BY RON COWAN
Thursday, September 21, 2000
Thursday, September 21, 2000
Randy Bowser's graying hair has grown into a ponytail, his T-shirt (new) is tie-dyed, his jeans are frayed, and his ncklaces with a peace symbol loop around his neck.|
It's the dawning of the age of Aquarius for Bowser as he fulfills a dream of directing the tribal love rock musical "Hair," opening Fridy at Salem's Pentacle Theatre before an audience that includes members of the original Broadway production.
That group includes James rado, the co-star and co-author of the original production, who has been collaborating with Bowser by e-mail (sic) from his New Jersey home, providing new lines and insights.
Bowser, a longtime actor/director who never saw the 1968 sensation on stage, is nonetheless a meber of the '60's generation, a hippy, from the Eugene area.
"I was a flower child," he said.
Bowser has once again been in hippy mode since starting work on this show last September.
"It's become my habit," he said. "I get so much into my research, my brain functions that way."
He held a basket of paper daisies, to be strung into 40-foot ropes for stage decoration on the scaffolding-like set, and pointed out baskets of woven "God's Eyes," more hippy symbols the members of his cast, dubbed the Willamette Tribe, will give to the audience each night.
Although Pentacle two years in a row (sic) rejected Bowser's proposal to resurrect the show in Salem, saying it had no literary merit, he finally prevailed.
"I think it (the stated reason for rejection-rb) was a smokescreen," he said. "The idea is that it's an event, a theatrical thing."
The production has turned into an auspicious event.
Opening night is sold out and several other nights are close to sold out. (note: all nights sold out the day after the show opened-rb)
Friday's special guests include Rado; Michael Butler, who produced the original show on Broadway, and Walter Michael Harris, another original cast member.
Pentacle's cast of 23 is racially diverse, which is unusual at the theater.
There are one Latino, one Hawaiian/Japanese, and three African-American actors. It's also a young cast, ages 17 to 30.
Although the cast needed to be young, it was a challenge. None of these people knew much, if anything, about the era, the opposition to the Vietnam War, the burgeoning of sexual freedom, women's rights, and the music and lifestyle.
Pentacle members Robert Herzog talked to the cast about the Woodstock music festival, which he attended, and Larry Roach, who served in Vietnam, talked about the war to cast members.
"I gave them a hippy dictionary," Bowser said.
They had to learn about terms such as "bread," which meant money.
Both the cast and audience will get more atmosphere through the projection of film clips from the era during the show.
The experience has left the cast a bit nostalgic for the hippy experience.
"They stood up for what they believed in," said Ann Cruz, 26, a cast member.
"I think that was pretty unique."
"I can take the context and relate it to today," said Dawneka Patterson, 22, another cast member.
"These freedoms I have now were being fought for back then."
As an African-American, she appreciates the comments about racism in the show.
"The color of my hair, the color of my skin, has nothing to do with the person I am inside," Patterson said.
At the same time, she recognizes that these characters are also naive, that there is a thread of knowing humor in the story.
The cast members have discovered this is a bonding experience.
"There's just a real tribal feeling; everyone loves and cares for each other," Patterson said.
"As far as you can tell, it's like we've been family forever."
Cruz said, "You get into a different world doing the show."
Pentacle is encouraging the audience to get in the mood on opening night by dressing in '60's fashions.
The members of the Willamette Tribe will be mingling with the audience during the show and for 45 minutes before the show, face painting and even panhandling.
Bowsr is keeping the show in period, 1968, trusting that the audience will realize the issues of the '60's are still relevant.
"That's what makes great art, that it's relevant, always universal," he said.
"I can't think of another show that had a stronger statement about the importance of brotherhood, the Tribe being the world.
"That's the core message of 'Hair.'"
The show is almost plotless but is loosely based on the play "Hamlet" and the story of Jesus, both of which feature a climax where the central character is sacrificed so that we can learn a lesson.
The story is set in a park in Greenwich Village, focusing on the characters Claude, Berger, and Sheila.
Claude has received his Vietnam draft notice and passes his Army physical. The Tribe members try to help him escape the draft, though he is reluctant to take the step of burning his draft card.
Claude, ultimately is the victim of people not getting along, not just this particular war.
The extensive score includes such numbers as "I'm Black," "Ain't Got No," "Air," "I Got Life," "Easy to Be Hard," "Hair," "Walking in Space," and "Good Morning Starshine."
"I'm purposely doing some staging like the original production, some things I've come across in my research," Bowser said.
"I know there are many, many things that I've done that have never been done this way in a production of 'Hair.'"
Rado also gave Bowser some new staging as well.
Rado, who co-wrote the book and lyrics with the late Gerome Ragni, is working on a definitive version of "Hair." The music is by Galt MacDermot.
Fans of the show will find more music and more dialogue than in other productions, thanks to Rado's contributions.
Pentacle is cautioning that the show has adult content, with parents encouraged to attend with their teen-agers and children.
However, there is no nudity.
The cast is led by Don Williamson as Berger, Jeff Sanders as Claude, Heathre Powell as Jeanie, Justin Sutton as Woof, Reuben Sampson as Hud, and Geri Brost as Sheila.
Choreography is by Lisa DeCina; Sandee Shaddock is vocal director; costumes are by Roxy Garrison; technical direction is by Tony Zandol; and lighting is by Jeff Baer.
Vic Lund leads the Tribal Band.