A group of children buzz on kazoos as a marching band clad in circus-like outfits stomps around them.
This is one of the scenes from the stage production “MASS,” which is coming to the Musical Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. April 5, 6, 12 and 13.
The show was composed by Leonard Bernstein, who described it as a theater piece for singers, musicians and dancers. It combines different genres of music, from rock ‘n’ roll to contemporary classical, and asks questions pertaining to faith.
“All the different styles of music I think represent different groups of people of all ages and backgrounds questioning what’s going on and somehow returning to a peaceful state, but with a lot of unanswered questions,” conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos said.
Stage director and choreographer Candace Evans said the music as well as the cast of “MASS” is diverse, with 60 people in the chorus, 25 on the main stage, 23 band members, 23 in the children’s choir and four faith leaders.
One of the cast members is Aimes Dobbins, who plays one of the street singers. With this role, Dobbins is the first openly transgender, non-binary person to have a principal role at JacobsSchool of Music.
“Each street singer is supposed to represent something different about the world, and I think them bringing me in was very important because I feel like I do get to be myself,” Dobbins said. “I get to be a transgender person who is questioning their faith and questioning all things about religion.”
Dobbins, a fifth year student in the individualized major program, auditioned for “MASS” in December after being in a few IU productions. Dobbins, who uses they/them pronouns, said they felt very supported by the music school throughout the process through secondary voice lessons for nonmajors and the welcoming people.
“It’s hard for me to get up on stage, but when I’m there with other people who I know value that experience as much as I do, I don’t feel so anxious anymore,” Dobbins said.
Despite experiencing discrimination in their high school theater department, Dobbins said they continued to pursue theater.
“I was told time and time again that I should just give up, and I never gave up, I just kept trying harder and harder,” they said. “I knew there would be something better for me out there than what I had been given.”
Dobbins said Evans has put a large emphasis on diversity in “MASS.” This will be the first production of “MASS” to include four faith leaders from different religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism. Throughout the show, they interact with the main Catholic celebrant.
“I hope that mainly people allow themselves to ask questions about their own faith,” Evans said. “It’s very very personal, and that’s why I wanted to diversify it.”
Dobbins said “MASS” will inspire audience members to think about how they interact with others, and the world.
“We’re all asking the same questions,” Dobbins said. “Maybe we don’t all share the same answers, maybe some of us haven’t even found the answers, but I think we’re portraying and creating a moment in which people will be able to share a moment in time to think about themselves and how they relate to each other and how they relate to the world.”
Tickets for “MASS” start at $10 for students and $16 for adults.