”HAIR” is in full swing at Santa Barbara High School, in its 3rd week of rehearsals, and we wanted to find a way to let people see behind the scenes at how a production comes to life—so we have created a daily blog (see “The Making of Hair”, above) so that you get an inside look at the complexity of art. Creativity is messy and loud, full of halting steps and throw-away ideas, back and forth, tears, laughter , and the accessing and artistic transformation of deep, intense emotions. The audience sees only the end result—which I think is why, as much as people say they want creativity at the forefront of education, it can be frightening to the lay public. Try walking into the middle of a theatre class and getting your bearings! Theatre is organized chaos, with the process of editing and shaping built in to it—and it is never static. Theatre is a living organism, and no two performances are ever alike. It is dangerous and exhilarating, a high-wire act done with a few brave companions in front of an audience with high expectations. It is unlike any other academic discipline. Theatre students demonstrate their mastery in real time, and receive feedback in real time.
It wouldn’t be too early to make your plans to see HAIR—and its interpretation by this generation. I am once again in collaboration with Dr. Jon Nathan, UCSB Professor of Music, and the band is extraordinary. I have, since first exploring the play with an incredible troupe of actors in Scotland at the Fringe Festival in 2008, wanted to re-visit the musical on a larger scale. That first group was the impetus for our decision to make the musical our primary focus at Santa Barbara High School and their work and passion was instrumental in attracting a lot of musical theatre students to our school, a phenomenon which has continued to his day. I hope they will be proud of this version, and the students they inspired.
The musical is often done, I think, with actors who are too old for the roles—the characters in HAIR are high school dropouts, runaways, college protestors, and those of draft age in 1968—in other words, 16 to 19 year olds. High school students are in the midst of the same questions of identity and authority and authenticity as the characters in HAIR. In a contemporary world where Republican candidates talk about carpet bombing ISIS into the stone age (think Barry Goldwater and General Curtis LeMay, ca. 1964), HAIR is eerily prescient. It is a curious play, truly contemporary when it exploded onto the scene in April of 1968, a Broadway musical whose relationship to the present day was measured in moments. 48 years later, in is neither a period piece, nor nostalgia—it is still hard-edged and demanding of us. The people of my generation, who vowed never to trust anyone over 30, are now 60, and we are now the object of raised fists and protests and howls of disbelief and mistrust.
Thanks for twenty amazing years, and many more to come.