Age of Aquarius Dawns at GCC

ALISON GELLER
El Vaquero Features Editor

“Look at the bodies that you killed in the ’60s and look at the bodies that you’re killing in 2006; humans are still humans,” said Shermie Aguilar, 18, who is a Tribe member in GCC’s production of the rock-musical “Hair” that is being performed by the Theater Arts Department starting today and running for the next three weeks.

Many of the Tribe members agree that current world events make this is the perfect time to bring “Hair” to the GCC stage.

“Hair,” which was written in the late ’60s by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, is about a group of young adults, referred to as the Tribe, living the life of New York City hippies during the Vietnam War. It depicts the tribe’s members struggle to avoid the draft.

The draft had been around since 1940 but was not widely used during the Cold War. In 1964 however, conscription was stepped up as the war in Vietnam escalated.

According to www.wikipedia.org, “Formal protests against the draft began on October 15, 1965, when the student-run National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam staged the first public burning of a draft card in the United States.”

This pivotal event is portrayed in “Hair” when most of the male tribe members burn their draft cards.

GCC’s production of “Hair” brings the points of the play home by showing clips on screens in the background that emphasize what the tribe is either singing or talking about.

They hit very close to home near the end when they show clips of the graves from Arlington Cemetery after a pivotal character dies.

Explaining why they are called “the Tribe,” cast member Meagon Ligons, 22, said, “We’re the tribe because the tribe is more or less about us as one big group. Where hippies are [autonomous], the tribe is like a big family. We’re communal. That’s what we’re trying to express onstage.”

“Hair” also contains a controversial nude scene at the end of Act I. But the nudity is voluntary. Ken Gray, the director of the play, says that wherever the actors comfort level is, is where they stop, which means if they want to take off just their shirt or if they want to take it all off it’s all up to the individual actor.

It is believed that this will be the first Theater Arts production that includes full nudity for the cast members, at least as far as Gray, a GCC professor for the past 28 years, recalls.

Camilo Villegas, 20, is also a Tribe member and plays the Gemini man, who during one scene of the production, appears on stage nude and painted in blue.

“Hair” first appeared on stage in 1967 at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater where it ran for six weeks. The show was then moved to the Cheetah, a discotheque. After the show closed at that location, Papp left the play, but his co-producer, Michael Butler moved the play to Broadway, where it opened at the Biltmore Theater on April 29, 1968.

Since then “Hair” has been all over the world. It ran for several months at the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles and the Shaftesbury Theatre in London.


“Hair” was a very controversial play though, and the production companies did not always have an easy time of it. “Hair” ended up in front of the Supreme Court twice, once in 1970 and again in 1975.

According to “Court Battles Surrounding Hair” found at www.geocities.com/hairpages, the first “Hair” Web site, “Hair” encountered legal problems in Boston. In the 1970 case, “Hair” was able to continue performing during legal battles at the state level. But when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts decided it was too obscene and that cast members would be arrested for being nude, the cast members decided to close the play on April 10, 1970.

It was not reopened in Boston until May 22, 1970, after the United States Supreme Court decided that placing those types of conditions on a theatrical production went against First Amendment free speech protections.

A similar occurrence happened in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1975. This case was also heard by the Supreme Court.

The controversy with the play was over the nudity, obscenity, suggestive themes (sex and drug use), the use of the American flag and the racial remarks.

“If you don’t leave you political correctness at the door, and you don’t open your mind to what it was like in the ’60s, you won’t enjoy the show,” said Amanda Hall, 20, a theater arts student. “You’re not getting the message of the show.”

“The draft is white people sending black people to make war on the yellow people to defend the land they stole from the red people!” declares the character Hud in “Hair.” Hud is played by Mario Mason in the GCC production.

“We have every race on stage and we have African American people saying the N-word,” said Ashley Ratcliffe, 20, also a tribe member. “And it’s not a big deal because we show people that back then people just loved each other and it didn’t matter what color you were.”

“There is a sweet naivete about the characters in “Hair” and it’s worth celebrating,” said Ken Gray, the director of the play.

An example of their naiveté is in the lines on the opening number “Aquarius,” lyrics by James Rado & Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. “When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planet and hope will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

The head costume designer for “Hair,” Lois Tedrow, recently won an NAACP theater award for her costume design in the play “National Pastime,” which is the life story of Jackie Robinson.


Tedrow was quick to point out that most cast members decorated their own jeans and made their own love beads at “Mama Lois’s Love-In” and “Mama Lois’s Bead Workshop.”

GCC’s production of “Hair’s” musical direction is by Dan Belzer and choreography is by Melissa Randel.

In the lobby there will be “Hair” memorabilia from the original Broadway production and “Hair” souvenirs, such as reprints of the original posters, will be sold.

As it turns out there were many people in the original casts of “Hair” that later became quite famous. Diane Keaton was in the original Broadway cast, Meat Loaf was in the original Los Angeles cast, and Tim Curry was in the original London cast.

In fact, according to the article “1968: Musical Hair opens as censors withdraw,” found at www.bbc.co.uk, the day before the London production of “Hair” was to open, Sept. 27, 1968, Parliament passed the new Theatres Act which allowed nudity on stage. This permitted the production to be shown without needing to make large modifications to the script.

“Hair” continued to play at the Shaftesbury Theatre until the roof collapsed in July 1973. There were 1,998 performances.

When asked how he feels about the students’ decision to do “Hair,” Gray said, “It’s a whole new generation throwing down the gauntlet.”

Performances will be at 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, March 17, 18, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on March 12, 19 and 26. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for students and seniors and $8 each for groups of 10 or more and may be reserved in advance by calling (818) 240-1000, ext. 5618.