Re: Tribal Workshops

Hello, Nina!


Had we known when you were coming out to see our production, Hebe and I would have made it a point to be at that show. We really wanted to meet you in person.

As to the tribe member who received draft lottery position #1, all I can say is WOW! That is one story to be able to tell your grandchildren! Personally, I received a considerably higher number, but it was still low enough to get me my induction notice. So, I too faced the same fate. As Claude says, “Just another number.”

. . . . . . . .

I was quite surprised when you wrote that you felt that many of the exercises that I presented were too sexual. ALL of the exercises that I presented were designed to be NON-SEXUAL, and ALL were designed to be able to be performed either while fully dressed, or, in the case of the floats, body painting, and massage, while wearing a bathing suit.

It should be borne in mind that the people who participated in our workshops were people that we knew from a local church plus a few personal friends. Most were single, although some were either married or in a committed relationship. I believe the group consisted of people from various fields such as: teaching, homemaking, law, film industry technician, law enforcement, etc. I, myself, am an engineer. One participant had studied psychology, but none, to my best knowledge, were practicing psychologists, sexologists, or actors. Several had participated in Consciousness Raising sessions under different leaders, but I believe that none had attended a practicum such as ours.

I would be very surprised if there were any film or audio recordings of the tribal workshops that were conducted by Tom O’Horgan, irrespective of whether they were conducted clothed or “sky-clad”. Even a simple group discussion of feelings such as is done in a Consciousness Raising session can get very emotional. The issues raised are often are very personal, and the participants may be taking great risks in sharing them with the group. Recording these sessions would not only be a gross invasion of the participants’ privacy, but it would also present a major impediment to the establishment of the freedom and trust that is so necessary for these kinds of exercises to be effective!

One member of an early tribe told Hebe and me that one of the exercises performed by her tribe consisted of them getting together in a pitch-black room and crawling over each other’s bodies! I feel that this exercise, even if it were performed fully clothed, is FAR MORE SEXUAL than ANY of the exercises that I presented, even if my exercises were all conducted while naked!

I would love to hear from members of various tribes about 1) what kind of exercises, if any, their tribes used, and 2) what change the exercise made in their feelings of liberation, group and personal identities, etc. It would be very interesting to compare the techniques and outcomes of the ones used “way back then” with those that are currently used.

Incidentally, when I first got involved with “little theater” … many years ago … it was not uncommon to have “skinny dipping” at our theater company parties. We occasionally went up to a mountain cabin for “retreats,” and nudity was no big deal there, either. Though we produced mostly “standard” works over the years, we did mount two avant guarde works: Fernando Arrabal’s And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers, and an in-house adaptation of La Ronde, aptly titled Lay Around. Both of these productions involved a considerable amount of nudity by virtually all members of the cast, and I do not recall our using any special exercises to prepare them.

Your posting also surprised me by painting a picture of the avant guarde New York theater community back then as being so much more conservative and demure than that here in Los Angeles. I had always looked on Los Angeles as a conservative, provincial town compared with the “decadent” Big Apple!


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





This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2007 at 6:48 AM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

One Response to “Re: Tribal Workshops”

  1. Nina Dayton said:

    Hi John,

    There most definitely is footage of Tom O’Horgan working with early companies, as well as more recent footage of him working with a Hair cast put together by Anthony D’Amato.

    There is a great documentary, done for British TV in 1968, about the London company during rehearsals, and there is extensive footage in that of Tom working with the company, as well as footage of them talking about the process. This is an important documentary, as it documents the rehearsal period so well, as well as the reactions of the straights to the cast members, as the latter go out in public spreading the groovy revolution, shopping for costumes etc.

    The more recent footage was taken as part of Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held’s brilliant documentary about Hair, show a few months ago on French and German television. While they used only a small amount of the footage in their film there exists more.

    I am sure that there is a great deal of this type of footage of Tom working with other companies in the extensive archives at La MaMa ETC as well as in the archives of other important experimental theater companies from that time. Tom worked with Ellen Stewart at La MaMa, as well as with many other Off and Off-Off Broadway theater companies for years before Hair, and it is from this background and community that he brought these exercises into the mainstream theater for the first time with Hair.

    Also, please note that I didn’t say that the exercises you described were “too sexual” – that implies a judgment that I don’t have of your workshops. I said only that I felt they were different in content than the ones I had seen and been told that Tom O’Horgan had done with early casts of Hair.


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