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The Program calls it The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical, but describing the Beatles as quartet. Hair does have music, immensely powerful songs - Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sunshine In. But the driving force behind Hair is a message, an appeal for human change, and appeal to break down the barriers between people.
To get the message across, Hair discards the conventions of the theatre. It communicates not so much through words as through the mood and feelings created by the cast. It preaches revolution, but it is a revolution of energy, a desire to live. The plot is just a skeleton to hold the action together: Claude, one of the 30 members of hair's commune-like hippie tribe, receives his draft call into the army. At first, he resists; at the end, he is in uniform. In between, Hair bombards the audience with dance and musical comment on a mass of Now-generation issues: war, the new permissiveness, drugs, clothes, no clothes.
At one point, members of the tribe emerge naked from under a sheet in a symbolic rebirth of mankind. The nudity is voluntary; only those of the cast who feel the mood need shed their clothes. At the end of the play, the audience is invited to join the tribe on stage in a communal dance.
There are 15 Hair tribes playing around the world and each is chosen from local talent. The Toronto production is no exception: all the members live in Canada. The producers are hoping for at least a year's run in Toronto, with an estimated half-million people seeing the show.
Hair invariably incites the audience through a spectrum of reactions: boredom, disgust, inspiration. But in the tangle of opinions, only two things remain graphically certain. First, Hair can break down the inhibitions which separate people (witness the melee on the opposite page as the audience joins the cast on-stage) (Editors note: see the first photo in the linked photo section). Second, the cast themselves live in hope, not despair of the future, and are genuinely immersed in Hair's tribal ideal. On the following pages they tell what it's like:
Gail Garnett plays Sheila , one of the female leads. At 25, she is one of the most experienced members of the cast, having been in more than 30 plays and 65 TV shows, including Bonanza (she now lives in Toronto). "Nudity was never a moral question with me, because there's nothing sinful about a human body. What I had to overcome was a feeling that my legs weren't long enough for my body. In Hair, when I come up nude through the slits in the blanket, it's as though I'm reborn every night. It's the most exhilarating feeling."
Clint Ryan, 21, plays Claude, one of Hair's two main male characters. A rock bass guitarist, Clint considers himself mainly a musician and singer. "At the end of hair, I come back to the tribe after being drafted. My hair is short and I'm in uniform. I say, 'I want to be invisible', and that moment is the climax of the whole evening for me. It means I've left the tribe. I want to die and have my spirit go into the others whom I've left behind. Some people see the short hair and they laugh. Really, it's a tragic moment."
Kid Carson, 23, is Berger, hair's other leading man. A Toronto rock drummer, he enjoys the chance to be himself in front of 1,500 people at a time. "I can't sing too good, but not everyone has to sing. Someone has to play the character. That's not Berger on the stage, it's me. I was a bit crazy before Hair ever came along. The play itself doesn't have one message; it talks about a whole way of life. It's loaded with symbols, things you don't understand the first time you see it. You could see it a dozen times and still miss something."
Colleen Peterson, is only 19, but already an established folk singer from Ottawa. "I'm a Scorpio, and Scorpios are selfish, possessive, and perceptive. I was never the kind of person who could go up to people and smile and say 'I love you, you love me.' After I joined Hair, I tried living the part, smiling at people on the subway. It didn't work, because it wasn't really me. I've cried once, in the scene where Claude comes back from being drafted. For the first time in my life, I was crying for someone else - not for myself."
Joe Clark, 22, is a trained modern dancer from Toronto who welcomes the chance to sing and act as well. hair has been "a dream come true. I was born on a day when Scorpio and Sagittarius come together. Maybe that's why I was always so crazy. I went through the whole thing - psychiatrist, killing myself, not knowing what to do. I have very thin hair, so it was impossible for me to grow a long Afro. It really hung me up. But now I feel what Hair is all about - live with yourself as you are - and i can accept it much easier."
Toby Lark is a soul singer from Detroit who first came to Canada in 1967 and now lives in Toronto. "Hair is preaching through its words and music the things the church failed to do. There is a four-letter word that says it all, and that's l-o-v-e. It means you have to be good to one another. Some people think a scene called The Bed is dirty, but they don't see that the couple on the bed are telling you one thing: you can rock it, you can sock it, you can do what you want in it - but you can't sin in it."
18, was a top fashion model in Toronto. She likes people and smiles
a great deal. "I was actually very inhibited before i joined Hair,
and I only tried out for it because a friend of mine more or less dared
me to do it. Hair gives me such a sense of freedom. the first
time I took my clothes off was mostly on impulse, but now it has become
a natural thing to do. it's beautiful. Feeling freedom without
clothes makes you feel more free and relaxed with them on.