Last weekend I took a little hols to New York City. Not only was it a great opportunity to soak up some culture and eat an overabundance of delicious vegan cuisine, I also got to visit with my mother (hi, mum!) who was on a mini-break in the city, too. One of the things we were most excited to do was see a Broadway show. I originally had my heart set on Tony Award nominee Promises, Promises (for Sean Hayes’s leading actor performance- take that Ramin Setoodah!), but apparently so did everyone else, so we wound up at my second choice, Hair.
Though the music and vocal performances were everything I could have hoped for, my group left feeling a little unsatisfied. Rather than delivering an honest and sincere representation of the love, pacifism, and struggle for freedom that permeated the 1960’s, this production made caricatures of the very people whose story it was trying to tell. Was the hippie generation really long enough ago that the sincerity of their movement and cause can be whittled down to a parody of pot-smoking, speech-slurring weirdos? According to this production, yes.
Hair tells the story of a tribe of young people in New York City in the 1960’s trying to cope with the draft, oppression from their parents and society, and a sexual revolution. Many serious issues are addressed in the script, but these seemed to be glossed over by the director and cast in favor of a glamourised portrayal of a free love and drugs culture. It was like watching a Halloween party: the cast had dressed up as hippies, but when observed, still obviously behaved like modern youth giggling nervously about sex and weed.
This was hugely disappointing. Our country is in a war that people barely talk about, and conservative values and censorship are quickly usurping the freedom and openness the hippies championed. This play would have been the perfect venue to relate the past to the present and draw meaningful parallels that may have left the audience with a deeper understanding of themselves and their country, as well as a sense of empowerment to act upon their values. Even if the director or producers didn’t want to focus too much on the serious aspects of the storyline, they could have at least honestly and sincerely portrayed the time and people they were representing.
This production made it clear that there is a serious apathy problem rampant in our society, particularly amongst the youth. Where is our generation’s Human Be-In? Where are our peaceful protests? My mom suggested that maybe we need another draft to light a fire under people to end this war. But how sad if people are only motivated to act out for self-preservation. What about the Iraqis being killed every day? What about the underprivileged young American casualties who enlisted to try to pay for college? What about the sheer principles of peace and pacifism?
We Urchins are passionate about a lot of things: literature, artistic integrity, the environment, social justice. What are you passionate about? And what have you done lately to show it? This is our world, and we can make it what we want. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it for you, because chances are, you won’t be happy with the results.