Hair in Central Park

Threads from the '60s, beyond birthday suits

All of the jeans are new, though they have been convincingly beaten up and patched. "You can't use vintage pants," McDonald explains. "Even sturdy ones fall apart—they split open. One girl blew out her pants last night in Act I." (How did I miss this?) Lucky for her, a pile of replacements is always at the ready offstage.

So, Michael, does everyone get naked in the nude scenes? "Only three girls don't strip down—they're practically all nude!" McDonald replies. "The cast wanted to get nude. 'What's the point of doing it if we're not nude?' they told me. 'We want to get nude!' "

As we talk, the cast members—now more or less fully clothed—are drifting in for the afternoon rehearsal (there's the guy who plays Claude! And isn't that Sheila?). When I comment on how Hair-ish the cast looks even when they're out of costume—like everyone else in America, and the world, they're mostly wearing jeans—McDonald says: "Hair gave you permission to do that, to be free." But he hastens to add that hippie fashion represented "a different kind of comfortable. While the clothes were very simple, they made much more of a personal statement, a little more eccentric. A lot of it was just ordinary clothing people did things to—cutting them up, adding broken beads from a necklace to the bottom of jeans—just to make things different, like you were saying, 'I'm not gonna wear these jeans the way you want me to wear them!' "

But it isn't just the clothes that have McDonald's abiding admiration. "Things had to get so bad in this country for people to see the poignancy of this show. There's a reason it's taken 40 years—we had to wait for the right time. I've been very moved to be respectful of a generation I find has been dismissed out of embarrassment. We owe a great deal to them."

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