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:
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.
- 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.