The Hair Machine
Seattle's version of the world's favorite rock musical is about to roll off the assembly line.
by Ardie Ivie
Unknown Seattle magazine - April 1970

NOTE: This is only a partial article. Anyone with the entire article, or the missing parts, please email me.

It is the second day of auditions for the Seattle production of Hair, The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical.  On Pine Street, where the preliminary auditions are being held, there is an unseasonal air of spring and a colorful collection of young people who, in some ways, resemble those that hang out along Sunset Boulevard: everyone is in the "business", or at least, is anxious to be.  Some of them, dressed in the latest non-styles - boots, shawls, vests cut from old fur coats, and bell-bottomed trousers - sit and lean on an old Chevy convertible, reading over sheet music for Hair which they have just bought at Sherman Clay.  Most of these theatrical hopefuls seem slightly apprehensive, as though not quite sure what they are getting into.

Their anxiety may be warranted, for the young people understand much less about Hair than Hair understands about them.  Months ago, the company carefully sized up the Seattle area in an effort to determine its demography, its "mood", and its musical "sophistication".  The city was looked at in two lights: as a market, and as grist.  A good market has "established theatre facilities", "a large enough population to support a first-class company", and a "history of supporting the theatre."  Good grist is able to sing rock music, dance and look young.  In February, it was decided that Seattle was ripe for Hair, and arrangements were made for Northwest Releasing Corporation, the busiest local importer of outside talent, to handle publicity and relations with local unions in exchange for 20 per cent of the profit.

These profits will have to be considerable, since Hair, with a budget of more than $300,000, will be the costliest production ever staged here.  it will also carry the highest ticket prices in Seattle's history - $9 a seat for saturday performances - and it will be the first production within memory to open for an indefinite run.  When the curtain finally falls on the last performance, the play will probably have established a new, local long-run record.

By now, the whole world knows the story of Hair.  Supposedly, it is a true account of things that happened to the authors, Gerome Ragni and James Rado, when they were living in Manhattan's East Village.  The play, with music by Galt MacDermot,  was performed sporadically off-off-Broadway during 1967; then it was given one performance in Central Park, where it caught the eye of a young Chicago millionaire named Michael Butler.  The following May, Butler produced the play on Broadway, where it is still packing them in.  It is also going strong in 15 other cities around the world - Seattle's will be the seventeenth opening.

Originally, the opening was set for June - until Crummero Maria (sic), who serves as astrologer to Hair and to Vogue magazine, decided that a June date would be unfavorable.  (In the company that oversees all Hair productions, the astrologer helps to ease the anxiety of guessing, and places responsibility for a sour opening on the stars.)  The best time for the seattle opening, declared Maria, was April.  Just like that, Hair lost two months from its local production schedule, and the company's advance men - in particular, the casting director - had to resign themselves to a grueling agenda based on a 12-hour work day.  The final production schedule looked something like this:

Monday, February 23: Begin auditions; start renovations of Moore Theater.

Friday, March 13: Hold final auditions. (Joe Donovan, director, to arrive soon.)

Monday, March 16: Begin rehearsals; send theatre specifications back to New York.

Monday, March 22: Trucks leave New York with sets and costumes.

Monday, April 6: Take inventory.

Thursday, April 9: Walk through set performance.

Saturday, April 11: Hold final run-through.

Sunday, April 12: Hold full dress rehearsal.

April 14-17: Rehearse five hours each day.  Public previews in the evenings.

Saturday, April 18: Opening night.

Five days after the contract is signed with Northwest Releasing, the Hair factory is in operation: the national casting director, Linda Hasler, has set up shop in the gallery of the Patricia Stevens modeling studio.  On the carpeted steps leading up to the gallery, groups of young hopefuls stand around filling in "Hair-cards" which request the usual vital statistics, along with some decidedly unusual ones like time of birth and astrological sign.

There are three distinct groups of aspirants: rebellious young activists (some of whom participated in the Federal Courthouse demonstration the preceding week); quiet hungry-actor types; and prim, charm-school types who hope to be "discovered".  No cross-dialogue.  Though the kids are all very nearly the same age - late teens, early twenties - each group is suspicious of the other.  The love ethic of the Aquarian Age is nowhere in evidence.

"Pick two songs, one fast and one slow." shouts a Hair representative from the top of the stairs.  "Bring a photograph of yourself, and be prepared to dance.  You'll have five minutes for the first audition."

The room being used for the auditions is not a warm place.  It is glaringly lit by a full, south-light exposure, and sounds echo against a row of mirrors which lines the rear wall.  On a linoleum-covered runway that is being used as a stage, a boy named Mark is straining to sing "Honky-Tonk Woman"; beside him, a pianist is straining to follow his tempo.  At the end of the runway, Linda Hasler, the casting director - a thin, thirtyish, brown-haired woman who has the nervous habit of pulling at the inside of her upper lip - is sitting in a chair jotting notes.

Linda: (shouting over discordant singing) Mark.  Mark!  (He stops uneasily) What's your second song, Mark?

Mark: Well, I didn't know we were supposed to have a second song.  I don't have one.  (He looks nervously over Linda's head at his own reflection in the mirror behind her.  As they talk their words echo as though spoken by more than two people.)

Linda: Come down here.

Mark: What?

Linda: Come down.  I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that we won't be able to use you.  You don't seem to have a sense of rhythm.

Mark: Oh. (Nods his head.)

Linda: Thank you.

Mark: OK. (He turns to leave, but stops) Uh. Could I have my picture back?

Linda: Sure.  (She pulls it off his application blank and hands it to him.)

Mark: It's the only one I have. (Linda smiles.  He begins moving toward the door.)

Linda: Next!

A Black teenager, named Al, emerges from a side room.  He wears wire-rimmed glasses, a leather coat, a thin beard, and a huge natural. He carries a guitar.

Linda: (sotto voce) What a look! I hope he can sing.

Al climbs to the second step of the stage, lays down his guitar and begins to snap his fingers on the downbeat of the piano, singing "Something" by George Harrison of the Beatles.

Al: Something in the way she moves...(his voice quivers and his eyes glance often at himself in the mirrors)...attracts me like no other Lover...Something...

Linda: Alfred.  Just a minute.  I really don't believe that you're a singer.

Al: (stopping) Yeah.  You're right.  Actually, I'm a flautist.

Linda: Yeah. Okay.

Al turns, finds his guitar on the floor where he had put it earlier, and exits.

Linda: (turning to an assistant) Don't let any more in.  I have to make a phone call.

Linda rushes toward the door, the fringe of her leather vest flapping in several directions and the clop-clop of her boot heels echoing noisily through the room.  her image in the mirror rushes toward her and finally merges with her as she exits through the doorway.

A few minutes later she hurries back in and resumes her seat.  "Who's next?" she says curtly, tucking loose strands of hair behind her ears.

The auditions move slowly, and Linda begins to worry whether she will be able to find enough "strong" people to fill the 35-member cast (or "tribe" as it is called by employees of Hair).  In Chicago, she says, where she was assistant casting director, auditions ran for six weeks (in contrast to the three weeks allotted for Seattle), and more than 2,000 people tried out.  There, only one out of 73 made the show; it was a producers market.  here, it's an actors market: a quarter of that many people, and not much time.

At this point, a bristly blonde walks out on the runway, smiles coolly, sings the first verse of "The Turtle Blues" and makes Linda happy.  Her voice is strong, with a throaty resonance:  "I'm a mean woman, and I don't mean no one man no good."  Sitting on the edge of her chair, Linda begins to rock back and forth.  "Every once in a while" she says "you forget that this is a job and just let yourself enjoy."

Before coming to work for Hair, Linda was a student of TV production at the University of Tennessee in Memphis.  She supported her two children - a boy, 7, and a girl, 10 - with the help of her parents, having divorced her husband some years before.  She was naive about life, she says, and had decided to change herself from a small-town southern girl into an ambitious "free-spirit".

At a party at the Hunt and Polo Club in Memphis, she was introduced to Michael Butler.  They became friends.  She became casting director of Hair.

"Because I was in school so long, I....

NOTE: This is all of this article that the archives has. If you have a complete copy of this article please contact me.

To return to the Hair Articles Index click here.
                                                                          Or use your Back button to return to where you were.