George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the fifth round of its Young Alumni Commissioning Project Awards. Two alumni were chosen based on the artistic excellence, career impact, and feasibility of their proposals and will receive financial, marketing, and production support to have their projects presented by the College at a Mason Arts venue during the 2024–2025 season.
“In this fifth round of the project’s commissions, the creative energy of Mason Arts alums continues to shine brightly,” said Rick Davis, dean of Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. “The two projects awarded this year both use the medium of film in fascinating ways, whether to celebrate movement and dance through the lens of Arabic poetry or to explore both the comic and the darker sides of reality TV.”
Davis continued, “As previously supported projects reach completion, it is a real joy to see our recent graduates adding new work to the world on such a high professional level. Stay tuned for great things on the horizon from this year’s awardees.”
Jumana Al Refai, BFA Dance ’17, received the Young Alumni Commissioning Project Award and $5,000 in commissioning support for Tashkeel َتْشِكيل, a collaboration that explores all aspects of “Haraka”—the Arabic word for movement—including language, landscape, music, and connection. The final product will be a short film, featuring four dancers from Kuwait and abroad as well as Al Refai as dancer and choreographer. She is of Kuwaiti and Japanese heritage, and founder of the Haraka Center for Movement Arts in Kuwait. Al Refai shared, “This project will make art coming out of the Middle East accessible to larger audiences and challenge the prevailing western perception of the region.”
Rebecca Wahls, BFA Theater ’15, received the Young Alumni Creative Development Award and $3,000 in commissioning support of Him, a feature-length ensemble comedy film. The film follows the final five contestants on a reality dating show, whose world is turned upside down as they discover a dark truth about their “suitor.” Wahls directed, co-wrote, and co-produced Him, alongside actor and writer Trey Higgins. Screenings are slated to take place at Carnegie Mellon University’s Los Angeles Campus and George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.
Over the past five years, 16 CVPA alumni have been granted awards anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 to support the creation of a new artistic work for projects in film, dance, visual art, music, and game design. To be considered for this year’s award, applicants must have graduated from CVPA from the class of 2013 and after. Proposals could include original new work in any art form suitable for performance, exhibition, or screening in a Mason Arts venue. The size, length, duration, magnitude, and content are at the artist’s discretion. Potential venues include Mason’s traditional theater spaces, galleries, and cinemas, but proposals for nontraditional venues, including digital spaces, were also considered.
The Young Alumni Commissioning Project is made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Linda E. Gramlich for the support of young artists, and by donors to Mason’s previous Giving Day, including Shugoll Research.
About the 2024 Award Recipients
Jumana Al Refai is a choreographer, teacher, and professionally trained dancer based in Kuwait. She started dancing from the young age of four and has well over 20 years of dance training in ballet, modern, contemporary, and improvisation. Al Refai earned a BA in Graphic Design from the American University of Kuwait and a BFA in Dance from Mason. After completing her bachelor's degrees, Al Refai joined The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater School–The Ailey School in New York City and completed dance programs at the University of Southern California and the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s choreographic dance intensive. Al Refai returned to Kuwait in 2018 and established a center for dance training and dance education in 2021: the Haraka Center for Movement Arts.
Rebecca Wahls directs, writes, and produces film, theater, and new media. She is a catalytic leader who tells ensemble stories about the formation of family and the romance of friendship. In 2017, she founded the nonprofit theater Who What Where Productions, where she produced and directed several world premiere plays, including Spills by Ruthie Rado, which has gone on to successful runs in New York City and London. Other favorite projects include Rebecca and Becca in Space, a socially distant comedy webseries co-created with writing partner Rebecca Ballinger, which was awarded a grant through the Alumni Artist Support Initiative and presented as part of Mason Arts at Home in 2020; Memory Card, a 20-minute fully live digital horror piece with playwright Alec Seymour; and this old haunt, a new musical co-created with Maggie Marie Rodgers and SMJ. Rebecca holds an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University, where she was a John Wells Fellow from 2020 to 2023, and a BFA from Mason.
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