Just before the show started — after I'd taken my seat between Mom and Dad in the front row at the Dallas Theater Center's in-the-round production of Hair — an usher started talking about the view we were going to get. Dad's attention was on his Toblerone, but Mom saw the confused, panicked expression on my face.
"I thought you knew," she said. The one thing everyone knows about Hair, apparently, is that the actors get naked.
I didn't know. (In Mom's defense, I work at the Observer and must have read our event listing, which tells of "free love, drug use and nudity.") While I am opposed to neither nudity nor hanging out with my parents, I'd generally rather not combine the two.
I didn't mind arriving at the Wyly Theatre more than an hour before the show. I thought it was pretty cute when my parents sang "Age of Aquarius" in the lobby. But the thought of sitting basically onstage with them and watching people undress made me a little uncomfortable.
I worried for nothing. The scene, which took place right before intermission, was tastefully choreographed and much less in-your-face than other, mostly clothed moments in the show. I think the audience members who encountered the American flag Speedo would agree.
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By the end of the production, I realized that in spite of the awkwardness, I was lucky to experience this performance with my parents. They were from the same generation as the characters in Hair; I was from the generation of the actors who played them.
My parents were preteens in 1967, the year in which Hair is set. My dad, the youngest of four boys, understood the reality that a loved one could be sent to Vietnam. As a lifelong Deadhead, he also knew a thing or two about hippies. My mom, who'd owned the show's soundtrack, sang along. And, she assured me later, she was a bit of a hippie, too.
The DTC website notes that Hair, which premiered 50 years ago, is "at once emblematic of its era and relevant for a new generation of audiences today." The applicability was clear, at least to the demographic likely to enjoy a musical about free love and resistance. Tears fell from the eyes of both actors and audience members at the end of the show, for many a sign of frustration that today's political climate is reminiscent of 50-year-old conflicts.
So, fellow millennials: The Earth won't stop spinning if you see Hair — which runs through Sunday, Oct. 22 — with your baby boomer parents. As long as they're hippies like mine.