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sábado, 24 de julio de 2010

The Age of Aquarius and the musical Hair

This entry is about many things:  About the political and social environment in the 1960's, about the response of the population to the uncertainties which it created, about the appearance of a counterculture which expressed its rejection to the the happenings of this era, and about a Broadway Show, Hair ( last show was on June 27 of this year) which condensed all these ideas and was greatly succesful as an expression of the nonconformism of the time. I have tried to resume this era and basically, reach to a greater understanding of the cultural and social expressions of this very important era, and of its effects or influence in the change of scope of future and current ideas of our present society.
The world had been widely rocked by the two world wars and the misery that they had caused.  The economical and social recovery had taken a long time.  Churchill, England's prime minister. at the time of the second World War, had propitiated the V sign as a sign of victory and peace...and the world initiated a search for its own well being. By the end of the 1950's, a movement oriented towards nuclear disarmament was originated in England and  they organized a famous march in Great Britain, in 1958, famous for its logo with a line ending in an inverted V sorrounded by a circle, symbolizing Peace.
In the United States, a pacifist protester, Albert Bigelow, rode a boat covered by a banner with the campaign for nuclear disarmament logo, in the vicinity of a nuclear test area.  Later on, a Freshman of the University of Chicago, Philip Altbach, traveled to England as a delegate of the Student Peace Union , and brought back buttons with the peace symbol and convinced the students to use them as their own.  Later on and through the 1960's this symbol was adopted by all antiwar protesters of the Baby Boom generation of the world: the counterculture members, as well as the rest of the population. The Civil Rights Movement adopted this symbol for their protest marches.
The 1960's was featured  as a time of protest for a growing number of individuals who in the midst of the political, social and economical turmoil, questioned the existing system and established their own sets of values, aspirations and dreams.  In the USA, these groups called themselves "hippies" (from the word hipster) and were members of the Beat-culture: anticonformist people; tired with the current system of values.  Mostly integrated by young people, they settled in New York's Greenwich Village and in San Francisco's Haight -Asbury district. These groups rejected their parents cultural standards referring to racial segregation, their sexual repression, their ideas about women's rights, the traditional modes of authority, their materialistic view of the American Dream and their initial support of the Vietnam war.  They preached a culture of free love, in which sex had to be portrayed as a natural part of a person's life; they propugnated the use of contraception, public nudity, legalization of abortion and the free use of drugs as a way to explore alternative states of consciouness. They explored other spiritual paths, showing a preference for Eastern religion, and their clothing and grown hair expressed a detachment from ordinary patterns inscribed in everyday culture. They were very interested in astrology; believing that the planets had a direct influence over human actions. They believed that they were living in the era of Aquarius, which would bring universal unity; and that reason would prime amongst living beings and that it would bring intelectual and spiritual progress and great technological, scientific and social achievements. They declared themselves as founders of the New Age. The symbol of Aquarius, water, was considered as the birth or rebirth of life. This was a time when people had to free themselves from their bonds and connect themselves to their own self and hear their inner truth.  In the social aspects, they supported the Civil Rights movement, gays rights and women rights. They expressed themselves through music, pop-art, literature and new spiritual ideas.  The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, among others, were groups that emerged as an expression of this era.
In January 1967, Human Be-In in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, popularized hippie culture, leading to the legendary Summer of Love in the West Coast and to the 1969 Woodstock Concert in New York.
In England, the New Age culture, protested mainly against the social norms of the 40's and 50's and against the nuclear practices.
The hippie culture reached its peak between 1966 and 1970, and started its decline due to the disdain of Americans for drug use and extreme hedonism. Also, with the end of the Vietnam war and the end of the Civil Rights movement, the death of their counterculture leaders, the unfortunate deaths of some kids in Woodstock and the murders commited by Charles Manson, the hippie movement started to fade.
This counterculture movement has had great influence around the world up to this day and has created an awarenes of the need of religious and cultural diversity around the world.

Hair, the Show:
In the midst of the turmoil of this era, Joseph Papp and the New York Shakspeare Festival presented  on October 17 of 1967, the premiere of Hair, a Broadway Musical, which they called an "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical", in the Public Theatre at Lafayette Street.  Its mission was to bring to the stage the issues arising during those times.  This show was another expression of the counterculture in the arts scene.  In it they depicted the clothes, language and beliefs of the hippies, their music and their strong antiwar protest.
After having a brief season in a popular discotheque, the Cheetah, the show reached Broadway, where it was expanded and reestructured and 13 new songs were, "Let the Sunshine In" and "Aquarius". They also introduced some nudity scenes, as part of the concept of freedom and spontaneity which was characteristic of the counterculture of those times.
With its message of peace and love and with an open criticism of war as a means to solve the problems of the world, the show has traveled through the theaters of the world, it has been turned into a motion picture and its songs have been recorded by countless artists.
In 2009 after 41 years of its original opening, Hair was honored with the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.  This year, its original Broadway cast has traveled to London to open Hair in the West End, which will only be running through September fo this year.The announcement comes two weeks after the producers of the London production of “Hair” said the West End show would close when the current cast departs in September; tickets had been on sale through January 2011. A national American tour of “Hair” is scheduled to begin in October in New Haven and continue to 20 cities.
In an age of continuing social turmoil, Hair reminds us that the Age of Aquarius is dawning again.
The show's pinacle comes when the audience participates in the informality of life that it preaches, when everybody is allowed to come up to the stage and sing and dance with the "tribe members"...An unpaired experience which trespasses time barriers and brings to actual life the experiences of these original tribesmen!!!
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