August 25, 2009

Live! Nude! Thespians coming to a suburban stage near you

Ever since hearing that Willows Theatre Company was going to present Hair, the groundbreaking 1960s counter-culture rock musical, some thought loops have been playing in my head.

One is a song worm of “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In.” Another is the vague memory of how its brief nude scene, at the end of Act I, caused a major controversy way back when the show first premiered off-Broadway in 1967.

Despite—or because of—the nudie controversy, the show went on to become a smash Broadway hit, the first bona fide rock musical, and a signature work in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Those feisty, creative talents at Willows--truly one of the East Bay’s performing arts treasures—are going go for it. Yeah, they’ll be letting actors strip for performances of the show, which runs through September 27. The company, in “keeping with the spirit of the original show,” will also keep the script’s “mature language.”

Could this be another sign that the East Bay suburbs are becoming more culturally sophisticated? That its arts organizations continue to push to produce more mature, adult, and difficult works? My goodness, with this free and open depiction of the human body in Willows' Hair, could we becoming more like San Francisco where, last fall, I saw an actress go topless in the hit musical Spring Awakening, or like Berkeley, where I saw a topless Juliet in a Mark Morris production of the ballet Romeo and Juliet at Cal Performances.

Actually, I recall that an actress briefly went topless in a production at the Lesher Center a few years back.

But if we’re talking culture and sophistication, is Hair still relevant? Maybe. And in ways more daring than having actors strip on its Concord stage, Willows is putting on a show about a time of “emotional and political upheaval” in the United States. Sound irrelevant? That upheaval included growing anger about an unpopular war in which young Americans were dying in a faraway place for questionable reasons. Still sound irrelevant?

Not having seen this Willows production of Hair, I can’t say how much the company is pushing the political, anti-war message of the original show. It’s a good bet, though, that Willows will deliver a first-rate production.

If you want to see Hair, visit the Willows website or call the box office at (925) 798-1300.


Anonymous said...

"Past Is Prologue"

Shakespeare. 'The Tempest'. (tempest is a violent storm, for morons without a dictionary.)

Also engraved (in stone) on the wall of the National Archives.

Similar to "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," (George Santayana)

Or most recently, "The Circle of Life"

Anonymous said...

Oh man, hot chicks naked. I'm feeling kind of funny

Anonymous said...

"Could this be another sign that the East Bay suburbs are becoming more culturally sophisticated? That its arts organizations continue to push to produce more mature, adult, and difficult works?" Aw come on now Soccer Mom, does nudity in performances really signify "cultural sophistication".

I think that the East Bay suburbs have always been pretty sophisticated when it comes to culture. Who do you think heavily supports the edgy productions in SF that you seem to deem as "culturally sophisticated? Us little old country kids. This is why our very own wonderful local theater groups are thriving. Local groups biggest problems are getting people to give up the snobbery of only seeing SF plays. Getting butts in the seats at local productions first then getting those same people to financially support them is no small task. Good for the Willows Theatre whose productions some of us have always enjoyed. Give early and often so that they may continue their fine work in our community.