Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Stage Left’s production of ‘Hair’ brings back lost era

By Elizabeth Hansen, For The Miami Student

Enthusiastic singing pours out of a rehearsal room in the Center for Performing Arts, as students in Stage Left prepare for the upcoming performance of "Hair."

"You are a part of Stage Left if you want to be a part of Stage Left," said Daniel McClurkin, student director of "Hair." "I'd say that about less than half of our members are theatre majors. We do it because we all have a passion for theatre."

Stage Left, an entirely student-run organization, has members from all colleges and disciplines - anthropology to zoology, business to education.

The executive board of Stage Left interviews potential directors, who each pitch a different musical in the hopes theirs will be chosen.

"It's based on the students and everyone is a lot closer," said first-year Collin Shimrock. "The directors are friends, not professors, and you still learn a lot from them. We treat everyone with mutual respect because we just want to make art together, and that's an amazing thing.

Taking place during the Vietnam War, "Hair," is about two young men and their lives within the hippie culture. Shimrock plays the lead role, Claude.

"Claude's not certain where he is in the world. He doesn't want to work with the system like everyone else does," said Shimrock. "He doesn't want to go to war, but he also doesn't know if the hippie life is for him as well. It's all kind of up in the air as he tries to figure out what his purpose in life is."

Considered a risqué musical when it first debuted, "Hair" deals with dark themes and sensitive material that contribute to its revolutionary nature.

"While all the characters are fun and there's all these great songs, they all have something really dark and just horrible inside of them," said McClurkin. "The show itself is very tragic and full of childish hippies who can't have actual relationships and are hopped up on drugs all the time. Things aren't good."

With the use of psychedelic drugs being a central element in "Hair," one of the challenges McClurkin faced was making sure the blocking would allow the audience to understand what is happening in the show.

"One of my jobs as the director is to decide how to present an infamously trippy show," McClurkin said. "If you don't know what is going on by the end of the show, then I have failed."

In order to prepare, McClurkin had the cast members listen to music and read poetry from the 1960s and '70s.

"A good part of the early rehearsal process was me going through and giving them stuff to work with," said McClurkin. "I also had a speaker come in who was a Miami alum who actually went to Vietnam. He came and talked about the war and his obligation to the country."

Even though "Hair" takes place in 1960s, the themes of war and racism are still prevalent in today's society.

"The struggle with 'Hair' is that people find racism and the war to be more of an artifact of the past, but when really it is still talking about struggles that are very real today," said music director Andrew Higgins. "Racism is clearly not gone today. We are struggling with trying to find all these different forms of equality amongst all kinds of different people."

"Hair" will be performed at 7 p.m., Nov. 12 through 14 in Wilks Theater in Armstrong. Admittance is free.