Hair, Swedish Style
by Julie Arenal
Dance Magazine - December 1968

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I have just returned from Sweden where I had great fun staging the Stockholm production of Hair.  The Swedish version is a different show altogether from the one now playing on Broadway, for which I was choreographer.

What makes the Swedish show so different is the fact that its theatrical images stem from a conception of the play which illuminates aspects which cannot be concentrated upon in the Broadway production.  For one thing, the Swedish theatre was smaller and so we were able to engulf the audience with the movement.  I look upon space as something with great potentials for arousing emotion, and I was able to do so in Stockholm by having at least half of the action take place in the aisles of the auditorium.

The kind of movement used in Sweden is very different from that which you see in New York, because the Swedes are a different sort of people.  Their normal energy level is much lower than that of Americans.  And so an organic sense of movement was the hardest thing for us to achieve in our production.  More over, Swedes tend to be analytical, rather than intuitive in their approach to theater, and some of the actors were always asking questions about the logical reasons for a certain action.  They had to learn to feel that an action was right, instead of constantly intellectualizing its significance.  Because of these Swedish traits, I was particularly pleased when Madaline Kats, critic for Expressen, Sweden's biggest paper, thought that I had managed "to get those who have learned to forget what they have learned, and to get those who have not learned to do what they have never learned."

The whole experience was exciting for me, because it turned out to be an unexpected challenge.  I was originally only supposed to be co-director.  But then the Swedish director resigned, because he was unable to realize the production concept he had intended, and I had to take over the show myself.  To my great amazement, after each performance the audience - composed of Swedes, famous the world over for their supposed reserve - gets up on stage with the hippie tribe and dances!  It is really wonderful to watch. Allan Fagerstrom, the usually hard to please critic for Aftonbladet, was so carried away by Hair that he said it made him feel as though his soul was "pregnant with God".

productions of hair are being staged all over the world.  I am going to direct the one in Los Angeles.  There is already one in London.  The Copenhagen production has not been favorably received, possibly because the Danish cast decided to use the original text of hair, employed Off-Broadway at the Public theater, but drastically revised for broadway.  However, the Munich production, directed by Bertrand Castelli, executive producer of the broadway version, has received wonderful reviews.  And now productions are being contemplated for Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Israel, and Holland.  It looks as though the Hair tribe may eventually become a world commodity.

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