‘Hair’ continues to grow despite historical conflicts

Hilda Yeghishian

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I am a human being, number 1005963297. Just another number.”

Although the long running tribal love-rock musical “Hair” is filled with inspirational songs and characters all promoting love, equality and free-will, this one line, which is repeated only twice by main character Claude (James Barry), remains as one of the strongest and truest when concerning the American government.

In 1967 the musical protested the Vietnam War and civil liberties the society, especially the hippies, felt were being disturbed. Forty years later the play is still being performed and still relevant to popular culture.

“Are you coming to the be-in after the show? Best pot ever,” says a female character as she walks through the aisles of the theatre.

The friendly cast all stayed in character as they spent the minutes before the show interacting with one another and audience members in the small theatre. They passed around some pseudo marijuana and pan handled for petty change. They were after all the playing the parts of flower children from the 60s.

The opening song “Aquarius” presented the happy tribe, who were happy for more than one reason, coming together in the name of love and spirituality. By the third musical piece, “Hashish,” the actors present the negative side effects that come along with the happy smoke as withdrawal takes over their blood streams and they find themselves crawling on the floor itching for their next hit.

The main plotline follows Claude, a young hippie who has been drafted. He struggles to balance his moral understandings with government law. As friends encourage him to burn his draft card, Claude fears the consequences that will come with his defiance. He doesn’t want to burn the card and he doesn’t want to lie, he just doesn’t want to go. One friend says, “Tell them you’re against the war. War is bad.” Berger, another friend, sensing Claude’s uneasiness says, “You’ll go, you’ll loot, you’ll burn, you’ll kill, you’ll do whatever they tell you to do.”

In all the seriousness Claude takes what some may consider a comedic response when he tells Berger that he can’t go because they will make him cut his hair, “it took me forever to get it this long.” To the tribe hair is more than just personal style, it shows their independence, their rebellion, its their form of protest to the man.

The most interesting thing about the musical is that it covers controversial topics that have slowly resonated into popular culture since but still cause public debates in the twenty-first century. They play however was not made in resent years, in 1967 when the play was first created the American government was not too happy about the musical performances of songs titled “Hashish,” “Sodomy” and “Hippie Life.” They were especially not happy with the closing scene at the end of the first act in which all the actors strip naked.

After two encounters with the Supreme Court, the creators were finally given the right to keep the musical alive in its original form. Although the company lost a lot of money it keeping the actors on salary while the courts deliberated their company’s rights, they were creating history and standing up for their first amendment rights.

A good thing for it, not only did their battle with the courts concerning decency and art open up many doors for later productions and entertainment, but also gives people today the chance to watch a wonderful play and connect with issues that are still prevalent today. It also doesn’t hurt that the actors have a great sense of comedic timing and can belt out music like the best of them.

“Hair,” which is about to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, could be considered to have single handedly created the entertainment industry that American’s enjoy today. But, it also represents a generation of people against a war that is less than popular. Back when the play originally hit the stage, the “flower children” were against the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, today it still rings true with America’s current war against terror.

The production is being produced by original producer Michael Butler and will be playing at the Met Theatre in Hollywood until Nov. 3. Regular show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.