40 years of hair


Director Paul Aberasturi takes the weird ride from the 1960s to 2008.

Director Paul Aberasturi takes the weird ride from the 1960s to 2008.

Photo By Wishelle Banks

Heads up, baby boomers! If silver hair, spare tires and aching joints aren’t enough to incite the sinking impression of middle age, then TMCC’s special 40th anniversary production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical ought to do the trick.

As rehearsals crank into full-gear and a whole new generation of actors, musicians, singers, dancers and dreamers hone their renditions of “Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine” and “Easy to Be Hard,” director Paul Aberasturi reflects on both the past—as well as the future—of this timeless musical’s universal appeal.

“It is the landmark rock musical, the first in history to have nothing but rock music in it,” says Aberasturi, director of the play and department chair of TMCC’s Visual and Performing Arts.

“Following Hair came Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Tommy and other rock musicals. Rent, which people have called the Hair of the late ‘90s, deals more with the concept of who we are as people, and the themes of love, peace and happiness.”

Ah, timeless themes indeed. Aberasturi—and Hair’s audience—don’t have to seek too deeply to recognize the conflicting common threads of contemporary American society, now that we’re well into the millennium.

“Granted, we don’t have the draft today, but we still have a war that a large percentage of Americans disagree with, just like many did in the Vietnam era,” Aberasturi notes. “There’s a need for people to look beyond the materialism, at the [concepts of] brotherly love, sharing, giving, [and] everybody helping everybody … no matter what our differences may be. If you look at the hippie, one of their aims was to change society, to help people to change, by using their constitutional right to free speech.”

While the debate on diminishing rights continues to rage, Hair steadfastly provides a creative vehicle for collective, essential self-expression, Aberasturi says, irresistibly shining the spotlight on 1968—the year the musical hit Broadway’s Biltmore Theatre, where it held court for an astonishing 1,750 performances—when America’s capitalistic waste matter came into direct contact with the oscillating air-machine of free-love-fueled pop culture.

“The 1968 protest of the Democratic convention in Chicago turned into a melee, an awful thing. Martin Luther King Jr. [and] Robert Kennedy [were] assassinated. Now, there’s still a lot of confusion as to where our country’s going. Hair is really great, because everybody comes together.”

Aberasturi says he’s delighted to effect change, ever so slightly, with the show’s script. For the Reno production, there will be a couple of characters sitting ringside, providing commentary just-this-side of uncensored.

“I’ve given it more of a multi-perspective. We’re gonna give it that 2008 flair, even though it is a 1968 setting. I’m not changing Vietnam to Iraq—I’m letting the audience make that connection. It’s a straight-on parallel, so there’s really no need to change it.”

As for the revolution, that’s re-emerging too—at least in the theater, where conscientious research is to these young performers’ minds what blotter acid was to Boomers back in the day.

“The kids in the cast are 20-somethings. They’re not really aware, to a great deal, [of] free sex, drugs and [1960’s issues]. There was more to [the era] than that. They get to embody this 1968 persona for a few hours, and not only understand, but portray that era.”

Hair—like the decade of free love—is filled with powerful, potentially intoxicating music that Aberasturi says both “makes you feel good and makes you think. Hair is a commentary on our society.”