The musical “Hair” debuted on Broadway in 1968 and shocked the theater establishment. It wasn’t so much the story — a young man who is part of a “tribe” of hippies must decide whether to resist the Vietnam draft. But “Hair” gloried in its explicitly sexual and political song lyrics, rock music score, onstage nudity, and audience interaction, all of it a rejection of the traditional musical and a reflection of the show’s defiant ethos as well as the popular and social consciousness of the time.
The new modes of storytelling and staging that “Hair” brought to American theater were topics in the spring Theater, Dance & Media course “The Power and Relevance of the American Musical: ‘1776’ and Other Musicals.” The course is taught by Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater; Ryan McKittrick, A.R.T. director of artistic programs and dramaturg; and Jeffrey L. Page, lecturer in TDM.
Students studied the uses of music, lyrics, choreography, and stage design as tools to convey messages and intentions of creators. Topics include song as a dramatic tool in “Dreamgirls,” the power of adaptation and representation in “The Wiz,” and humor as a vehicle for information in “Hamilton.” Students create short pieces in class and instructors provide the intellectual framework for their analysis and stage work lessons for their time behind the curtain.