Ragni, Gerome, and James Rado. Hair.
The present. New York City, mostly East Village. The bare stage is totally exposed, all the theatrical machinery can see by the audience. There is an American Indian totem pole and a Crucifix-Tree, a tree with a modern sculpture of crucified Jesus. All the props and requisites necessary for the performance are visible within the stage area and are manipulated in full view of the audience. The sound is rock music.
About twenty-five people. Mom and Dad are about forty-five, play some six or seven different roles each, and represent the older generation. The rest are from seventeen to twenty-five years old. Boys have very long hair. Puppets representing policemen appear in background at appropriate moments. The youths are called the Tribe. They come together to search for an alternative way of life to replace the unacceptable standards of the older generation and the establishment. The Tribe demonstrates its way of life and tries to persuade the audience. A spiritual theme is running throughout the play, manifested especially in some of the songs. There is an ever-present threat of the outside world on the Tribe.
Claude Hooper: not yet twenty-one, in love with Sheila.
George Berger: Claude’s closest friend.
Jeanie: in love with Claude.
Sheila Franklin: nineteen, college student, social activist, in love with Berger.
Hud: militant African-American.
Woof, Dionne, Crissy, & others.
Characters Introduced: The stage and the actors give the impression of a primitive American Indian Camp. The attributes are bare feet, sandals, saris, loincloths, beads, old military uniforms, band uniforms, psychedelic design, incense, flowers, oriental rugs, candles, etc. The Tribe gathers to perform the song ‘Aquarius’. Claude Hooper introduces himself, imitating North Country accent, and sings that he is from ‘Manchester’, though in fact he comes from New York. George Berger introduces himself with the song ‘Manhattan’, sings about being a penniless beggar needing money for his addiction to various substances. Hud’s song is ‘Colored Spade’, he comes dresses like a medicine man and talks in an Indian-sounding language which is being translated by Berger. Hud describes himself as a bad guy. Woof introduces himself with ‘Sodomy’, claims that he is a Catholic but criticizes religious institutions. An American flag from 1776 is lowered behind the young men when they start to sing ‘Ain’t Got No’.
Claude Confronts Mom: Claude sits on the floor, reading The London Times. Claude is angry with the news and Mom reproaches him for messing the whole house with his papers and clippings. Claude accuses her of being the conformist middle-class. Mom warns Claude that he should find himself a job and ‘start being an American’ because she and Dad are no more going to support his useless existence. She believes that the army will make a man of him. Claude asserts his superiority to the bourgeois populace and celebrates his vitality in ‘I Got Life’.
Berger Confronts Dad: Berger is expelled from school for his setting a bad example with his dress, hair, and rebellious behaviour. He is a good student but he hates the ‘brainwash education’ and lets Dad, as director MacNamara, know about it. Dad announces Berger’s expelling and continues to talk about drafting for Vietnam. The Tribe protests, asking for peace and freedom. Berger burns a piece of paper and says it was his draft card.
Against Establishment: Jeanie, Crissy, and Dionne come forward to sing ‘Air’.The American flag is pulled back and instead there appears a sign saying this is the Intergalactic Bathtub. The Tribe sings ‘Initials’. Berger celebrates his dismissal from school in ‘Going Down’. Berger rehearse a scene in which Berger plays a white master and Hud a black servant. Berger prepares some pills and toasts to the representatives of the establishment and popular culture. Claude returns from the drafting committee, he was found in good health and ready to be drafted. Claude does not want to go to Vietnam, he would eat his draft card rather than going. Berger thought that Claude had burned his card already but Claude says it was his driving licence. Claude burns another piece of paper, but it is his library card. The Tribe muses about how to avoid drafting.
For Tolerance: Mom, as ‘a visitor from another generation’, asks Claude why he wears long hair. The reply is the song ‘Hair’, celebrating the feeling of long hair. Mom is infected by the spontaneous celebration and claims: ‘Be free... no guilt... be whoever you are... do whatever you want... just so you don’t hurt anyone...’. Dad holds her back. Mom sings of her tolerant attitude in ‘My Conviction’, Dad takes a photo of her and the Tribe, and they exit.
Sheila Introduced: Sheila Franklin enters and introduces herself. She is a college student and social activist, the Tribe compares her to Joan of Arc. Sheila makes the Tribe prepare posters for a demonstration. Hud reads from a magazine: ‘The draft is white people sending black people to make war on yellow people to defend the land they stole from red people.’ Sheila brings Berger a yellow satin shirt. The relationship of Sheila and Berger is complicated, Sheila is in love with Berger but Berger would not have himself restrained by her. Claude is in love with Sheila but she does not requite his feelings. Hud announces ‘Scene Three: Sheila’s Rape’ and Berger acts as if he was raping Sheila and reached orgasm. Claude is writing a script for a film about the Tribe with a major role for Sheila, it is nearly finished.
In the Cinema: Claude is worried about the drafting: ‘Shit, I’m a patriot, but I’m a patriot for the whole damn world. … I’m not going to die for my country.’ Claude tries to invite Sheila to the cinema but she prefers to go picketing. Follows the song ‘Dead End’, criticizing the stiffening rules of the conformist society. Berger and Woof, holding an old, battle-torn American flag, follow with ‘Don’t Put It Down’. In the cinema, Claude waits for Sheila but she does not come. Jeanie appears instead but Claude refuses to join her. Jeanie is in love with Claude but Claude does not requite her feelings. Jeanie leaves for the Be-In, a gathering with pot smoking. Crissy sings ‘Frank Mills’ about the boy she met but lost.
The Be-In: The Be-In begins, announced by the sound of many bells carried by the Tribe. The Tribe chants ‘Hare Krishna’, celebrating freedom, happiness, love, and sex. Mom and Dad comment on the action, Mom calls the participants ‘a disgrace to this country’, while Dad observes that ‘they preach love... narcotic love’. Mom and Dad see the large gap between themselves and their children. At first they are frustrated that they cannot help their kids, then they grow angry with them. Dad: ‘In two months my son will be in Vietnam and is going to be killed, and I’m proud of him.’ Mom: ‘Ship these Peaceniks to the Vietnam meatgrinder.’
Burning Drafts: Sheila comes forward holding a flaming can and assumes a Statue-of-Liberty pose. All the Tribe men approach her to burn their draft cards. Only Claude withdraws his card from the fire and extinguishes the flame quickly. Claude concludes with ‘Where Do I Go’, expressing his uncertainty, asking ‘Why I live and die’?
Celebration of Sexuality: All the Tribe members wear mismatching military uniforms. They sing the explosive ‘Electric Blues’. Berger dances with Sheila. Claude was drafted and is leaving the next morning. Berger suggests that Sheila should give herself to Claude as a good-bye present, but Sheila refuses, answering with ‘Easy to be Hard’. Berger thinks that she is heartless because Claude loves her, he even promises that he will be nice to Sheila the next night if Sheila is nice to Claude this evening. Claude enters and reprises ‘Manchester’. Dionne and two more black girls celebrate the pretty ‘White Boys’. Jeanie, Crissy, and Angela in turn praise the sweet ‘Black Boys’. Claude gives away his personal belongings to the other Tribe members. He gives his poster of Mick Jagger to Woof, who is enthusiastic about the present.
Claude’s Trip: Berger distributes pot. Claude explains to Sheila: ‘It’s groovy for food and sex,’ but Sheila refuses to take any. Music and talking cease, the Tribe is inhaling the pot. Quietly music sets on again into ‘Walking in Space’. Follows Claude’s trip. Claude sees himself in Vietnam, as a soldier jumping out of a plane to fight Viet Cong. George marches in in the costume of George Washington ready to fight the Redcoats. Indians appear and attack the white men, who are massacred. General U. S. Grant, the leader of the victorious Union forces in the Civil War, appears and summons President Lincoln, President Coolidge, the actor from the Civil War film Gone With the Wind Clark Gable, the fictional character from the same film Scarlett O’Hara, President T. Roosevelt, and Colonel Custer from the Civil War and from the Indian Wars. Claude is called too but he does not appear. A group of blacks appears and slaughters the white soldiers. Hud is seen carrying a banner saying Black Power.
The Massacre: The stage becomes an apocalyptic battlefield. Four Buddhist monks appear. One of them pours petrol over himself and burns himself to death. Three Catholic nuns strangle the remaining Buddhists with their rosary beads. Three astronauts kill the nuns with ray guns. Three Chinese kill the astronauts with machine guns. Three Indians kill the Chinese with tomahawks. Two Green Berets kill the Chinese and each other with machine guns. The killing is rehearsed two more times. The Tribe sings ‘Prisoners in Niggertown’ and asks ‘how dare they try to end this beauty’? Then ‘Walking in Space’ is reprised.
Claude’s Confusion: Claude wakes up from this violent nightmare. He muses about the beauty of the human being: ‘What a piece of work is man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action like an angel’. Claude does not want to leave for Vietnam but at the same time he does not want to escape and hide from it. He says: ‘I can’t live like this anymore. I’m not happy. It’s too difficult, I can’t open myself up like that’. Claude would like to be invisible so that he could do whatever he wishes without being restrained by any conventions.
Claude and Sheila: The Tribe starts making arrangements for the night. Jeannie attempts Claude but is refused. Claude tries to invite Sheila but is refused too. Follows ‘Good Morning Starshine’. Some man and woman shout out of their windows to the Tribe to be quiet but they do not care and shout back at them. The Tribe procures a mattress and place Claude and Sheila on it side by side, singing ‘The Bed’. When the song finishes, Sheila jumps out and calls Berger but he has already left. Jeanie replaces Sheila and tells Claude that she loves him. Seeing no romantic response, Jeanie exits again, leaving Sheila and Claude alone. Claude attempts Sheila but she furiously refuses. Claude then intimates Sheila that he comes from another planet, called Explanezanetooch. The eponymous song follows, about the planet where Claude finds happiness with his fellow beings who are exactly like him.
Claude’s Leave: When Claude finishes the song, he kisses Sheila and she does not protest. Sheila sings ‘Climax’ and is joined by a file of soldiers in full battle dresses. Mom and Dad enter, carrying a man’s suit on a hanger with a mask. The suit represents their son. Both kiss the mask and express their love and pride. Sheila appears in Claude’s sari. Claude appears in dark clothes: ‘I feel like I died’. Claude had asked Sheila to cut off his hair: ‘I didn’t want them to get it,’ he explains. He gives a paper sack with his hair to Berger. Dad, transformed into a sergeant, summons soldiers of various nationalities. Berger is summoned too and he joins the file. Mom and Dad proclaim that they are tired and leave. The Tribe sings the ironic ‘Sentimental Ending’. Claude’s train leaves.
The Tribe Life: The Tribe demonstrates their alternative way of living and thinking, which is supposed to be very harmonic. However, there is constant threat from the outside world, represented by the establishment and its institutions. Also there are conflicts within the Tribe, mostly springing from the complicated romantic entanglements in the group. Most of the characters are in love with someone who is in love with someone else. A part of the hippie lifestyle is sharing love, which is manifested by the characters kissing and touching each other frequently. Sex is freely discussed. In one moment Berger removes all his clothes and is seen naked for a second, while the Tribe chants ‘strip!’.
Claude’s Ambiguousness: Claude, though one of the leaders of the Tribe, is the most ambiguous character. He is neither content with the conformist life of the bourgeois middle class, nor is he quite satisfied with the hippie rebellion. This is manifested especially in his attitude to the draft. He of course does not want to die but he does not burn his draft card, unlike everyone else in the Tribe, and he eventually does leave for Vietnam. Claude most likely dies in Vietnam, which is foreshadowed by his violent trip hallucinations and also suggested by Mom and Dad adoring the men’s clothes on the hanger. It looks like Claude died and his parents could finally be proud of their son, sacrificed for their home country.
AuthorRagni, Gerome. (1935 - 1991). Rado, James. (b. 1932).
Full TitleHair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.
First PerformedNew York: Off-Broadway, 1967.