IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, June 22-23, June 29-30, July 6-7 and July 13-14. Tonight's show is sold out.
Where: CircleStage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.
"Hair," a play that director Scott Dunlap said changed the face of musical theater, opens in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's CircleStage today.
The controversial rock musical about a tribe of hippies living a bohemian life in late 1960s New York City and fighting the draft, will be presented for five weekends.
"It's an opportunity for us at the Theatre Centre [and] for the city to experience something that isn't done often," Dunlap said. "Not every community does this. 'Hair' is an experience. It's different. It's an event."
The production, with book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, grew out of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and contains the profanity, sexuality and irreverence that was part of its off-Broadway and Broadway days.
Before "Hair," Dunlap said, musicals were literal and straightforward. "Hair," instead, was nonlinear and told its story in an inventive, less structured format. It led immediately to musicals such as "Company" in 1970 and more recently to "Rent" and "American Idiot."
"You don't have to have every little moment," he said of the genre. "It doesn't all have to look realistic."
"Hair" includes popular songs such as "Let the Sun Shine in," "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine" and the title song.
What it does not contain, according to Dunlap, is the 20-second nude scene found in some versions of the production.
The fact the show is rarely performed and the part of American history it covers are reasons to see it, he said.
"You have to have an open mind," Dunlap said, "There are things that are shocking, but people will be surprised at how funny it is and how sad it is. It's a really well-written musical. It's emotionally engaging."
Neither the director nor the actors were alive when the play debuted off- Broadway in 1967.
However, Dunlap said he and the cast have worked hard to understand the behavior of the period when teenagers learned of friends dying in Vietnam and were faced with the draft themselves. They have watched three documentaries of the period, as well as the film adaptation, to help acquaint themselves.
"It's still very hard," he said. "We [have] to keep checking back."
Although the play is 45 years old, its themes of protest and war still resonate, Dunlap said.
"Even if you don't agree with its politics," he said, "you can experience and see and be reminded [of the period]. You can look at how far we've come or the fact we haven't changed. That's what's fascinating."
The CTC is offering extra programming with several performances of its CircleStage production of "Hair."
7 p.m. today: An opening-night reception precedes the 8 p.m. curtain.
8 p.m. Saturday: Patrons are invited to stay after the show to watch the Riverbend Festival's fireworks finale from the theater patio.
1-8 p.m. June 22: Hippie Radio 106.9 will hold a Be-In, featuring music, face-painting, food, drink and entertainment from the "Hair" cast before the 8 p.m. curtain.
8 p.m. June 29: Brewer Media will sponsor Hippie Chicks Night Out with complimentary adult beverages.
8 p.m. July 6: The director and cast members of the show will hold a talk-back with patrons following the show.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...