I remember as a toddler dancing on the brown shag carpet in my family’s living room to “The Age of Aquarius” from Hair. My sister and I leaped and twirled and somersaulted, trying to sing along. “When the mooooooon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars…” None of it made sense to us, but we danced and sang with abandon. My mom recalls even earlier, my sister in her playpen bouncing up and down on her toes, learning to balance to the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Age of Aquarius, Aquarius!”
Yet it was not until two weeks ago that I finally saw the musical Hair onstage. The music is stored in my DNA, so when the full sound emerged onstage at the Pantages Theatre, my heart soared. The music is as funky and uplifting and challenging as ever. And the central issues of the story (besides drugs and sex)—why America goes to war, who fights and how we protest—are as topical as ever.
But that wasn’t what I took away from the evening. Art finds us where we are, and we find in art what we need. So it is telling that the strongest message I came away with was, oddly enough, from a line in the Who’s Who. The actor who played Claude wrote “he agrees with Oscar Wilde in the belief that life is too short to be taken seriously.”
Too short to be taken seriously. I take this to mean, too short to stress about trivial matters. Of course some things are worth taking seriously: genocide, for example. Solving the housing shortage. Feeding the hungry. And some things are not: whether my child practices before baseball tryouts, or takes piano lessons, or even–dare I say–finishes his homework. I am guilty of having raised my blood pressure (and others’) about these sorts of things in the past. But, for heavens sake, why? Will the earth stop spinning on its axis if my kids are late for school on occasion? Or, would we all be happier if I took a breath and smiled and remembered: Life is short; this doesn’t merit going cuckoo over. (In case my kids are reading, I want to be on record as saying we should aim for our best. But if we fall short: It. Is. O.K.)
In a neighborhood where the movie Race to Nowhere played to packed houses of parents concerned that their kids are being pushed too hard to excel, to be the smartest, the fastest, the best, this is a reminder many of us need. In the middle of Hair, a character appears from the audience to ask questions of the hippie brood. Why do they dress like that? Why is their hair like that? What, pray tell, is going on? She listens, then shares her conclusion: “You should let your children be free…as long as they don’t hurt anyone.”
That’s what we need to remember, here in our village of perfect children. To back off, to say Good Enough. Have fun. Be free. As long as you don’t hurt anyone, including yourself.
All that from a Who’s Who entry…just imagine how great the performance was.
One sidenote of family lore: In 1972, when Hair was in its first run at the Pantages, the cast had been invited, then un-invited (see above re: sex, drugs, nakedness and war protest), to participate in the Palisades 4th of July Parade. Learning of the situation, my parents contacted the cast to offer their home on the parade route as a place to build a float and, when the moment came, to simply pull into the parade. The cast joyfully accepted, decorating their truck all night at our house, leaving me with memories of quite a few odd-looking folks in my backyard. They merged into the parade singing “Let the Sun Shine In,” and no one was reported to have been hurt by the experience.