BWW Interview: Pat Kautter of HAIR at Ephrata Performing Arts Center
On April 27, The Ephrata Performing Arts Center(EPAC) will open the rock musical, Hair. The controversial show is probably the most iconic theatrical piece associated with the Baby Boom Generation. Themes of political unrest, drug use, racial and gender bias, and the generation gap are equally relevant now, as they when the show first came out, a half century ago.
Director, Pat Kautter, was interviewed by Broadway World to explain the significance of this show and its significance in a relatively conservative community, such as Lancaster County.
BW: Why Hair? Why now?
PK: It's the 50th anniversary of Hair's Broadway musical. Hair was a musical that captured the political upheaval, the anger and the protests of its day, set it to music and placed it on the stage. Although EPAC's season is selected well in advance, it seems serendipitous that our nation has been politically shaken out of its slumber.
BW: If the characters in Hair were real people, most of them would be grandparents by now. How do you convey a sense of relevancy and empathy to your cast members of the Millennial Generation?
PK: Many cast members knew Hair. Sean Deffley, who plays Claude, was introduced to it at the age of thirteen, another cast member related stories he had heard about his grandmother's involvement in the protest movement, and several cast members knew people who had served in Vietnam. So, a few were already familiar with its historical context. I gave them reference materials and soon the cast was sharing research, Youtube videos, websites, and even books on the era. They saw the relevancy of young men being sent to fight political wars and they relate to the era's pacifism and environmentalism.
BW: Hair paved the way for the "angry youth rock musical" genre. In your opinion, what sets it apart from similarly themed shows that came after it like Rent and American Idiot ?
PK: There are the obvious differences. American Idiot was a concept album in search of a script; Rent attempted to modernize La Boheme. All three revolve around how youth feel disenfranchised by society, but Hair was the first to bring rock to the Broadway stage, so its seminal in the development of the genre. Unlike Idiot and Rent, Hair fights its way back. Protest leads to some affirmation of the human spirit. Hair is a period piece, and the period brought counter-cultural values to the American landscape and forever changed it.
BW: Lancaster County has a reputation for its conservative values and beliefs. Has there been any attempt to tone down some of the more controversial elements of the show (e.g., nudity, language, drug use) to better align with the sensibilities of a local audience?
PK: EPAC audiences have come to respect that the theatre presents material as written by the artist and that theater, whether plays or musicals, is an exploration of life. Additionally, audiences are apprised of any adult content in advertising. EPAC has always been honest in maintaining the integrity of material and the struggle of characters faced with moral dilemmas.
BW: How does a director maintain a compromise between respecting an actor's comfort level to say and do certain things on stage and remain true to the essence of the script?
PK: Although there is a brief nude scene, the scene has no sexual connotation. It represents the characters wanting to strip themselves from the entrapments of society, to be seen for who they are, to say "Here, I am." The cast understood what was expected from this musical, yet I would never demand that any actor cross his or her own moral line. I respect the actors' decision to remove none, some or all of their clothing. They know what the scene represents and the majority of them are comfortable.
BW: Give your best persuasive statement to convince uncommitted readers to buy a ticket to the show.
PK: Hair is an upbeat assertion of life and freedom with a classic rock score that fueled the charts of the late 60's. In our own era of uncertainty, hopefully the audience will join in the show's classic anthem to "Let the Sunshine In".
Hair will be performed at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center from April 27 through May 13. It is rated R, as it contains full frontal nudity, frank sexual talk, language, drug use and adult situations. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the following link: