Summarizing historical events of the sixties and authors‘ intentions
The sixties were undoubtly very rich for social themes, as much as these were powerful. They found expression in various kinds of art and musical was not the only media for them. But it was particularly musical to which the sixties brought enormous development – as investigated in chapter 1.2.
What is more, all authors were to some point inspired by these events, MacDermot studied hippies carefuly, Butler thought the theme was as nearly important as his interest in American Indians, O’Horgan tried to portray them as honestly and impressively as possible. Rado and Ragni not only found a perfect topic in hippiedom, but in the end they felt they were obliged to portray the energy and message surrounding hippies.
I think at this point I can confirm the veracity of the first part of hypothesis – American society did inspire the origin of Hair, almost substantially. How is this reflected practicallyrere in the musical is investigated in following chapters.
Hair had no real plot, it was simply a revue, showing practically every aspect of the counterculture in a variety of musical styles, dance and stage effects. It would therefore be possibly better to introduce the main characters first, to fully understand the synopsis, if not the whole story. According to Kanpp Hairwas not a show, rather happening and that is why it had no cast in conventional sense, but rather “interactive Tribe, refering to primitive group dynamic of American Indian” (155). The Tribe consists of “young hippie people that gather in a park in Greenwich Village in 1968 and characters’ types are similar to the real movement” (Knapp 157).
Claude is maybe the main character of musical. Women love him, men follow and younger boys emulate. “Claude is bored with his identity and affects an English accent, pretending to be newly arrived from Manchester” (Sova 106). According to Knapp Claude remains somehow at the periphery of movement, because he does not burn his draft card (156). The fight between what he believes is right and what the authorities order him should be right is the most dramatical conflict in the musical.
Berger, Claude’s best friend, is a contrast to Claude, “free-spirited group’s leader” (Knapp 157). He is a social activist that wildly follows his beliefs no matter the costs and consequences. Miller describes their relationship as that Berger and Claude are two halves of one whole with Claude as “the intellectual half, the voice of reason and morality, who tries to understand everything around him, and Berger is the animal half, focused on instinct, pleasure and primal urges” (n. pag,).
Sheila’s character is archetypal as well, she is an upper class politically active college student, spreading the change of society through “the peaceful groovy revolution” (Sova 106). She is the most intelligent of Tribe members, lives with Berger and Claude in an appartement in East Village and deeply loves Berger. The three form “ménage a trois” (Sova 107). Both Claude and Berger love Sheila, but “Berger wants Sheila only for physical pleasure, while Claude wants her for spiritual pleasure of pure love” (Miller n. pag.). Sheila herself loves Berger, but he does not want any commitments and tries to make her hate him.
Jeannie is a beautiful young girl who stands in the story for a most zealous follower; interested in spirituality she is also suggested to have some magical powers. She is pregnant, does not know with whom, but deeply loves and fully understands Claude. With her creativity and tenderness she takes care of other Tribe members. Jeannie provides a “symbolic bridge between spirituality and sexuality” (Miller n. pag.) - she may be pregnant and promiscuous, but it is aslo her who invites the audience to be-in.
Hud is African-American, what factor could not have been missed when portraying the hippie movement. He also is a strong personality who speaks his mind and holds a great deal of the musical’s spirituality and energy. While belonging to the core of the Tribe he represents its heterogeneity while still keeping homogenous message.
Woof represents the younger part of the Tribe, he is very energetic. His part in the story requires him to be mysterious about his sexual orientation and to show the fight of admitting being gay to himself.
Knapp also adds Claude’s parents representing the establishment to the core cast (157), they serve for better comparison between the Tribe and others.
“Instead of a logical narrative, Hair was more of a rambling diatribe against all authority figures and glorification of drugs, free love, racial tolerance, respect for individual and environmentalism” (Everett, Liard 237). The stage scene is filled with flower children who “wander through scenes wearing flowers” (Sova 107).
“The show unfolds as a series of associations to a central theme” (Knapp 155), what also reflects the characteristics of milieu that Hair sought to reproduce and its tendency for free association in real life, influenced by the use of drugs (156).
Wollman, Dermot and Trask describe Hair as a musical with theme, not a story (47). The story consists of largely interrelated vignettes during which the musical’s characters examine various counterculture concerns.
Claude Hooper Bukowski flees his parents’ house in Queens for the “hippie enclave of Greenwich Village” (Wollman, MacDermot, Trask 47).
In the first songs of the Act 1, Miller explains, the characters introduce themselves, Berger himself introduces the tribe, their philosophy and their way of life in light of their parents’ objections which the Tribe believes to be untrue, wrong and even harmful (n. pag.).
Then it is revealed that Berger was expelled from high school and that Claude has to go to face the draft board. Claude fights about whether to obey this order or not. Sova adds that Claude pretends to have burned his draft card, but later the Tribe finds out that it was just his library card. He passes the army’s physical and changes his mind definitely during the pseudo-orgy (107).
A couple of tourists joins the Tribe and when the young people sing about how hair is important to them, the two are so impressed that the woman reveals she is a man and a transvestite in fact. Audience sees that nothing is clear and everything we encounter should be regarded critically. The police intervention signals intermission.Hare KrishnaHare
“The most passionate moment came in the penultimate scene of Act 2, a stylised set piece that railed against the futility of war” (Everett, Laird 237). Claude is inducted into the army. “The stage fills with images of George Washington at war with a group of Native Americans, joined by Abraham Lincoln, Scarlett O’Hara, Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns” (Sova 108). The scene segues into singing about the ugliness of the war. Berger leads the tribe and the audience through the craziness of Act 1, but in Act II he “fades into the background as Clause’s story takes center stage” (Miller n. pag.).
While gathering to sleep under the moon in a mass of Flower Power, Claude disappears for a time. Then he returns wearing Army uniform and the Tribe cannot see him. The story ends with “Claude accepting his call into the military, followed by his death” (Everett, Liard 237). In the final scene Claude lies alone on the stage and Berger lays a cross made of sticks on his chest.
Even from characters and plot summary it is clear that authors tried to portray hippie movement and social moods of the sixties as realistically as possible – every character represents specific part of milieu and plot handles destiny of young people with all their problems. Following chapter lists specifically what themes authors included and how.