The Stories of HAIR

April 23rd, 2014

Michael Harris - backstage HAIR 1968

Michael Harris - backstage HAIR 1968

When we started production of HAIR we knew that this would be something special, but what we were not prepared for was how profound this musical is for so many of us.  Along with a ticket sale, or handing out a poster, or even just talking with one of our volunteers, come the stories.  These great wonderful memories, tales of past or present generations discovering this musical – what it stood for then, what it stands for now, the 60’s, the rebellion, the grief of Vietnam, the turmoil in families, the peace and the love.

It is an easy decision then to extend our production of HAIR out to all of you, to share these stories, to open up the conversations that have been put aside for many years or are being experienced for the first time.

Use this blog to post your memories, put them on our Facebook page, tweet them or when you come in to see the show write them on the posters we have for your canvas.

To get us started we have a great story to share with you.  Michael Harris, ArtsWest’s Executive Director from 2000-2005, was in the original cast of HAIR on Broadway.  Here is his story:

MY HAIR
Regardless of which side of the footlights you are on, HAIR can rock your world. It was my portal to an experience that transformed me as an actor and a person. Although the director drives, HAIR’s power is unleashed by the courage of the cast bringing their own selves to the party, along with their professional chops as performers. Its non-linear script, awesome songs, universal themes and great heart are a recipe for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In 1968 the planets aligned, bringing together HAIR’s Broadway dream team: authors, composer, producer, director and a stellar creative team, cast, band and crew. Although it was clearly a show, and we were hired to perform it, we came to embrace its values: harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding. We believed peace would guide the planets and love steer the stars.

HAIR is an anti-war play masquerading as a hippie musical. With chutzpah, humor and earnestness, HAIR calls for an end to war, racism, homophobia, social injustice and harm to the environment. Into the bargain is a raucous celebration of what it is to be human, live large, give love freely and make the world a better place. In the five decades since its debut, I believe HAIR has done just that.
I know it has for me.

FAVORITE MEMORIES

  • opening up during rehearsals, getting to know the cast
  • eluding the security guards and spending the night with three cast-mates at our theater, in a holy vigil to prepare the space with chants, meditations, incense and other kinds of smoke.
  • jamming onstage after the show with Janis Joplin and her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, on their second visit
  • standing in for our drummer, Idris Muhammad, for three performances, playing with the show band
  • seeing our cast record album climb to #1 in the Billboard pop chart and stay there for 13 weeks
  • meeting Sidney Poitier, Tom Smothers and the Fifth Dimension, who were inspired to record Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In, making it a monster hit
  • performing on the Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson shows with their national audiences; at Madison Square Garden; and at the United Nations General Assembly Hall for HAIR‘s 20th anniversary celebration
  • and my favorite memory – talking with people in the alley by the stage door after every show. We reveled in our shared experience.

 

10 Responses to “The Stories of HAIR”

  1. April 23, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    I saw HAIR (twice) in 1969 in San Francisco, I was 11 years old. I loved it. I bought the record and sang along with all the songs. Then one day my sister, who is 6 years older, said “do you have any idea what those words you are singing mean? ” I said “nope”. She then proceeded to enlighten me. I got quite an education that day.

  2. Skip Bowe
    April 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I was in the original Seattle cast, the Miami cast, and the Venus national tour of Hair. It was an amazing experience then and remains the high point of my life. The memories of this fantastic show never fade nor the relationships with other cast and crew members either. Still friends with most of those people forty some years later. How fortunate we were to have been selected to represent this show on stage throughout the world. Peace and harmony was our message then, and that is a message that never grows old. Thanks “Hair” for helping to form my life. “I Got Life”!

  3. Jodi
    April 24, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Great stories! Looking forward to reading more.

  4. April 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I was in two concert versions of Hair in Seattle, both directed by Michael Harris. In the first production we had a large cast of about 30. As the audience came in and got seated, we were already on the stage; hanging out, playing, just “being”.

    We had many votive candles on the stage and one cast member would pick up a candle and stare into it, communing with the universe that dwelt within. One night I heard someone in the audience cry out, “look!” and when I turned, I saw my cast member with flames climbing up the side of her head (she had a lot of product in her hair), but still staring into the candle, unaware.

    Several of us ran over to her and started slapping at her head to put the flames out, but because she still didn’t realize that she was on fire, she thought we were just slapping her. As a mob. The look of hurt bewilderment on her face said, “hey, man, this isn’t cool!”

    We finally got the flames out, comforted our stricken cast member and moved into our places, just as the strains of Aquarius began amid the dissipating clouds of acrid smoke.

    • Kristin Green
      April 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Robert, you singing “Where Do I Go” is one of my favorite memories. It was so achingly beautiful that I’d be wiping away tears every time the song ended.

  5. Jon Rosen
    April 25, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I saw HAiR in 1969 at the age of 18 in New York City and then again several times in 1972 in Los Angeles at the Aquarius, and was always amazed and enthralled by the production. In 2007, my theater company decided to produce HAiR in San Jose (where it hadn’t been seen in many many years) and I wrote to Michael Butler, the producer of the original Broadway HAiR production and many of the tours and regional companies in the 60s and 70s about using the famous HAiR logo and was surprised and stunned to be pulled into the community of HAiR that reached back almost 40 years. Throuigh that production and Michael Butler’s incredible openness and willingness to help a small local theater company, I met Michael Harris, Jonathon Johnson, Natalie Mosco, Jennifer Ho, Bill Swiggard, Kevin Mason, Barry McGuire, Barbara Moore, Richard Osorio, Red Shepard, Cara Robin and many many others, some of whom I probably saw over 40 years ago on stage but never knew them then, and are now friends forever. HAiR will live on as long as people want to be free and loving with each other.

  6. Patti Southard
    May 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I saw HAIR last night! Thank you so much, it was an amazing show and I was really impressed. I live on Queen Anne and have not taken advantage of your theatre nearly enough. Last night was a reminder of what great work you do. I am now recommending this production to my friends. GOOD JOB!

  7. May 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I was in the Mercury Tribe National Touring co. of HAIR it remains a singular theatre experience for me and has informed my art since then. I performed in a company that included MEAT LOAF, STAN SHAW, ANDREA & LINDA GAINES (DONNA SUMMERS’s sisters) ARNOLD MCCULLER, DAVID LASLEY and many others. I also performed in a company that went to HAWAI which included LUCY MARTIN (CHIC), SALLY EATON (the original JEANIE) and GARY KEYES. HAIR is ETERNAL.

  8. Ela
    May 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS PRODUCTION OF “HAIR”, ARTSWEST!!! THANK YOU!!! I HAVE POSTED IT ON MY FACEBOOK, RANTED TO MY FRIENDS, AND GOTTEN IN SEVERAL RELEVANT CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CULTURE + POLITICS SINCE SEEING IT LAST WEEK!!! DURING THE VERY FIRST 5 MINUTES OF THE PLAY I ASKED MYSELF: “HOW DID WE GET FROM THAT TO THIS?!? (2014 Youth, apathy, values, excessive materialism)….I WANT TO PERSONALLY THANK THE CAST EACH ONE OF THEM BLEW ME AWAY + IS MAGNIFICENT IN THEIR TALENT, VOICE, SKILLS + SPIRIT 🙂

  9. Marty Knight
    June 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Herbie Knight, Rolly Fernandez, and I (aka Louisiana Boys) met Jerome & James Rado in San Francisco when Hair played late 1968. They sent us to Earl Scott who was living in Renton, Washington. He had a theater workshop at 102 Cherry St in Seattle. Earl Scott took us in and along with others, we wrote a play and called our group Through The Arches Ensemble. It’s been since 1970 when I last heard from them. I wonder what ever happened to Earl & James Rado? If anyone knows how to contact them, please respond. Blessings~ Marty Knight

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