SDSU production ‘Mass’ explores a loss of faith

by Sydney Faulkner, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s School of Theatre, Television and Film along with the School of Music and Dance came together Dec. to Dec. 9 to bring Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” to life.

“Mass” was in the setting of a traditional Tridentine Mass and showcases what happens when a community collectively experiences a crisis of faith.

“Mass” featured 200 artistic individuals and completely filled the Don Powell stage. It was directed by Stephen Brotebeck, with the street chorus music directed by Robert Meffe and the orchestras directed by Michael Gerdes.

“I knew SDSU was a place that could perform this incredible work,” Gerdes said. “When Stephen Brotebeck joined our faculty, we had found our last piece, a director that could bring the show to life.”

Gerdes said “Mass” captured becoming at odds with one’s tried and true belief system, themes still relevant today.

Photo by Ken Jacques

“‘Mass’ is an exploration of what happens when one loses faith in their own most cherished values,” he said. “‘Mass’ is about our time as much as as it was Bernstein’s. It speaks to this place, and it speaks to this moment in our cultural identity.”

The performance featured special guest artist Andre Ward, who has appeared on Broadway in “Escape to Margaritaville,” “Something Rotten,” “Rock of Ages,” “Xanadu,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “The Producers” and “The Apple Tree.” He has also been involved in the CBS hit, “Elementary.”

“Getting the opportunity to perform with Andre Ward was once in a lifetime,” theatre arts performance junior Emmy Farese said.

According to some involved, this production sparked revelations offstage.

“Being the source of the Celebrants’ doubt and questioning, the problems we presented came from a very real history of when it was written,” theatre arts performance senior Gabe Igtanloc said. “The social unrest, political turmoil and the nations problems of the ‘60s to ‘70s heavily parallels that of today. Being in ‘Mass,’ and all of its timely relevance, reaffirmed my need to speak up and assert myself in our society.”

Bringing over 200 artistic individuals onto one stage was a production in itself, but created a community among the performers.

“The best part of being in “Mass” was the element of collaboration,” Farese said. “I don’t think I will ever experience that much talent and hard work in one room ever again.”

“Mass” wasn’t just for those who were studying music or the arts. Physics sophomore Kara Whitaker was in the choir for the production, and found the experience rewarding.  

“There is something magical about being a small part and contributing to the creation of an amazing piece of music,” she said.