Thursday, August 14, 2008

Times They Are a Changin'...

Michael Feingold on the Central Park revival of Hair, and the need for dramaturgy notes here and there...

Much of the audience experiencing that surge of shared feeling may not know what a Be-In is, or what the boys are supposedly burning in a trash can during the one that closes Hair's first act. Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater's head, has to explain in his pre-show speech that these objects are draft cards, a near-meaningless concept to those who grew up in the time of the all-volunteer army (invented by shrewd conservatives to make sure the youthful rebellion of the '60s would never happen again). Things were different when half the
country's 18-year-olds had to walk around with little ID cards in their pockets telling them they were 1-A, which meant they could be shipped to Vietnam at the government's pleasure. And that card was federal property, not yours, which meant that burning it was a felony. There's ample reason for the climactic moment when Claude (Jonathan Groff), the more conflicted of Hair's two heroes, wavers about adding his to the blaze.

This made me wonder, what are American children being taught in history classes about that tumultuous time in our history? Talking to some friends who are in their twenties, the concept of a draft today seems, well, too amorphous or abstract to even be vaguely ominous.

How dated will military plays begin to seem? It appears to me that art and entertainment about service in the armed forces is beginning to move more and more towards an exotic representation than even trying to reach into any shared communal experience with which most of the public can relate.

1 comment:

Ian Thal said...

Judging from my experience in the classroom, much of the twentieth century is rather obscure for most teenagers-- and an awareness that the '60s counter-culture was anything more than long hair, beards, marijuana, free-love, and rock music is nearly non-existent unless the teens are actively carving out a counter-cultural identity.