HAiR Strands 2

NOTE: This post, “HAiR Strands 2,” is a continuation of my previous entry of April 8, 2007 entitled “HAiR Strands.” Since that post was quite active, growing to 27 reply posts, and had also “rolled off” the current page onto “previous pages,” I decided to continue the thread as a new post. People who have not been following the thread may access the previous posts by going to


In the immortal words of Boris Badenoff: “Ho Bouy!”


Apparently I have not expressed myself very clearly with regard to my views on nudity in HAiR. I offer the following in hopes of clarification:

The kernel of the confusion seems to be well summarized when Jon wrote (in reply post #23): “So while you (John Z) propose that having Claude clothed third-person’s the audience, I (Jon R) think that having Claude nude may confuse them.”

The opinion that I was trying to voice is somewhat broader than that which is stated above. I feel that ANY USE of nudity that starts in the “Where Do I Go?” scene is out of context and can distract the audience away from the powerful message of the scene. While it is undeniably true that nudity can effectively communicate the “liberation,” freedom, and iconoclastic/anarchistic nature of the tribe, those messages are far more appropriate in “Hare Krishna,” especially near the end when the tribe chants “BEADS, FLOWERS, FREEDOM, HAPPINESS.” I see no justification for the tribe to suddenly “discover” and demonstrate their “freedom” AFTER Claude finds that he cannot burn his draft card. Here (IMHO) all attention should be focused on Claude’s desperate search for guidance as he sings “Where Do I Go?” Whether the rest of the tribe 1) continues to party as if nothing has happened, or 2) is completely crushed by the loss of Claude, or 3) reacts somewhere in-between those two extremes, is (IMHO) quite irrelevant to the story. This is Claude’s moment, and anything that detracts from that harms the play. Therefore, I consider the use of ANY NUDITY that is introduced during “Where Do I Go?” to be quite ill advised.

Wisely, IMHO, most shows somewhat circumvent this problem by allowing “Where Do I Go?” to firmly establish itself in the audience’s mind (at least in their mind’s so-called ‘electric memory) well before the disruptive “wild card” of nudity is added. But, I ask, what is the compelling reason for adding nudity here at all, since it has such a significant downside?

I have talked with a couple of directors who chose to have Claude JOIN the rest of the tribe in disrobing. I was told that ONE of their reasons for deciding for a naked Claude was to give him an even chance of keeping the audience’s attention when having to perform in front of a naked tribe. This rang true to me as I remembered a production of “Boom Boom Room” that I was involved in. The director decided to add nominally “non-sexual” female nudity upstage right while a clothed male actor delivered a sexy and hilarious masturbation fantasy scene upstage left. Night after night, the male actor got no response from the audience, only absolute silence. On one particular occasion, however, the actress decided not to go on stage to do the nude scene, and the male actor, without the competing female nudity, “brought down the house!”

My feeling toward the use of nudity at the end of Act I is as follows:

IF nudity is going to be used, it is more “in context” to start it during the bacchanalic “Hare Krishna” and continue it up to the almost orgiastic burning of the draft cards. When Claude then finds that he cannot burn his, and the mood shifts to the somber, meditative “Where Do I Go?,” the tribe should either cover up or freeze into the traditional naked tableau.

The use of nudity at this point is only a tradition handed down to us from the original Broadway production. Since the official script makes no mention of nudity at this point in the play, and gives precious little guidance of any sort as to how the scene should be staged, I maintain that the original authors made a conscious choice to give each director, and his/her tribe, wide latitude in how to stage the scene. I realize that the original Broadway company might have felt that the way Tom O’Horgan staged the scene was as radical as they could go at the time without running afoul of the law, but ‘this is 2007, dearie, not 1968!’

IMHO, the California State University, Northridge, production handled this scene in a most exemplary fashion. They had a parachute, like on Broadway, but they used it to very good advantage. This device has bothered me greatly in all other productions where I have seen it used. CSUN introduced it quite early (during “Hare Krishna”), and playfully wafted it up and down revealing flashes of the tribe members performing sexual acts, though dressed, underneath.


I do not wish to give the impression that I am opposed to the use of nudity in HAiR in general. I would love to see it used in situations where (IMHO) it is “in context,” such as in “Walking In Space” or the Be-In/Suck-In for Peace. At a recent HAiR reunion, a tribe member from the original Mexican production demonstrated to me the (EXTREMELY, IMHO) sexual/sensual way (though she remained dressed) that they had performed W.I.S. I find it very interesting that this scene was performed so graphically, and in the nude, so many years ago! And this was not some “renegade” production, but rather one starring the original authors, and (Nina, tell me if I am wrong) under the helm of the original Broadway director, Tom O’Horgan. Perhaps they would have staged the original Broadway production this way had they not feared the ‘fuzz’? Incidentally, I do not know whether the Mexican production ALSO used nudity at the “traditional” location in “Where Do I Go? (Nina ?)

In general, I think that we should keep in mind the “rule of thumb” that, in our present “textile” society, upon seeing attractive adults getting naked, many people will have an immediate visceral reaction. Nudity like this often connotes sexuality. This is why “gratuitous” nudity is so effective in selling plays and movies. If it weren’t so, the audience would not be shocked by the scene, and we would not be having this as a frequent HAiR topic.

Personally, as an audience member, I have often found my mind drifting away from the story of HAiR when the nude scene approached. Instead of being focused on the play, I started thinking about 1) whether this tribe would be doing the scene nude, 2) would they be using a parachute or scrim, and 3) would it be performed in the dark, or would we be able to see it? Once the scene had started I often found myself tallying how many of the tribe were participating, and to what degree. In other words, my thoughts have left the meaning of the scene and drifted off into technical details of how the scene was performed. Only on the rare occasions where the scene has been reasonably lighted, and is of sufficient duration to allow these questions to be quickly answered, did I find myself being able to get back into the story itself. Perhaps I am perverse. Maybe my reaction is far from typical. Maybe the average audience member thinks nothing about the nudity in the scene, and so never loses the feeling of being “at one with” the story. Alas, I fear that most audience members will have reactions similar to, though not necessarily exactly like, mine.

Please note that I am not making any value judgments regarding the use of nudity in general. I think that, because of its visceral effects, it can be an invaluable tool with which to communicate your story, inasmuch as it can shoot around the conscious, logical mind, and directly reach into the subconscious parts of the mind that are out of bounds to the spoken word. My concern is that the use of nudity, like the use of any other very powerful tool, can do wonders when wisely used, but, if misused, it can prove rather destructive.

Blessed be with peace, love, freedom, and happiness!




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22 Responses to “HAiR Strands 2”

  1. bleurose said:

    I want to comment on the last point you made (regarding the “anticipation” aspect of the nude scene and the reaction you feel audience members may have that duplicates yours). Please keep in mind that MOST audience members have NEVER seen Hair (at least not the play, and Michael himself I believe has been quoted as saying the movie isn’t Hair).

    At the Mountain Play last week I ran into a number of audience members after the show debating WHERE the nude scene SHOULD HAVE BEEN if indeed they had done it (which of course, they didn’t :-). The variety of opinions, even from people who claimed to have seen it, albeit mostly “a long time ago” was amusing: some mentioned during Aquarius, others during Walking in Space, a few got it close, i.e., the Hare Krishna scene, and only one said at the end of Act I. John, you, like me, are an old hand at this show, and so of course you would do that (drift off, start wondering, etc.) The average audience member doesn’t even know what is going to happen and so won’t have any of those issues to deal with. If you do the show well, you will keep them totally involved (at least I intend to).

    That is one of the problems with familiarity. It breeds all sorts of things 🙂

    We respectfully agree to disagree on this one. I really do like the nude scene precisely where the original director placed it in the show, and I think it is effective (even though I have heard many opinions to the contrary). And as I have said before, you can call me a traditionalist (Dennis B. has 😉 but I don’t want to change that just for the sake of change. I also have to deal with practical issues: moving the nude scene up to the Be-In would add a significant amount of time that the tribe would have to be nude on-stage, and we already have some concerns about the number of people willing to even momentary nudity. (Dennis B. has already said he won’t do the nude scene himself, so encouraging me to do a longer nude scene seems a bit hypocritical 🙂

    So we will do a very traditional version of that scene and I will be happy with it (and I hope the audience will be as well). I will certainly look forward to seeing other versions which are different and maybe I will change my mind after seeing it done differently, but not yet.

    BTW, how did the Simi Valley group do the nude scene? Anyone care to comment?


    Jon Rosen

  2. dbeasley said:


    I just had a couple of comments. I have seen HAir seveal times and I have to say that the nudity at the end of Act 1 has never seemed out of place to me. It seems very appropriate that the tribe is disrobing while singing “Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness” after the Hare Krishna scene. The reason the tribe gets naked has never been a question to me. Claude is the one that always seems to be the problem. We have talked about Claude’s nudity and I have given my reasons why I think he should participate, so I won’t go into that again too much. I do agree that it should be Claude’s moment and that having a group of naked people behind him can obscure that moment. Like I said before, I have always thought that when Claude didn’t get naked I assume its because of the actor’s comfort level and then, like John, I end up thinking about the construcion of the scene as opposed to actually being in the moment. I guess we just have to say that different people react to the scene differently.
    The question of nudity in the other scenes seems relevant, though. It would make sense that a band of “free, liberated” hippies would not just be naked at one particular moment, but at several moments throughout the course of the play. Maybe introducing the nudity during the Hare Krishna scene and having it continue into “Where Do I Go?” might be the answer to John’s problem with the nudity. Then the audience would have more time to take it in and then refocus on Claude for his song. I don’t know.
    Thinking about the other scenes in the show that John has mentioned might have nudity (Hare Krishna, Walking in Space) I seem to only have one problem. That is the logistics of taking clothes on and off. I wouldn’t want the show to become about the logistics of people taking their clothes off, but I guess it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out a way to do it smoothly. I certainly think it could be interesting to add nudity in these other scenes. I actually think you could add nudity to many of the scenes in the show and it would be very appropriate for our “free-spirited Hippies”
    As for me, I have never actually said that I for sure wasn’t going to do the nude scene. I certainly don’t want to be counted on to do the scene, but I remain very much on the fence and it is very likely that I may choose to do the scene some nights and not on others(depending on who is in the audience) I wish I didn’t have the hangups about nudity that I do, but such is life. I guess if none of us had issues with nudity, then the scene wouldn’t need to happen at all. The reason it is so shocking and powerful is because of our hangups as a society.
    I also don’t think that choosing not to do the do the scene would make me a hypocrite even though I think there should be nudity in that scene. I simply think that, after seeing the show several times, the nudity adds a lot artistically to the show. I also think it works best when it is longer and in substantial lighting. I have always thought that as an artist and audience member and whether I get naked or not as an actor does not change my view. I don’t think it makes me a hypocrite to have made that observation. To put it in another light…I have a friend who is a thrill seeker and has often talked about skydiving. I have encouraged him and promised to support him if he chooses to do it even though I would never jump out of a perfectly good plane. I just know that he would enjoy it. Does that make me a hypocrite? I am encouraging him to do something I would never do. I think it just means that I see how something can be very right for one person and not for another. But I digress…

    Looking forward to hearing more the subject.

    See Ya Later


  3. JohnZ said:

    Hi, Dennis, glad to hear from you again. In reading your response post, I find that I am in quite

    You wrote: “I have seen HAir seveal times and I have to say that the nudity at the end of Act 1 has never seemed out of place to me. It seems very appropriate that the tribe is disrobing while singing “Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness” after the Hare Krishna scene.”

    Having the tribe disrobing at the start of and during the “Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness” chant at the end of “Hare Krishna” (and therefore, BEFORE Claude finds that he cannot burn his draft card) is EXACTLY where I believe that it should be placed! You have been most fortunate to attend performances where the nudity has been placed there. ALL of the performances that I have attended have placed the start of the nudity in the “traditional” location: at the ending few seconds of the following song “Where Do I Go?” which follows from Claude failing to burn his draft card. It is only this very late placement, which harkens back to the original Broadway production, which bothers me.

    As for your concerns about the “logistics” of having the tribe taking off and putting on clothes if nudity was used in “Walking in Space,” I don’t think there is any major problem. The disrobing would be done during the song as an integral part of it. Since the following scene involves just a few of the male tribe members jumping out of the helicopter, it would be a simple matter to either not have them participate in the nudity in “Walking in Space,” or just leave a little early to put on their uniforms. (Note: They have to do a costume change for the scene anyway, so nudity should not be much of a problem.) The remainder of the tribe should have sufficient time to dress during the helicopter scene. Since Rado, Ragni, and Tom O’Horgan used nudity in the original Mexican production, and, I understand, Leo Lunser has nudity in “Walking in Space,” I assume that any logistics problems have not been insurmountable. I would love to hear more details about how this scene was performed from anyone who was in the tribes of, or saw, these productions.

    Blessed be with peace, love, freedom, and happiness!

  4. bleurose said:

    Hi guys,

    First, I’m sorry Dennis, I wasn’t really trying to chide you too hard about the naked thing, although back in the other strand I do believe you made a comment about “I’m all for everyone else being nude, just not me” which is what I was commenting on. I also totally agree with your comment on being able to support others even while not necessarily wanting to do it yourself (and I, like you, would NEVER jump out of a perfectly good airplane voluntarily 😉 I do think there is a bit of a difference between supporting someone else and “pushing them”. I.e., I could support someone else’s decision to jump, but it still would be inappropriate to say to them “Hey, I think you should make TEN jumps today!” if I wasn’t prepared to make even one myself. But again, absolutely sorry if you took any offense at my comment, it wasn’t intended that way at all.

    John Z, I think Dennis meant disrobing while singing BFFH when it is sung at the end of Where Do I Go (i.e., AFTER the Hare Krishna scene) which is, of course, precisely the traditional place, not when it is sung DURING the Hare Krishna scene which is clearly nontraditional.

    In Santa Cruz 2002, we did it in the Be-In and it was pretty cool, a flurry of swirling bodies, gradually disrobing until almost everyone was naked and dancing around. The problem with our show then was that was the end of Act I!!!! (ARRGGHHH!!) Where Do I Go was moved to open Act II which totally sucked and made the dramatic moment for Claude completely gone. It was awful and I hated it, but I couldn’t do anything to fix it, sigh.

    We have hashed and rehashed the issue of traditional vs. other placement. I agree with Nina and others that the original placement is really strong. I know John, that you disagree, and we just have to disagree on that 😉 We know from other shows that not having nudity at all doesn’t keep 4000 people from giving the show a standing ovation so the specific placement of the nude scene is clearly a very small artistic detail. We are balancing the question of whether moving the nudity will cause more or less problems in other areas (who will do it, the logistics, the issue of jiggling during frenzied dancing being distracting to both the audience and dancers, etc.) and I think I am pretty firm on keeping it where it is traditionally now (although we still have to talk about this tribally and my mind could be changed, I am nothing if not flexible on many issues).

    The Sacramento show did Walking in Space topless and the disrobing was easy to do (Sorry you didn’t get to see that one, Dennis). In fact, it was much less obtrusive than the normal nudity is in other shows (although BOTH of their nude scenes were really well done and unobtrusive). I only had problems with the topless women thing, but I am rethinking that, in retrospect it may not have been as strange as I though it was then. It did seem a bit gratuitous at the time (I remembered only the women being topless although some people have told me the men were too… hmmm, wonder why I didn’t notice? 😉

    Anyway, the disrobing part was trivial, they did it one at a time and you almost never saw anyone take anything off, because of the lighting and because you became focused on the first person who seems to appear magically nude and then everyone else had the previous people as distractions. It worked VERY VERY well if you liked the placement of it, and the partial nudity.


  5. sammysf said:

    Okay my 2 cents – and admittedly I am way too ADD and not nearly as eloquent as all you folks so don’t expect much insight! What are we talking about?

    Ah yes! I saw the Sacramento Artistic Differences production of Hair and it was my first time ever watching the musical. I don’t recall being overly distracted by the nudity such that I wasn’t feeling the power of Claude’s message. However, my sister and her husband had a different take. She said that she was following just fine until the kids got naked at which point she thought to herself “Why are they all getting naked!” She said this with a sincere confusion and I believe even she was aware that there would be nudity at some point.

    My unique seat on the side of the stage made it difficult to not stare (just a bit). And I must confess I definitely noticed that there were shirtless males during Walking In Space. 😉 I personally find a bare chested human of any kind to be remarkably beautiful- I might not have liked to see any more than the full nudity at the end of the first Act.

    As far as parachute/scrim/lighting/movement during that full nude scene… As an actor I favor the low light and scrim. As an audience member I would love to see the parachute done effectively as John mentioned. I don’t believe I would like to see full nude gyrations at any time, or participate in them. One exception would be in body paint during Walking In Space- I can see some day glo shapes and black light which would be very acid test and lovely. That is all.

  6. sammysf said:

    So somehow my last message did not submit 🙁 I was just saying how ADD I am so now I’m questioning my relative sanity.

    Anyway two points:

    1. My sister was totally caught off guard by the nudity when we saw the Sacramento show. I was more enthralled since my seats were up close and to stage right. I do agree that I was distracted from Claude but not necessarily from the message.

    The nudity in Walking in Space seemed effective (topless women and yes Jon Rosen men as well- I noticed, big surprise there!). I wonder if this scene was voluntarily nudified by the cast (way cool) or mandated by director (could be cool but could be problematic). What I enjoyed was that the nudity was just bare chested, which I think is beautiful on any human being. Granted, it’s a bit more taboo for the women but I didn’t think it too gratuitous. I can see some body paint and low light here working well.

    2. I would love to see the parachute effectively done as posed by JohnZ and from the perspective of the audience. From a cast perspective I appreciate the scrim and low light. I think no matter what happens there will be people stealing glances from every angle. Those who choose to be nude will need to be comfortable with this fact. Personally I am not totally zen with that but I’m trying to not think about it and just focusing on putting my best (ahem) foot forward.

    Wow my other post really was more eloquent.

  7. JohnZ said:

    Hello Dennis and Jon,

    Dennis, when you wrote (in Reply post 2) that “It seems very appropriate that the tribe is disrobing while singing ‘Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness’ after the Hare Krishna scene,” did you really mean to indicate that the disrobing actually took place at the end of “Where Do I Go?” As you probably know, if nudity is to be used at the end of Act I, I strongly favor that it be initiated during, or at the end of, “Hare Krishna” and BEFORE Claude fails to burn his draft card. Starting nudity at the final bars of “Where Do I Go?” is, IMHO, unjustified and troubling.

    I find it quite embarrassing to admit that, even after having seen HAiR many, many times, I did not realize that the “Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness” chant that ends “Hare Krishna” is also repeated by the tribe as a response to Claude’s “Where Do I Go?” Though I have always heard Claude’s song, I never “heard” the tribe’s chant! I guess that this may be taken as further evidence of my distraction by the nudity.

    With all of this discussion, I believe that no one has yet answered my “razor” question: What is the stimulus that has prompted the tribe to suddenly shed their clothes during the last few bars of “Where Do I Go?” that was not present, and in greater magnitude, during the “Suck In for Peace”?

    (I have to admit that I have recently come up with a staging idea that could justify disrobing during “Where Do I Go?,” but I will keep it to myself for the moment because I do not want to influence anyone’s answer to the above-stated question. (If anyone writes and indicates an interest, I will divulge the idea in a later post. For now, all I will say is that it does present a logistical problem since it requires Jeanie to disrobe.)

    By the way, it should be quite apparent to all by now that I am not particularly wedded to the “traditional” staging of this scene that has come down to us from the original Broadway production. As has been pointed out by others on this blog, the staging of the nude scene, created 40 years ago on Broadway, was probably as much the work of a second “director” – the New York Police Department – as it was the work of Tom O’Horgan! I think that this is borne out by the fact that, to this day, the official script makes no mention whatsoever of any nudity in the scene!

    Finally, Jon, I don’t follow the logic you use when you base your contention that “…the specific placement of the nude scene is clearly a very small artistic detail” on the fact that 4000 people gave a standing ovation to a show that had no nudity at all. This reasoning is akin to concluding that there is little difference between painting a room red or painting it blue by basing your decision on an unpainted room. I believe that Mountain Play, by choosing NOT to use nudity at all during “WDIG?” rather than performing the scene with the “traditional” Broadway nude staging, STRENGTHENED their production.

    Blessed be with peace, love, freedom, and happiness!

  8. bleurose said:

    At the risk of misinterpreting, can I summarize some of the ideas here?

    1. I (Jon) am very interested in alternatives to staging the nude scene, and would be very willing to explore them, although I am also concerned as a director that the ability to actually get a tribe to do it provides one of the gating factors on making changes. Its one thing to stage it as it was done on Broadway (or a reasonable facsimile) which at least can be argued “is the way it is usually done”. To explore something different and novel requires a tribe to be very comfortable with the ideas of disrobing in front of a large number of people and be willing to try experimental things. Someday I would hope to stage Hair with a tribe that was open enough to considering that, but right now I will settle for a traditional “conservative” staging of the scene.

    2. Dennis seems to feel that the traditional way is acceptable except that he has problems with Claude remaining clothed. There have been many pros and cons on this. I definitely favor keeping Claude in his clothes as I believe (and have stated before) that I simply do not see in the script or music any motivation for him to disrobe and in fact I see a very definite motivation for him NOT to, as he is in the very process of demonstrating his conflict and insecurity, by not burning his draft card and by singing about how he has NO IDEA where he should go. Insecure people generally don’t get naked just for the heck of it, in my experience.

    3. John Z (whom I love dearly for his ideas and his support of what I am doing, just in case anyone thinks we are at each other’s throats!) feels that the traditional approach is jaded and obsolete, and should be replaced with a more exploratory approach. He also thinks that the motivation for disrobing at the moment of the end of Where Do I Go is not clear, and we honestly just disagree about that.

    John, I am surprised you have never “heard” the chant of BFFH behind the last strains of Where Do I Go. In fact, the entire tribe and Claude have the last line FREEDOM together which is VERY clear. It is distinctly clear on the album and in all the live productions I have ever seen.

    Have a great day and I can’t wait to see the video (John knows what I am talking about :-)!



  9. JohnZ said:

    Hoo Bouy ^^2!

    Jon R wrote, in regards to the “traditional” Broadway use of nudity in the last few seconds of “Where Do I Go?,” the following: “John Z …feels that the traditional approach is jaded and obsolete, and should be replaced with a more exploratory approach. He also thinks that the motivation for disrobing at the moment of the end of Where Do I Go is not clear, and we honestly just disagree about that.”

    “Jaded?” No way! I feel that the timing of the nudity in the “Broadway” staging can be quite distracting to the audience ( as it is to me), and therefore detrimental to the most important, IMHO, scene in HAiR. I believe that, nudity is a very justified, and an extremely valuable tool, in the show. Unfortunately, its “traditional” (Broadway) placement not only seems to be unjustified by the expected mood shift of the tribe after Claude fails to burn his draft card, but actually runs counter to it. Nudity may not work where it is “traditionally” placed, but in no way do I find it “jaded.”

    Jon continued: “He (John Z) also thinks that the motivation for disrobing at the moment of the end of Where Do I Go is not clear…” No, not “not clear,” but rather, almost ‘non existent!’ I have, on a couple of occasions, asked for anyone to tell me the motivation for the tribe to begin disrobing at the tail end of “Where Do I Go?” and not before. The request still stands. (I have, in thinking about the scene, come up with a staging that could justify the tribe stripping at the “traditional” “Broadway” location, but it involves some modification to other aspects of how the scene is “traditionally” staged, including nudity by Jeanie.)

    “Obsolete?” Well, maybe in a way. What I was trying to say is that the “traditional” staging, that has come down to us from the original Broadway production, was very constrained by the laws in place in New York at that time. Even the “Broadway” staging was considered too risqué for some places that HAiR was performed, a fact that resulted in several legal battles that the tribes had to fight. I have no crystal ball that tells me what the authors and director would have done had they not felt the law bearing down on them, but the fact that they tried a far more sexual/sensual staging when they were outside of the United States, attests, I think, to their feelings as to how the show should be performed. Thankfully, in today’s far more lenient legal environment, we are no longer required to follow the staging rules dictated by “the man” 40 years ago.

    “…replaced with a more exploratory approach”? My “exploratory approach” is simply NOT TO INITIATE nudity at this point in the show. I think nudity is fine if it carries over from before Claude finds that he cannot burn his draft card, but NO NUDITY AT ALL also works fine.

    Nudity played an important role in defining the Hippie outlook on life, and therefore it should be an integral part of the HAiR experience. The problems of getting a HAiR tribe to understand. and joyously participate in, that nudity are manifest. I certainly feel for any director (and tribe member) who is forced to create a production that he/she feels does not live up to its potential because of some balky tribe members.

    Unfortunately, HAiR presents a couple of impediments to finding a tribe that loves and ‘groks’ nudity:
    1) HAiR is a musical, and, since musical theater tends to use nudity far less often than non-musical theater, it is a relatively safe refuge for those actors who are adverse to bare themselves.
    2) HAiR tribes are often comprised of quite young thespians who tend to have not yet learned to be as free and accepting of their bodies as their somewhat older counterparts.

    Thankfully, most HAiR tribes seem to get the message across even though the participation in the nudity is less than 100 percent.

    All of my comments about how I would like to see HAiR performed are hypothetical ideals only. I realize that many, if not most, directors will find it impossible to get a tribe together that can both sing and act and are both willing to be seen naked on stage, and who have sufficient trust in the director to try new approaches.

    But, oh, when it happens, isn’t it wonderful?!

  10. Mike Blaxill said:

    a quick thought – having the nude scene be in a “logical” spot like the Be-In or elsewhere in the show would be OK i guess … BUT … one cool thing about the original staging was that it was unexpected. I’m not a drama expert but isn’t that effective drama?.. zigging when they they think you’re gonna zag? Whenever I’m surprised by something – in movie, Tv, theater – I remember it better, my emotional response at the time, small details about the performance… Wherever the nude scene is in the show, and I think HAiR is the kind of animal that invites different interpretations and stagings (hard to top O Horgan though!!)…Wherever the nude scene is in the show, it should have maximum emotional impact.

  11. Nina Dayton said:

    John Z wrote, regarding the motivation of the Tribe to disrobe at the end of Where Do I Go:

    “No, not “not clear,” but rather, almost ‘non existent!’ I have, on a couple of occasions, asked for anyone to tell me the motivation for the tribe to begin disrobing at the tail end of “Where Do I Go?” and not before. The request still stands.”

    First off, can I just say that I am loving this discussion, so thanks to all who are participating!

    To me, the nude scene in Hair is not about the body or human sexuality, as it seems it is for some others writing on this thread, but is about expressing freedom, and as a statement about the hippies being open and guileless, like children, and pure of intent. For me the nudity over the singing of the chorus at the end of Where Do I Go, and especially over the last held note of “Freedom!” is what Hair’s nude scene is all about.

    Also, I must take exception, John Z, to your characterizing Musical Theater as a “relatively safe refuge for those actors who are adverse to bare themselves.” There has been nudity in many plays and many musicals over the years, and I would suggest that there being less nude musicals than plays in general is probably in direct proportion to there being less musicals than plays in general. In fact the shows that have included nudity and that reached the masses and transferred from the avant garde theater scene to the mainstream have, I believe, all been musicals – not only Hair but Oh! Calcutta, and Let My People Come top name just a couple. In terms of less mainstream theatre there are a vast number of plays written anbd produced for every musical written and produced so this would, I suspect, be the reason one would see less musicals with nudity, and not because musicals are performed by people who are uptight about appearing nude.
    Just my 2 cents!

  12. dbeasley said:

    Hello All,

    I have been interedted to read all of this. Just to clear stuff up on my end. Jon, no offense taken at the “hypocritical” remark. I knew what you meant, but I wanted to really clear up my position.
    Also, I was referring to “Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness” at the end of “Where Do I Go?” I’m sorry I should have been more clear.
    As far as motivation for the nudity in that particular spot in the show…the tribe has continued on with the Be-In and part of their demonstration is taking off their their clothes. They are singing about freedom and part of the way they feel most free is to be without their clothes. The reason they don’t interact with Claude is because he has sort of left time and space to give his own inner monologue. I think one interesting way to stage this would be to have Claude step away from the Be-In at the beginning of “Where Do I Go?” and then join back in with the tribe for the end of the song. It might be interesting to make the audience think that Claude has decided to choose the tribe over the draft only to find out in the Second Act that he has changed his mind again and goes off to war.
    The other way to look at it is that Claude is participating in his last Be-In and so he is using this part of the Be-In to be part of the tribe one last time. It is sort of his way to say goodbye. Part of what makes Claude so interesting is that he is an insider and an outsider all at the same time. I think that part of the way a director or actor can show their own interpretation of the material is by choosing different moments to show Claude as an insider/outsider.
    Like I have said before, I believe Claude to be the everyman of this show and that we relate to him because we have all the same contradictory thoughts that he does. Anyway, just my thoughts.

    See Ya Later


  13. bleurose said:

    Echoing Nina, I love this discussion too (and I love all of you who are participating in it, John Z, Dennis, Mike, Nina, et al regardless of whether we agree or disagree.)

    First I apologize for any mischaracterization of John’s position and I greatly appreciate his clarification. I do want to point out that I didn’t say that you felt nudity was jaded (I KNOW that isn’t the case 😉 ) but that you felt the TRADITIONAL APPROACH was jaded.

    This past weekend, we had Jonathon Johnson in attendance at our rehearsals and for an extended tribal party which was a terrific success! Jonathon played Woof in Seattle and then in Chicago, Miami, on the Mercury Tour and finally finished up his Hair tenure as the last Claude on Broadway in 1972. He also recently wrote the book Good HAiR Days which I highly recommend. As Nina had assured me, Jonathon is one terrific human being. He graciously gave of his time in support of our production and for that I am truly grateful. He also had words of wisdom for the tribe about the entire show as well as for the questions about nudity.

    He concurred (completely independently by the way) with Nina’s statement about the end of Where Do I Go representing freedom, and agreed that was the principal motivation for the nudity appearing at that moment in the show. He also echoed the notion that Claude can’t take off his clothes because his entire position at that point in the show is to NOT subscribe (or to at least be conflicted about subscribing) to those notions of freedom.

    John Z, I think that is a good response that bears consideration. I would welcome Jonathon, if he reads this, to chime in here (I know, that means you will have to find your userid, Jonathon, but we would love to have your input on this in the blog! 🙂 ).

    I also wanted to comment on something else that was raised in our discussion yesterday with Jonathon, something that even I hadn’t really thought about before.

    One of our tribe members pointed out that the issue of disrobing (regardless of one’s own personal feelings about disrobing in public or in a communal setting) are very different for a professional actor who is (a) being paid to do a job and (b) who is also generally being seen mostly by strangers, especially if the performance is on tour. On the other hand, local and regional productions of HAIR are generally performed by people who have other jobs besides acting and the show will generally be seen by friends, family and co-workers of the actors who come en masse (we sell 30-40% of our tickets to people who are first- or second-degree connected to the performers).

    Unless one is TOTALLY at ease with nudity and with being nude around other people no matter who they are (and it is clear that even 40 years after HAiR, it is STILL a challenging issue, sigh), that presents a very different dynamic. For instance in our tribe, we have several young teachers who are hoping to have their junior high school and high school age students see the show and they are conflicted about how appearing nude in front of those teenagers will effect their position in school, etc.

    It is an interesting subject to consider. I would wish that we had all, as a society, transcended this issue. And yet it is clear we haven’t. We continue to be obsessed as a society with nudity and near nudity and how nudity and near nudity can be mixed up with sex, and our actions prove it. We still as a society buy countless magazines designed to titillate people, either by full nudity or teasing nudity. And we still object to permitting young people to see others (particularly adults) unclothed. It is something that Europeans still find both obnoxious and silly about America as a culture (social nudity in many settings has been accepted in Europe for decades).

    So as easy as it is for those of us who ARE comfortable with it (as I am, and as John Z is to the best of my knowledge), I certainly understand why some of my performers are having a harder time with this. I honestly hadn’t expected this to be such as issue when I set about doing the show (in fact in Santa Cruz five years ago it was much easier to get the tribe to do the nude scene – many of that tribe even tried to cajole others in the tribe to do it).

    I was pleased to see the Sacramento tribe get almost 100% participation in their nude scene and it was done quite naturally and with true spirit. I believe their tribe was, on average, slightly younger than the San Jose tribe (although I can’t be sure). It did consist of more students who, despite the comment by John, are, from my experience MORE likely to do the nude scene, especially if they are far away from home. That only gives more weight to our tribe member’s comment about how separation from family and friends may make it easier for some people.

    I also liked Mike B’s comment that the unexpected thing at that moment, as the nude scene might be, is a good thing because it jars the viewer.

    Thanks all, and peace!


  14. Nina Dayton said:

    Hey Jonathon, I’m happy to send you your user name and reset your password for you if need be. Send me a private email if you want me to. It would be wonderful to have you join us here!
    Lots of love,

  15. Chihootawei Chief said:

    Hey guys and gals – new blogger here. This is in response to Jon’s question on how the Simi Valley group did the nude scene.

    As director of this production in a City owned and operated facility in a rather conservative town we struggled as to whether to include the nude scene or not. The tribe definitely wanted to do it as did the choreographer and I, but it had to be done in an appropriate manner while still making a statement.

    What we came up with is this:

    The parachute is introduced just before Claude sings “Where Do I Go”? The Tribe is all looking at Claude who is on a platform waiting to see if he is going to burn his draft card. When it is clear that Claude is not ready to make that decision yet, the tribe exit the stage leaving Claude alone to sing “Where do I Go”. By the time they reenter, Claude has now come downstage and is standing on the parachute. Half of the tribe encircles him in a ritualistic dance style and goes to their knees as the other half of the tribe bring the ends of the parachute up and form a cocoon or flower bud, leaving just Claudes head and chest visible and spotlit to sing the last verse. All the while the ones inside the parachute disrobe so that when they sing “Beads, Flowers, etc” the cocoon opens and the now nude tribe members begin to emerge. Claude is still fully dressed, not able to allow himself to join in their freedom. However he is then disrobed by two of the tribe members and joins them naked for the final moments of “FREEDOM”. There is no front lighting – everything is lit from behind with “audience blinders” in various shades. The effect is quite lovely with the audience being able to see that members of the tribe are nude but not being able to really see any details. Even from the front row of the 200 seat house, it is much more an artistic look than anything else. City officials came opening night and – despite a lighting error that lit them up more than originally anticipated – were pleased with the way it was handled.

    We were delighted that Michael and some of his crew were able to join us on Opening night and look forward to thier return. Some of them have been back already and Michael hopes to return before the end of the run.

    Audience reaction has been very positive and moving. So far only one hate mail has arrived calling us lewd, blashpemous and unpatriotic!

    We run through July 8th if anyone can make it. Mention that you are a Hair tribe member and receive a discount on your tickets.

    Fred Helsel, Director

  16. bleurose said:

    Welcome to the Chihootawei! Thanks Fred, for your description. Sounds like an interesting and effective approach.

    I know Simi Valley well (I lived in Thousand Oaks for a number of years back in the mid-70s and then in the San Fernando Valley until 1992). I wish I could get down to see the show but we open the week after you close and we are all booked up!

    By the way, do you know Les Weider? He used to be (maybe still is) head of the theater department out at Moorpark College. He and his wife are old friends of mine.


    Jon Rosen

  17. bleurose said:

    By the way, Fred, I forgot to mention that if only one person has called you lewd, blasphemous and/or unpatriotic, you obviously aren’t doing it right! 🙂




  18. JohnZ said:

    Dear Fred,

    In your reply posting #15 to this strand, you wrote: “As director of this production in a City owned and operated facility in a rather conservative town we struggled as to whether to include the nude scene or not. The tribe definitely wanted to do it as did the choreographer and I, but it had to be done in an appropriate manner while still making a statement.”

    A little further down, you continued: “City officials came opening night and – despite a lighting error that lit them up more than originally anticipated – were pleased with the way it was handled.”

    Since the officials seemed pleased with the production, as they certainly should have been because it is an absolutely GREAT staging of HAiR, I am very disappointed that the lighting was not changed to the level seen on opening night, rather than being reduced to the extremely dim level that Hebe and I saw last Saturday. As I wrote on another thread (
    comment #3), the scene was rendered almost totally invisible to me, and I felt that it damaged your otherwise EXEMPLARY show.

    I, personally, find it FAR more important to be able to be able to see Claude on stage, and, preferably to be able to see his face, than any value in having invisible nudity in the scene. In other word, I feel that seeing the scene comes first and foremost, with nudity a far distant second, and it would be far better to cut the nudity, if necessary, to preserve the scene. I harp on this point so much because I really ABSOLUTELY LOVED your production.

    Blessed be with peace, love, freedom, and happiness!

  19. roses11 said:

    i think it was perfect the way it was and we should stick to the original integrity and honor that. thanks!

  20. JohnZ said:

    Hello roses11,

    When you wrote: “i think it was perfect the way it was and we should stick to the original integrity and honor that. thanks!” I wonder which “original” HAiR production that you are referring to.

    As I understand the history of HAiR productions, the “original” opened in New York in 1967 under the direction of Gerald Freeman.

    The following year (1968), Tom O’Horgan was brought in to direct a Heavily Revised Version in New York. Later that year, the original authors and Mr. O’Horgan mounted the Los Angeles Aquarius production in which other revisions were made, before returning to New York to further revise that production, and to incorporate some of the material developed in Los Angeles. A few months later (on January 3, 1969), Rado, Ragni, and O’Horgan opened a production in Acapulco, Mexico with further revisions, not the least of which was using nudity in “Walking In Space.”

    Finally, the authors released a HAiR script to the public as a 1969 paperback edition that is radically different from any of the scripts that have ever been produced!

    But modern producers CANNOT legally replicate the “original” HAiR, or ANY OTHER of these early shows, without securing special permission from James Rado or Tams because the ONLY script currently available for license was considerably revised in 1995! I do not know how much of this latest revision was sanctioned by Gerome Ragni before his untimely death.

    Blessed be with peace, love, freedom, and happiness!

  21. bleurose said:

    I think he was talking about the “original integrity” of the Simi Valley production, i.e., doing it the way they promised the city fathers, rather than the accidental opening :-), not the “original integrity” of one of the many “original” productions. As you point out John, there are many different variations on the concept of “original”.

    And despite what some people have suggested about my feelings, I don’t think there is only ONE way to do HAiR. I have seen many variations and if the tribe “gets it”, the variations are usually interesting at the least if not commendable.

    It is true that in San Jose we are trying to make the fewest changes possible to the script as licensed (although even we have made a few). We are not removing ANY songs from the show and we have even interpolated the one “new” song (Hippie Life) into the script although we have made a change with that because like almost everyone else, we don’t see how the show can end on any note except the last chords of Let The Sun Shine In.

    Many people have told me we are crazy to keep all the music, that the show will be too long, but amazingly enough, after our first stumble-through, I think the show will be very tight and feel quick, not slow, despite this. One of the things we learned while discussing the show with original tribe members from 1968-72 is that the originals had a tremendously fast pacing, and we are trying very hard to do that as well. So we will have The Bed, Don’t Put It Down, Oh Great God Of Power, etc. No musical cuts at all (except for a few bars of instrumental music.)

    And we have kept the movie scene intact as well. I think it is a terrific scene that helps to explain Claude’s relationship with Sheila.

    But I am okay with certain cuts that other companies have made, and even somewhat different interpretations. Michael B. said it best in a recent interview that he recorded for us (and thanks MUCH to John Z for his work in getting it taped!), the most important thing is the tribe. If the tribe IS a tribe and understands the era and the show, then a lot of flaws can be overlooked, but if the show is just a bunch of actors performing a script (no matter what the script is) the show fails.

    However, I still don’t think that means you can do ANYTHING to the show if you are a “real tribe”. You can destroy the meaning of the show or rip out its heart if you alter some of the key points. Bringing Claude “back” at the end of the show is still one of the most egregious things I have seen done. It may make people “feel good” but it completely denies the whole point of the show which is make people realize that war-death is dead.

    Gerry Ragni raised those drumming sticks over Claude’s body for a reason. I can’t imagine he would have thought that reviving Claude in the last moments of the show so that everyone can leave with a smile on their face would have been a cool idea.

    Then again, as Dennis Miller used to say, that’s just my opinion, and I could be wrong 😉



  22. Nina Dayton said:

    Actually, roses11 used to spend a lot of time around the Biltmore when Hair was playing on Broadway ’68-’72, so I am guessing she was referring to that “original”.

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