The story of a young female singing trio in the turbulent 1960s is coming to the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, in September. Thanks to the work of the Indiana Performing Arts Theatre, people will have the opportunity to see the musical Dreamgirls on Sept. 18 and 19, 2021.

Dreamgirls opened on Broadway in 1981 and was made into a movie in 2006.

In the show, a young female singing trio gets its big break at an amateur competition as Motown music becomes popular with white and black audiences. But things begin to spin out of control when the group’s opportunistic promoter demotes the talented lead singer in favor of one of the more glamorous backup singers. Their journey to stardom and love becomes full of challenges.

Trina Dingle founded Indiana Performing Arts Theatre in 2000. Her goal was to spread diversity in the arts. There was a lack of roles for people of color in theatrical productions, so she went to work to change that. The theatre secured nonprofit status in 2005. Although Dingle is now the full-time executive director of the Indiana Performing Arts Centre, Inc. (the theatre’s administrative arm), for years she had a regular job and devoted her free time to build diversity in the arts.

“It has been a long battle,” Dingle said.

But Dingle persevered, secured foundation funding and built up a talented team.

Indiana Performing Arts Theatre
Indiana Performing Arts Theatre production
Credit: Indiana Performing Arts Theatre

Key members of the team are Dee DuVall, artistic director and Kila J. Adams, production manager, both of whom have extensive experience in theater. They lead and develop the productions’ soulful singing, elegant costuming and graceful choreography.

Indiana Performing Arts Centre, Inc. produces two main-stage shows a year. In addition to cabaret shows at its headquarters at the Athenaeum Theatre in Indianapolis, there are musical theater workshops and training classes for ages 13 and up as well as a youth theater camp.

Earlier this year the theatre produced The Color Purple in Indianapolis, at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, and other Indiana cities. A Motown Christmas show is set for December.

DuVall, who is directing Dreamgirls, is also a talented singer, actor and dancer. Those talents help her envision the best way to stage a show.

“At the end of the day we are a professional Broadway company,” DuVall said. “The engine that drives us is to spotlight local talent and show our audiences that we are diversifying productions.”

One of the theatre’s challenges, Dingle said, is that people are unaware of its existence.

Crew, Indiana Performing Arts Theatre
Credit: Indiana Performing Arts Theatre

Dingle and her team continue to spread the word about the Indiana Performing Arts Theatre and its shows.

“Audience members will take away a rich cultural experience,” Dingle said. “It’s rare to see an all-black musical. It’s all about cultural awareness — and to have the local talent to do it is an accomplishment.”

The organization is committed to finding opportunities to perform for actors of color and to providing audiences of all colors the chance to see shows that demonstrate a more diverse human experience.

For groups, the theatre offers meet and greets and talks with cast members after performances.