Academic Laboratory

With an emphasis on arts education, the festival will also provide a weekly laboratory for students enrolled in MAM 706 Festivals and Special Events, a new class in the Department of Arts Management taught by Meg Brindle, associate professor in the department. The class runs concurrently with the festival from May 19 through June 20.

To secure a greater understanding of the nature of festivals and the various career paths available for artists, several students will have an opportunity to intern with the festival in areas such as planning, logistics, refreshments and parking.

On the academic side, students will explore festivals from a historical, political and social perspective, focusing on the link between the artist and society. Students will then move on to the areas of planning, fund raising and development, tourism, sponsorship, marketing, logistics and scheduling, human resources and legal issues common to both festivals and special events.

“It came to my attention that with the plethora of festivals and special events throughout the country, ranging from political to book festivals, that the knowledge of the how-to would be really important and potentially an additional career pathway for our artists becoming managers,” says Brindle.

Guest speakers from local arts, music and film festivals will discuss the logistics of those particular events. In addition, the class will visit festivals and special events in the area, including an arts festival at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Uniting Arts in the Community

During the festival, TFA will present the works of nationally known local playwrights, including the world premiere of “Two-Bit Taj Mahal” by D’Andrea and the East Coast premiere of “Mariela in the Desert” by Karen Zacarias.

Fairfax Choral Society
The Fairfax Choral Society will perform during the festival.

In co-production with TFA, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will present Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: Dream of America,” a patriotic symphonic score featuring live actors and multimedia. Gerry Connolly, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, will present and narrate James Beckel’s “Liberty for All.”

The Fairfax Choral Society will present “Hollywood Goes Choral III,” featuring choral classics from the cinema performed live by their Adult Chorus with full orchestra to film clips from “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars: Episode I,” “Amistad” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra and the World Children’s Choir will also perform. The Mason Festival Opera will present the world premiere concert staging of “Love’s Comedy,” with libretto written by Davis.

The visual arts will also be represented; Members of the Fairfax Art League will have gallery shows. Local artists will also have a chance to showcase their work, including Northern Virginia Community College Art Professor Todd Messegee’s tongue-in-cheek “Robot Series,” and student work from Mason’s Department of Art and Visual Technology.

The Mason Film Festival, featuring local independent and student films, will be held on the three weekends of the festival in the Johnson Center Cinema.

The festival also offers arts programming for children ages 4 and up. During weekend theater matinees, A Touch of Class will offer kid-friendly performing arts classes so families can spend the day attending a variety of activities.

TFA’s annual play development program, First Light Discover Program, will include staged readings and script development opportunities for professionals and students. It will also feature the first Generations Playwriting Project, which teams middle-school students and senior citizens from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in a collaborative process of storytelling across generations.

For more information about the Mason Festival of the Arts, visit the web site.

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