Michael Butler, the principal producer of Hair, has fired the authors from the cast.
That's a little like the British scuttling Nelson after Trafalgar. Or an owner unsaddling Willie Shoemaker after a Kentucky Derby win.
But not entirely like. Gerry Ragni and Jim rado wrote the tribal love-rick musical, and have undeniable privileges as the authors of the words. Butler's complaint is that the authors as actors were trampling on the rights of the producer, director, and composer to have their work left intact, an integrated work of art with an over-all concept.
The minor scandal broke on Saturday in New York. Rado and Ragni had left the Los Angeles cast to return to Broadway's version. When Butler dropped them, Rado and Ragni telephoned the press and issued some extravegantly irate statements. They even called New York Times drama critic Clive Barnes and asked him to help them picket the Biltmore Theatre.
Since then the authors have been demonstrating in front of the theater - arapped in bedsheets and signs like "Hair is my body, Hair is my child, Hair is unfair."
The cast of New York Hair has rejected the authors' request to join in the demonstrations.
Their beef against Butler is not only that he has ousted them from their own play, but that he has barred them from the theater. Spokesmen say that the authors will now be allowed to see Hair. The barring has been lifted on the condition that rado and Ragni not disrupt the play with further speeches or harassment.
Butler tols me that he fired the two in a dispute over authority. "They had been making all sorts of changes in the play and ignoring the prompt-book," he explained. "We had not gotten together and agreed on these changes. When I asked them to wait a week until we could discuss things, they refused."
The changes Butler opposed involved simulated sexual acts and other childish bits of behavior generally considered indecent. He said he felt that the over-all concept of Hair was being distroyed by silliness.
Those bits of stage business which have caused so much
excitement in New York, were developed by improvisation in the production
here over four months. (At least one "change" Butler mentioned specifically
was initiated by the director, Tom O'Horgan, in Los Angeles.)
Several conclusions emerge from all this hassle. One is that Rado and Ragni should, out of courtesy and ethical sense, have gone out of their way to work out new concepts with the whole creative ensemble, especially with the director and producer.
Another is that Butler is ignoring some of the very vitality of his own product. An essential part of the life of Hair, for those of us who have watched over the months, is that it is a free form adaptable to new situations and new ideas. The large structure must be devised by the director, true enough, but there is room for plenty of freedom within that structure.
The most important conclusion is that Hair, like every virtually other (sic) Broadway production, is badly run. Every play needs a director who keeps it in shape. Yet Tom O'Horgan has not been asked to do brush up work on Hair (and the production here looks ragged as a result).
This conflict reduces itself essentially to a matter of authority. Both authors and producers are claiming an authority that should belong to the director.
The last conclusion is that authors and producer have been acting a little silly. They should sit down and practice love and peace.
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