Baby boomers relive activist

by Jeremy Taff

In the 1960s many University students protested the war effort, grew their hair long, resisted police and tried some sketchy substances.
Wednesday night University alumni and political activists from the era spoke about “Hair,” a performance brought back by the University Department of Theater Arts and Dance.
An audience of 20 learned about the production’s history amid the country’s wartime struggle.
In the play, Claude, one of the main characters, receives his draft notice and must decide whether to fight.
“Hair’ was about whether or not you were going to make a commitment to resisting the war effort or whether you were going to get killed or kill someone,” said Ed Felien, publisher of Pulse of the Twin Cities and South Side Pride newspapers.
Felien was a theater student in the ’60s. He performed for local theater companies in Minneapolis and New York City. He said that although some felt “Hair” was a sellout, local performers respected it because it reached an audience they couldn’t.
“It spoke to parents wondering what to tell their sons who were being drafted,” Felien said.
Others felt the production illustrated a free-spirit lifestyle from the time.
“It’s about smoking marijuana, growing your hair out long, experimenting with psychedelic drugs, living in communes, as opposed to families, and dancing in the streets,” said David Bernstein, development director of the theater department and mediator of the discussion.
“Those days we thought we could change the world,” said Mary Kelley Leer, art publisher for Skyway Publications. “But now it’s about all we can do to get the recycling bin out on Mondays.”
Sophomore Faith Seim plays Chrissy, “a naive girl with a couple of solos” in the University’s production. She said some students who didn’t expect to like the play were moved by the performance. Seim said the production has illustrated the importance of political activism.
Bernstein said it has been doing so since debuting in 1968, when the first televised war was unfolding before people’s eyes. The baby boomers have a connection with that phenomenon, he said, adding that “Hair” brings back a part of their youth. Tickets for the remaining two shows, which are at 7 p.m. tonight and Friday, are sold out.