50th Anniversary of HAIR at SPECTRUM
Spectrum – 70 Flushing Avenue, Garage A, Brooklyn, New York 11205
HAIR – The 50th Anniversary
At the 50th anniversary of Ragni’s, Rado’s and MacDermot’s anti-war musical HAIR, SPECTRUM, New York’s premier performance venue commemorates this event with a 3hr evening of performances, sound poetry, music, and visuals.
Curated by Hans Tammen, the evening will also feature a lecture by Prof. David Hyman from Lehman College, and concludes with a performance of the Gaddadelics, ingeniously fusing various themes from MacDermot’s masterpiece that pushes the audience into overdrive!
Todd Barton: Aquarius
Kurt Ralske: Walking In Space
Matthew Aidekman: Easy To be Hard
Katya Naphtali: Donna
Lecture by Prof. David Hyman, Lehman College
Steve Bull: Folding Chair
Damien Olsen: Aquarius
Glenn Cornett: Trumpscape I: Electronically-enhanced sub-presidential utterances
Gisburg & Loui Terrier: Walking In Space
Shelley Hirsch & Michael Evans: Frank Mills
David Morneau & Melissa Grey (L’Artiste Ordinaire) w/ Yunbin Song: Good Morning Starshine
Dafna Naphtali: Let The Sunshine In
Ken Butler: Easy To Be Hard
Remarks by Prof. David Hyman from Lehman College:
When Hair first opened, I was a five-year-old growing up in an East Village in which psychedelia was ubiquitous and the avant garde normal. But even we children knew there were walls separating the worlds of popular culture from those of our everyday experiences. In the mediated worlds that we accessed through television, movie houses and broadway theaters, the transformative energies of resistance and rebellion were represented at various points as objects to be laughed at; simplified; feared; idealized; derided; but always as marginal, as something to be defined only in relation to and from the insulated vantage of the unassailable dominance of the mainstream.
Hair challenged this subordinate status by inverting this relationship. Within its confines, the tribal world of the freaks and hippies was and is real and primary, and defines the aesthetic and ethical norms; and for as long as we reside in the company of the show, the ideological givens of old mainstream America are seen and judged through the eyes and values of the young and emerging counterculture. Using techniques honed in the traditions of experimental theater with its emphasis on improvisation, on group creation, on ritual, on exploring new ways to communicate with an audience, and new ways to involve an audience directly in the act of performance, Hair challenged and rejected many of the conventions of Broadway theatrical tradition in general, and the American musical in particular.
Mainstream culture responded with its most powerful weapon of all to defend itself: acceptance. For perhaps the most unpredictable thing of all about Hair was that it was an enormous popular success. And like all success, this has come at the price of some distortion, of some stretching and chopping of the play’s ideas in order to better fit with our current sense of what the 60s were. One of the great things about nights like this is that we are challenged to go back to the source, to see things freshly, as we try to find the generative truths that can and do still inspire new creations. Usually, for me at least, these come in the shape of surprises, of things that I didn’t remember, or maybe better still, that I seem to remember as having a different meaning altogether.
For me, this has to do with the climactic song, “Let the Sun Shine In.” As I listened to it with more open ears than I guess I had before, it came to me that this is not the happy song that I thought I remembered, a memory perhaps reinforced by having heard the song out of its narrative context for so many years. The song is not a Pollyannish celebration of a sun that is already shining and a proclamation that in the end, everything is going to be fine. It’s a call to action. The tribe is begging us, the audience, to change things, to stop the killing, the hatred, the discrimination, the destruction of our world. They are saying that we are in a time of darkness (a time described in detail in so many of the play’s other songs, like “The Flesh Failures,” “Easy to Be Hard,” and other songs). This refusal to overlook the dark underbelly of America gives Hair its authenticity, and saves it from being a dated caricature of the counterculture. To put it in terms of the Timothy Leary maxim that the play continually tries to make sense of, it is what has to be tuned into after turning on in order for the dropping out to be meaningful and enduring. It is why Claude chooses to go to Vietnam despite the protests of the Tribe and of his own heart. This is why he dies, why he has to die. His death signals that the time is now or never to let the sun shine in, and that its is on us to let it happen.
It’s on us to make all the countless deaths of all the Claudes that have ever died herald the dawning of the New Age rather than the continuation of our insane history of war and hatred. I hope that this message still resonates, although it feels increasingly difficult to believe that even the sun can cleanse the world of the hypocrisies that seem to proudly wallow in the darkness. But there is still no other antidote to this darkness than sunlight.
Prof. David Hyman