September 10, 2008

Good Morning Starshine

It was fifty-five degrees and windy when I arrived in Central Park this morning just before seven o'clock. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me the coldest it's been in New York since spring. Now, thankfully, three hours later, the sun has come out, the sunshine in, and it's truly a glorious day. I'm sitting with my back against one of those temporary wire fences the park puts up when they want you off the grass. I ain't got no chair, but I got a blanket, a pillow, some goldfish crackers, and I got a few boredom-fighting Apple products. I'm sound as a pound.  

The event is the Public Theater's 40th anniversary production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, currently in its last week of a twice-extended run at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The tickets are free; all you have to do is get to the park on the day of the performance early enough to be near the front of the line when they hand out tickets at one o'clock. "Early enough" varies from day to day, but if you get here when I did, you're safe. I'm roughly eightieth in line, and most of the two hundred or so people behind me will also get tickets. 

I've sat in line for tickets to see Shakespeare in Central Park a few times now, and I recommend it to everyone. What beats a day in the park followed by free tickets to high quality theatre? You get to meet very interesting and dedicated theatergoers.  You get to watch countless joggers, cyclists, dogs, bums, and tourists visiting the park. You can order food to be delivered right to you in line. There's a flautist. What more could one ask for? Plus, if you're lucky you get to see a fight between New Yorkers over line semantics and cutters/cheaters; really fantastic stuff, especially when the other members of the line democratically decide to extradite someone. 

Okay, I have to stop and tell you that the flautist was working his way down the line playing the likes of "Fur Elise", "Musetta's Waltz", and "Can't Help Falling in Love". Then he gets to my part of the line: "We Three Kings of Orient Are", "Tomorrow" from Annie, and the theme from Indiana Jones. Let's just say there's still a dollar bill in my pocket. 

I've never seen Hair or worked on it. I haven't seen the movie either. Tonight will be my first genuine Hair experience.  I do know the popular songs from the show, and I know the plot fairly well, and as a theatre geek, I understand the significance of this musical, which I'll do my best to impart to you. 

I think most people only know that Hair is a show where hippies hang out, sometimes naked, take drugs and sing about astrology, among other things. This, of course, is a gross understatement. Hair was the most groundbreaking show of its era. In 1968 when it began off-broadway, it pioneered both the rock-musical and the concept-musical. It was immediately controversial for its exploration of race-issues, profanity, nudity, drug-use and sexuality. The show addressed issues and themes that, quite simply, had not been talked about before in a theatre building. The show remains one of the most important representations of hippie counter-culture and the protest of the Vietnam War. Above all, Hair takes an in-depth look at pacifism and revolution, and examines what it means to be a hippie.  

Hippie is a term that today has become largely generalized and trivialized. It seems to me that people nowadays throw the term around to describe longhaired people wearing tie-dye shirts, or folks who enjoy cannabis and Jimi Hendrix, but calling people hippies based on their style, appearance, and musical taste is not fair to them, nor is it fair to actual hippies. While many of things we visually associate with the hippie era (love beads, acid trips and the like) were definitely a part of the lifestyle, it's important to remember that these people fought for specific causes particular to their time. Their country wanted to force them to help fight a war they didn't want any part of, for instance. So remember, those kids down the block with the hacky sack and the pot: not hippies. 

Anyway, I'm very excited to see the show. While audiences in the late sixties were watching something pulled right off the streets they lived on (including some of the performers), I now get to see the same thing, but as a period piece. 


Some of you may have noticed Zach England complaining about not getting any mentioning in the first post.  The reason for this is that he's not very important, but we'll humor him this one time, and while we're at it, let's paint him as a damned liar. 

A few years back, Texas beat USC in the college football national championship game in comeback fashion. Zach was watching the game with Brian Gentry and Zach remarked when USC was ahead, "If Texas wins, I'm in the river." Well, Vince Young (who now apparently wants to kill himself over a few interceptions) caught fire and led the longhorns to victory. Consequently, Zach had to jump in the Tennessee River, in January.  Flash forward to two Saturdays ago, where Tennessee loses an overtime surprise to UCLA. But before overtime, the Vols have the ball down three points with under thirty seconds to play when I receive an incoming text message:

"If we kick a field goal, I'm in the river." 

It's almost two weeks now and that rat bastard hasn't taken the plunge yet. Join me in ridiculing his brazen threats and pending cowardly refusal.  


brad.j said...

The ridiculing has begun....

On a side note, I'm a little upset you didn't enjoy the melodic bliss that this flautist attempted to create from a John Williams masterpiece...I mean, he's no Dvorak or Liszt, but cut a guy some slack.

BG said...

So what do we call long-haired, hacky sack kicking, tie dye wearing, apple product using, people who tend to hang out in "trendy" coffee establishments?

Also, something you'll learn with Zach is that you have to be able to apply pressure on him in order to make an "in the river" call stick. The night I told him Vince Young was going to lead Texas back over USC included Sarah as a witness, and my continual POUNDING on his door until he finally gave in.

Christina said...

I just love you!!! It's so refreshing to read someone's ideas and opinions online that are not riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Especially when the ideas are framed in such an entertaining way!

I'm so so happy to hear that things are going well for you. I miss seeing you on a regular basis, and the fun conversations that ensued. And don't be discouraged about auditioning; I think you've done fabulously to accomplish all you have in the short amount of time you've been up there. (Like my semi-colon? Agree with my usage?) You are so well spoken, and a fabulous writer. Thanks for sharing! I'll definitely be back for more.

Mere said...

I just re-read this post and realized that you said "folks who enjoy cannabis"... That's kind of adorable... That's pretty much how my mom would describe hippies... or my aunt and her friends for that matter...