..Jon Simonds..

Peace of Hair

War, children
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away...

In 1968, African Americans were niggers fighting for civil rights, not rappers singing about niggas in the hood, or, niggas in the club. There were no Senators of African American heritage in serious contention for the President of these United States. Television, still in its infancy, brought disturbing images of war into living rooms all across America, a testimony to our freedom, now beaten, battered and bleeding on the doorsteps of Homeland Security. The dreams of Martin Luthur King were not ripped to pieces by a bullet on the terrace of a hotel balcony April 4, in Memphis Tennesee.

On June 5th, had Robert F. Kennedy not been taken from our world, he might say again today, "On this generation of Americans falls the burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law."

In 1968, Hair graced the stage of Broadway and outraged a nation for its free use of foul language, its public display of nudity and its anti-war theme. It was a ground-breaking production that met with protest, bomb threats, hotel fires and other implements of terrorism, long before terrorism became a political tool.

Hair was never about the play, or the players. It wasn't about the singers, or, the songs. It was about a decade of turmoil spun by a generation that dared to ask, is there something wrong with love? Is there something terrible about peace? Are we mistaken to think that all men are indeed equal — that we bleed the same blood and cry the same tears?

In 2008 Hair turns 40 and production companies all across the country are marking the celebration with reproductions of the play. So far, Ann Morrison's direction of Hair, at the Sarastoa Players Theatre in Florida has separated itself from the pack, playing to sell out crowds and rave reviews. Morrison, a veteran from the stages of Broadway, whose list of credits include the Theatre World Award, obviously decided her production of Hair wouldn't be about the play, or the players, the singers or the songs.

Ann Morrison has made Hair contemporary, again as evidenced by the smattering of boos from the crowd of patriots in the opening moments of the play, and to the applause that drowns them out. It allows a theatre packed with viewers to share in their differences, express their feelings, freely — like those young idealistic souls of the sixties.

After all, America is all about freedom and all that freedom requires is your ability to think. Think about what's going on. Think about what's right from wrong and think about what you're going to do.

The premise of the play is simple enough. Prior to the play itself, the actors filter out onto the stage as if seeing each other for the first time in forty years. They make references to the protests of the play in decades past and the loss of life that forty years brings. One cast member talks about an uncle taken in the towers of 9/11. Another asks for prayers for her son, a soldier in Iraq. Aids, Ovarian Cancer and the benefits of medical marijuana are all brought to the stage. The prequel to the play is both poignant and funny and the actors, for the most part, are all old.

The Prequel ends and the play begins with energy of youth lost in time. After the intermission there is an interlude where a cast member announces he has traded off marijuana for Viagra, the greatest drug known to man. Another complains about how painful all the dancing has become and is immediately offered bottles of Ibuprofin, from all the other the cast members, lounging on the stage. The humor is well received as they poke fun of growing old and then plunge headlong into Act ll, somehow finding all the energy that drove a generation past.

Alas, this production of Hair has come the full circle. With four shows remaining, a fax was received by the theatre. The fax originated in New York City and was inspired by a rave review that appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. It is an order to cease and desist from the production as it is being presented.

Whether or not the show goes on, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, Ann Morrison has definitely recaptured the spirit of the sixties, reigniting the energy of those who celebrated in the ideals of Hair, and of those who want to shut it down.

...I tell you
is just a kiss away,
it's just a kiss away
kiss away
kiss away.

@1969 Rolling Stones Music

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