College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

An Insider's Look at the Season with Adrienne Bryant Godwin

July 18, 2019

Adrienne Bryant

CFA Programming Manager, Adrienne Bryant Godwin

As the Center for the Arts approaches its 29th season, our staff is brimming with excitement and preparation for what is anticipated to be one of the most diverse and compelling seasons yet. One member of our team is among the most thrilled, Programming Manager Adrienne Bryant Godwin, as this is the first season she has her own fingerprints on the performances coming our way. We took time to sit down with Godwin and learn more about what’s ahead at the Center this year.

Adrienne, what were some goals you had in mind as you began planning the 2019/20 season and adding to the plans already in place by your predecessor?

During my first few months, I had a lot of conversations with patrons, and tried to truly listen to the diverse array of opinions that I received.  One of the unique things about doing the programming for a multi-disciplinary venue is that you have SO many different audiences.  Of course, it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time, but I tried to use my arrival as an opportunity for our community to speak up about what it wants from its local performing arts venue, and the message was loud and clear: people wanted to see new artists—and trust me, this is music to a programmer’s ears!

While about 50% of the programming was already in place when I arrived, I tried to make the most of what room I left to play with. I’m thrilled that there are many wonderful artists making their Center for the Arts debut this year: Audra McDonald, RUBBERBANDance Group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Maria Schneider, and more. In addition, we are venturing into the world of live radio broadcasts with a taping of NPR’s From the Top, and also co-commissioning a new dance piece by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company.  I have the deepest respect for many of the artists that have been repeat visitors over the past three decades, and look forward continuing the find that balance between the new and exciting and the familiar and beloved.  

Tell us more about the Mason Artist-in-Residence series? Who is participating and why is this such an important initiative?

Our inaugural cohort of Mason Artists-in Residence include LADAMA, a quartet of female powerhouse musicians from Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil and the U.S.; Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, one of the most innovative forces in the modern dance world; and Maria Schneider, composer, conductor and recipient of a 2019 NEA Jazz Master Award, as well as multiple Grammy® Awards.

Artists’ tour schedules are usually grueling and demanding—a different city every night, with little to no time for rest or reflection, let alone creative thinking.  While these schedules allow performers to reach a large number of patrons from behind the footlights, it provides little to no opportunity for meaningful interactions with the communities they are visiting.  The Mason Artist-in-Residence program was founded to fundamentally change how we interact with, learn from, and are inspired by the artists visiting the Center for the Arts.  

By having artists in our community for extended periods of time, we allow for real engagement on a person-to-person level.  The Center’s staff is working to identify partners on- and off-campus who will participate in a variety of engagement activities, ranging from lecture-demonstrations in local public schools to master classes on campus, to free workshops held in Fairfax’s Old Town Hall.  Therefore, the benefit doesn’t just run one direction. The Center can provide our Artists-in-Residence with resources that help their own creative work as well.  For example, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane company will be participating in a one-week technical residency leading up to the world premiere of On the Water at the Center on February 1, 2020. Having access to a theater and crew in those final stages of development is like gold to an artist! 

My hope is that this program helps to foster a creative eco-system where artists, students, and patrons can really benefit from the community created at the Center for the Arts.  

What's in store for the Family Series this coming season? Is this series just for kids?

I programmed this year’s series with the goal of providing entry points into the theater for audiences of all ages. For our younger patrons, we have two beloved children’s stories that will come to life in uniquely imaginative ways. Both Peter Rabbit Tales and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Christmas are the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the magic of the theater. It was equally important to me that we present artists that would speak to ALL patrons, and provide opportunities for families to be able to attend and enjoy the theater together. Both the award-winning multicultural music ensemble Hot Peas N’ Butter and the magician and illusionist Bill Blagg Live will be perfect performances for parents and grandparents to bring their children and have a blast together!

Do you have some personal favorites you're looking forward to this season?

I must admit I am really looking forward to the performances by all the Artists-in-Residence: LADAMA, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, and Maria Schneider with Jim Carroll and the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra. After you spend time with an artist you are able to appreciate their creative work in a more nuanced way, and I can’t wait to learn more about each of these artists by spending time with them in the community during their residencies.

In addition, a few more on the list that I just can’t not mention: Audra McDonald: do I really need to explain my excitement? The one-and-only Audra McDonald is one of the most talented humans on the planet, earning six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, an Emmy and the 2015 Medal of Arts presented by President Barack Obama, just to name a few!

Sweet Honey in the Rock: this Washington area favorite has charmed audiences all over the world, and I am particularly happy to be presenting their very special holiday program.

The Four Seasons performed by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and featuring Daniel Hope. Daniel performed at the Center this past season with a program of baroque music that absolutely charmed our audiences. Daniel is incredibly talented, and such a brilliant communicator.  This particular program is particularly exciting because I am a huge fan of Max Richter, who composed the deconstructed version of The Four Seasons which will be played on the same program as the original. I discovered that version of the work several years ago, and was so excited to learn that Richter actually wrote it for Daniel Hope!

The Chieftains: this group is legendary, and the Center for the Arts is their last stop on their “Irish Goodbye Tour.” Based on ticket sales so far, this will be an energetic, full house so I can’t wait to see you there!

What are you working on now that the 19/20 Season is in motion? 

I am actively booking the 2020/21 Season, which will be our 30th Anniversary celebration!  There are already a LOT of exciting artists and projects that will be coming, so I am in the midst of research, conversations, and seeing a lot of performances as I put that season together, and think of years to come ahead.  However, there continues to be a great deal happening behind the scenes to make this 2019/20 season come to fruition first…our small-but-mighty programming team works closely with Marketing, Development, Production, and Front of House staff, as well as with on- and off-campus partners to ensure that each artist and patron who visits has an exceptional experience before, during and after your visit.