How Far Can They Stray From The Work

My Replies are within your message:

On Oct 25, 2006, at 5:12 PM, The Hair Archives wrote:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject:Â Â Â How far can they stray from the work?
Date:Â Â Â Wed, 25 Oct 2006 18:52:50 -0400
From: To:Â Â Â

Dear Mr. Butler

I’m wondering if you saw the production at NYU?

No I did not see the production.

How far are you allowing productions to ‘stray’ from the original content… as in structural damage to characters because the songs assigned to them were given to other characters. Wolf’s song was given to another character…a woman. Frank Mills was sung by a man and the character who is ‘supposed’ to sing it never got to. Hud was a woman..they removed a strong Male character and his words and dialogue given to a woman, the original had strong men and women (I believe the same woman sang Abie Baby” We lost the strength of the African American man. by having one woman speaking for both.

I have no control over what the licensees do with the productions. This can only be done by the right holders (Rado, MacDermot, Ragni Estate). In fact, in the LA area, several requests for productions following the original book have been requested and turned down.

Characters were not being able to be understood as they sang, and a design concept that did not follow the words that were being spoken.

So I have heard.

At the post discussion session held a day after the play closed the Director kept saying he didn’t relate to the music so he had it changed to a type of music that he could relate to… what about the authors intent? New orchestrations made the second act sound as if it were written by Phillip Glass…

If the Director did not relate to the music , why would he relate to the book?I am surprized that Galt approved such. I am a great fan of Philip Glass. But with HAIR no way. Wonder if Galt was consulted. I would think that he and Jim Rado would not want such changes.

My question is, I suppose, do directors now get to decide to do…whatever the hell they want to the work in any way regardless of the published work or intent of the writers. Evidently the only way to keep control of what someone has written and the way someone presents it is to never die.

Many problems have arisen over adhering to the original work. I believe in staying with what made HAIR so beloved by the Baby Boomers. Changes are cheating them from memories that are presently so important to them. Also the young do so equate with the book in its original form.

Did you know they were doing all of this to a production that you produced originally…or because it was NYU did no body care, or was everyone so needful of cash that they didn’t care as long as they got the royalties?

No, I did not know about NYU. I did see the Navesink Tribe production in Red Bank, NJ put on by the Phoenix Company – it was great, and very respectful of original.

I’d love to hear your answer…

Well, now you have it. If I do another come and see it. I promise you will be happy.



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11 Responses to “How Far Can They Stray From The Work”

  1. Lyle said:

    Character is a charming antidote against misconception and the will to interpretive dead enders, under the cloak of dark, a fiendish guise of freedom of misgauged speech, – Ahh! the artistic endeavor.

    I know – I bet my last pennies, that Michael, a man of his word has always strived to keep the show close to the original vision. …And you are right, this is what sold America on HAIR…Keep it Pure!!!

  2. Anthony D'Amato said:


    I got a chance to see two performances of the NYU production. A completely original concept that, after thinking it over, just didn’t work. By all means, this production was not HAIR.

    There were some strong points… but many errors. The music, though completely unique, lost any groove or heart that was put into it by Galt. The music director said he had been working on this music since February (most of which was computerized). This says the same for the staging and “pictures”. Every single movement was orchestrated and there was nothing natural about it. Just like there was no groove or heart to the music, it was the same for the entire show. No joy, no innocense; nothing to show you that these were REAL people fighting and dying.

    Many things were cut (songs: “Dead End”, “Going Down”, “Oh Great God”, “The Bed”, Reprises of “Manchester”, “Sheila Franklin”, Berger sang most of “I Got Life” and “Flesh Failures”, Woof sang “Hair”, a choir of “angels” sang “Easy to be Hard” and “Good Morning Starshine”, a male singing “Frank Mills” though he never spoke any of Crissy’s lines which were cut except for “I’m gonna wait”, etc) and, we can’t forget, that all of the actors, male and female, had shaved heads. Also, the set/costumes/props were entirely white.

    The director said in his note that he was trying to make an effect on the audience as if this was TODAY’S HAIR… I don’t think anyone could relate to this. I spoke with a family member of the boy playing Claude and she said “If I could punch the director, I would.” There were NO relationships and no strong characters; some smart, tongue-in-cheek staging here and there, but it was all drowned out by a misunderstanding of the true meaning of HAIR.

    If anyone has any more questions about what I saw, please feel free to ask!

  3. Anthony D'Amato said:

    I have to add that, although this was a college production, there was a large budget and a professional NY director at the helm, as well as the NYU Tisch program being one of the highest rated performing arts programs in the country.

  4. Lyle said:


    “There were NO relationships and no strong characters;” your writing is full of urgency and passion – I love that.

    Other than the way the show was masticated I would have exploded also with passion as the acting Claude…poor guy! He was asking for help!

    If there is no connection on stage, as you know – they are either vain professionals; missed the point; had poor direction; or were miserable at what they did, yet believed and still held-out for a knight on a white horse.

    From your present, real-witness type writing, I’d say the Director’s vision was full of his own personal statements and more about himself than the spirit and well-penned messages from the show which the original authors planned.

    In other words, ego got in the way; trying to impress the academic community and probably the faculty and all that; but missing again, that profound spirit deep within the tapestry of theater – hell any well done show has that.

    The power which drives managers, actors, and the audience too tears., in this case, is clarity, direction and LOVE!

    I’m so sorry…thank you for being vigilant.

  5. Mike Blaxill said:

    HAiR without a groove is like Mick Jagger without a strut, the Beatles without hooks, Joni without poetry, Miles Davis without a mute…

  6. Martin said:

    “Beatles without hooks”? Did I miss something, Mike?

    More seriously (and don’t want to sound like a heretic!) can I approach the issue another way?

    Nobody expects Shakespeare to be always produced in Elizabethan/Jacobean style – directors are in a sense expected to interpret the text and strive to find new meaning.

    OK, Hair is not as old as Shakespeare but it is old – a period piece at present, perhaps. As time goes by it would be silly to expect directors would not want to tinker – to add/take away, bring in their own interpretation – that is what directors do.

    We can’t wrap Hair up like a fly in amber, and at some stage we won’t even be here to protect it as we know it. Hair will survive – probably in both ‘traditional’ revivals AND new interpretations. But changes in production are inevitable, and will no doubt become more radical as time goes by. Maybe we’d better get used to the ‘alternate’ versions, even while we continue to enjoy the nostalgia of the ‘traditional’ ones.

    Just a thought on a sunny Sunday morning

    Martin Eayrs
    Lancaster, UK

  7. Mike Blaxill said:

    …Hamlet without “to be or not to be” 🙂

  8. Lyle said:

    OK folks – without using the nostalgia hooks, lines and sinkers here which we are all familiar with – that’s not what we are going after.

    We tried with some moderation, maybe today there are radical changes, yea we got some laughs, we tried it early on the road. What we were after was to produce more power with previous scenes and focus on the anti-climax of the show, making sure all principals and roles portrayed would indeed strengthen.

    Did each portrait zoom home – did we finally at the end get the message. The old way always did….that’s the anti-climax of this show.

    The forgiveness – no matter what you did; you killed your son, blah, blah but at the end, we are still pleading aren’t we? Forgive and come together to fight the machine.

    I believe the radical departures remove the special end and total message of the show – the anti-Vietnam era becomes buried in artistic discovery and completely away from the point. What drew me to HAIR was its rawness, its gutter remarks, the budding flower so to speak – take that away with polish, newness and slick polish – you have another type show – but not HAIR!

  9. Anthony D'Amato said:

    Martin –

    I hear ya completely. I’ve directed shows before straying from the normal traditions, but you always make sure it stays true to the original meaning and intent in some way. I think this production at NYU tried to do that (that’s why the show was so intriguing and I knew I HAD to see it), but I don’t think the director understood the original intent to begin with. There were a LOT of misunderstandings in the way things were delivered. I am totally down for a reinvention and a rethinking, but you need to think before you rethink.

  10. JohnZ said:

    In reply #2 (above), Anthony D’Amato said in regard to the NYU production: “…and, we can’t forget, that all of the actors, male and female, had shaved heads. Also, the sets/costumes/props were entirely white.”

    I see your problem, brother. You just mistakenly walked into a musical production of George Lucas’ “THX-1138”!

    Seriously, from your description of how off-the-mark that production seems to have been, I pity the poor actors. Instead of just being able to put the production behind them, their bald heads will signal their involvement for weeks to come.

    Bet the sales of wigs sky rocketed!

  11. JooleeWMcKay said:

    Yes, it’s been a long while since this thread began, but still I feel compelled to add my stream of consciousness. HAIR is a classic piece of art — one that changed the face of theatre.
    Because of its power and success, there are those who seek to re-live its glory in the original form, and do. Then there are others those who feel entitled to tweek the show slightly, or alter it unrecognizably — seemingly as in the case of the NYU production. It’s like Shakespeare. How many versions and interpretations have there been of Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet? Some have been great. Others — garbage. I have seen a few wonderful adaptations at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and even Ashland, Oregon. However, quite a few Shakespeare interpretations would probably give ol’ Will a massive heart attack — if he was still alive. I believe it’s all about the message.
    The original HAIR show is loaded with symbolism — all for the purpose of conveying the the concepts of peace, love, harmony and understanding. Yes, HAIR began small, then evolved to its final form after a great deal of thought, many rewrites, and an abundance of work. It was a ground-breaking artistic statement about the tumultous 60s. As time passed, LBJ was replaced by Tricky Dick, but the underlying message remained the same. I believe in taking artistic license, as long as the original intent is maintained. In the case of HAIR, there is so much to understand. There is the historical perspective and the incredible symbolism. If a director does not understand these things, the message that HAIR was written to convey will be entirely lost; a tragic thought.
    Julie Winn McKay
    Original Paka’lolo Tribe Member/Las Vegas

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