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Hair Changed Everything: Music, Sex, Drugs and Music


Special To Topanga Journal

Producer Michael Butler talks about the groundbreaking musical Hair, June 12, 2007 at the Met Theatre in Hollywood, with Lee Ferris.

1968. The height of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, a time of peace, love and chaos. A year that held the death of RFK and MLK Jr., anti-war protests and a musical that changed lives, embodying core values resonating in self-worth and hope. The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the original Broadway show “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” It is a social-emotional, politically driven force of rights and voice. “Hair” parallels attitudes of the time it was born. The producer of the original Broadway show, Michael Butler, states, “the musical taught me about peace and love. I believes that ‘Hair’ is a work of God. It has such an effect on the people that work within it.”

Cara Robin and Richard (Dick) Osorio, General Manager of the Original “Hair” Broadway Production
Cara Robin and Richard (Dick) Osorio, General Manager of the Original “Hair” Broadway Production

Flower children, hippies, musicians, artists and revolutionaries are voices loud and strong; A part of history woven into stories of freedom, oppression, happiness and desire. Stories told through music, sex, drugs and politics. According to Butler “Politics are more serious now than when it opened. The war situation is much worse. America has become War Incorporated. The social point of view is that the rich are dumping on the poor. Politics are helping that. The President is out to lunch. Fascism is now a keyword in this country. “Hair” is more current today than it was in 1968.”

A reflection of counter-culture perspective, “Hair” opens conversation for future collaborations. This dialogue will start with Cara Robin, the production coordinator and second company casting director of the original Broadway show. Cara Robin is “an important part of the ‘Hair’ community and a light” beautifully expressed by Mr. Butler.  

I got into ‘Hair’ because Bobby Kennedy asked me to go to New York.“ Michael Butler

Interview of Music, Sex, Drugs and Music. Reflection: The 60s and 2018  

TJ – It is the 50th Anniversary of “Hair” – does its message still stand strong? 

CR – The musical still gives hope to a generation. It’s a sing-along of social issues by people looking for their identity, wanting a voice, and looking for the sun to shine in. It addresses topics with which we’re familiar: the military, air-pollution, love-triangles. Racism is alive and well. And people need people. 

TJ – What are the main musical messages of the 60s? 

CR – The explosion of rock n’ roll came via the Beatles’ early music, infectious and fun, pop lyrics with super style. It didn’t yet have the social messaging folk music had but grew and evolved to set the tone for the changing times. Bob Dylan’s evolution to rock n’ roll music were lyrics speaking to a new generation looking for change and feeling alienated from society and addressed their deep-held fears and hopes.  The closest sound to the energy and feeling of the 60s is the “Hamilton” soundtrack. Poetry in music via rap. “Hamilton” made me cry the first time I heard it. It has power, passion and skill of storytelling.

TJ – What was the reaction of gender assumption in relationships? Talk about the idea of free love and open relationships.  

CR – The counter-culture was quite liberal and inclusive. People didn’t seem to judge others because of their sexual preference. There was also a lot of sexual exploration going on in relationships. We’re addressing a specific group here – the counter-culture – where, yes, free love and open relationships was prevalent. People were exploring new freedoms and defying the “normal.”

TJ – Does free love exist in 2018?

CR – Free Love does not exist amongst my peers as far as I know. We are looking for committed relationships and strong friendships rather than free love. It could exist amongst the younger generation, but it’s not being shouted from the rooftops as it was in the 60s.

 TJ – What was the usage of drugs for self-discovery? 

CR – LSD was the main “self-awareness” drug, although it was usually taken for recreation rather than self-analysis. But the thoughts the drugs produced were quite mind opening, even though usually forgotten the next day. I had a friend that took LSD under a doctor’s supervision; so all of his experiences were recorded, which must have been quite interesting after the fact.

TJ – Is the usage of drugs for self-discovery is still a good idea? 

CR – Seems like more people use yoga for self-discovery these days.

TJ – How did the musical “Hair” inspire you politically and emotionally? 

CR – It awakened me to the urgency of being present and aware, of recognizing goodness as well as danger in the political climate and society. Emotionally it opened my heart to love and accepting people for who they are, to acknowledge the warmth and light feelings of happiness.

MB – I got into “Hair” because Bobby Kennedy asked me to go to New York. When at a club, I saw a poster for the musical “Hair.” The faces in the photograph were of two interests, the Native Americans and being against the Vietnam War. It was the strongest anti-war image I had ever seen. The musical got well reviewed and was wanting to be something commercial. Would I like to do it? I said yes. I was in politics, running for US Senate, and I decided to produce “Hair” instead. These were the messages of anti-war that I wanted to be a part of. Emotionally the story of “Hair” is such a strong statement that I could get into. 

TJ – How do the political themes of the 60s compare to the political views expressed today? 

CR – Similar. Life seems to progress in circles, same issues with little resolution. Especially with regard to race. Hopefully we can change this in the next years, awareness is coming, people are getting woke. 

TJ – Were you involved in politics in the 60s? Are you involved in politics today? What is your main goal in working in politics?

CR – I participated in marches against the Vietnam War and worked briefly on Eugene McCarthy for President campaign, the anti-war candidate. Currently I am President of the West LA Democratic Club, Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party, elected Member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee and Co-Chair of the Westside Democratic HQ. My main goal is to elect Progressive Democrats to every level of government and inform the public on issues and candidates through meetings and events. 

TJ – Talk about women’s rights in the 60s compared to women’s rights today. 

CR – In the 60s you had to be a strong woman to be heard, and as I was in a position of power in my casting work, I had a voice.  But not equal pay, the men always made more. Men were in higher positions in most areas in business, politics, fashion, publishing and the arts. Women have much more power and standing today than in the 60s. Women are at the top in nearly every field, and the fight for equal pay for equal work has made great strides. Women are leading the way in the political fights and protests.

TJ – How do we move forward politically with positivity? 

CR – We identify what is important in society – social justice, affordable health care, housing, debt-free education, immigration, gun control, people feeling safe and happy. We can’t discount the importance of feeling happy. Then we work to elect strong, conscious representatives that will move these ideals forward, and this can only happen when we take money out of politics. 

Remember to Love. “Hair” brings about a reason to care and an example of how. Through the topics of music, sex, drugs and politics we hear stories of a time that reflect the self and its current surroundings. “Hair” in lyric, style and production is a profound example of hope for the future. The messages of “Hair” will continue, the discussions of change and growth present new ideas of communication and a common ground of trust. Randy Brooks, Tribe from the original Los Angeles production of “Hair” expressed “what the show did was open my eyes to the unfairness and hate that needed all the love the show was preaching.” 

“Hair” will be the soundtrack for our lives for generations to come. Its impact is evident with the compassion it continues to produce. Remember to LET THE SUN SHINE IN! 

ON THE WEB:

https://youtu.be/P0Wh-ccZVfs


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Disney Star to Appear as Lead Clara Johnson Opposite Opera’s Superstar Renée Fleming


Special To Topanga Journal

Musical theater star and film and TV actress Dove Cameron will make her LA Opera debut in “The Light in the Piazza,” 

She will play the lead role of Clara Johnson, a young woman with a long-hidden secret that threatens her hopes of finding true love during a summer vacation through Italy. Opera superstar Renée Fleming will portray her mother, Margaret Johnson. Ms. Cameron and Ms. Fleming will appear together for the first time in “The Light in the Piazza” this June at London’s Royal Festival Hall, produced by John Berry and Anthony Lilley for Scenario Two Ltd and directed by Daniel Evans. The production will then travel to Los Angeles, opening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on October 12.

The synopsis for “The Light in the Piazza” is it takes place in the summer of 1953. Margaret Johnson, the wife of an American businessman, is touring the Tuscan countryside with her daughter, Clara. While sightseeing, Clara—a beautiful, surprisingly childish young woman—loses her hat in a sudden gust. As if guided by an unseen hand, the hat lands at the feet of Fabrizio Naccarelli, a handsome Florentine, who returns it to Clara. This brief episode, charged with coincidence and fate, sparks an immediate and intense romance between Clara and Fabrizio. Margaret, extremely protective of her daughter, attempts to keep Clara and Fabrizio apart.

“Cameron will play the lead role of Clara Johnson, a young woman with a long-hidden secret that threatens her hopes of finding true love during a summer vacation through Italy.” From the plot of The Light in the Piazza

As The Light in the Piazza unfolds, a secret is revealed: in addition to the cultural differences between the young lovers, Clara is not quite all that she appears. Unable to suppress the truth about her daughter, Margaret is forced to reconsider not only Clara’s future, but her own hopes as well.

There is a book by Craig Lucas. The music and lyrics are by Adam Guettel. The enchanting Broadway musical won six Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations. 

Dove Cameron most recently starred as Cher in the Off-Broadway production of “Clueless: The Musical” and in Netflix’s “Dumplin’” with Jennifer Aniston. Next, she reprises her role as Mal in Disney’s live-action film “Descendants 3,” set for release this summer. The film follows the teenage children of classic Disney villains. Dove originated the role of Mal, Maleficent’s daughter, in 2015’s “Descendants.” The 2017 sequel “Descendants 2” drew the biggest cable numbers since the original and was the most-watched telecast among kid cable TV networks in total viewers (8.6 million).

Later this year, she lends her voice to Sony’s animated feature “Angry Birds 2,” set for release in September 9. Dove also currently voices Spider-Gwen in the animated film “Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors,” which premiered simultaneously on Disney Channel and Disney XD. She returned as Spider-Gwen in “Marvel Rising: Chasing Ghosts.”

She is perhaps best known for playing the dual role as both title characters in Disney’s “Liv and Maddie” for four seasons, for which she took home a 2018 Daytime Emmy.

She has appeared in “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” on ABC, on NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” as Amber von Tussle, and in the film “Barely Lethal.”

The Light in the Piazza runs from October 12 – 20, 2019, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Tickets are currently only available to LA Opera subscribers purchasing season tickets. Season tickets can be purchased at LAOpera.org or by phone at 213.972.3631. Single tickets will become available for sale to the general public June 20. 

ON THE WEB:

https://www.laopera.org


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Climate Change A sonnet By: Miranda Robin


Special To Topanga Journal

hues of green and blue, colors of land, of sea, and sky

fragile structure filled with knowledge of educated hope 

storms brewing, sea levels rising and we know why 

climate is changing and denied by a small orange dope

Miranda Robin

By Miranda Robin

the conversation is here, the dialogue is now 

heat waves and health risks, irreversible sadness 

extinction real, saving lives essential, help presents how 

working together to better the worlds immediate madness 

“temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood…” Miranda Robin

temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood

this is a reality, a fact, watching coastal populations before us die 

water dwindles, some ignore, concerned humans out for blood 

the discussion is clear, forward momentum, no longer a silent sigh  

ice is melting matching the beat of the heart, we know the planets worth 

she opened her arms to our dreams, protect our magical mother earth 

ON THE WEB:

https://climate.nasa.gov


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Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator Screens in Topanga


Special To Topanga Journal

Charles Spencer Chaplin: we all know him as the great “Charlie Chaplin.” He was an American icon, hell he is a legend. Maybe something we didn’t know about this master of comedy — he was a perfectionist. Born in the late 1800s, Chaplin was destined to mold and shape the film world with his twirling cane and impish good looks — and he did. His presence reminds us to speak our truth, share honest emotional processes and express world views through perspective and transformation.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

The experience of watching a film together elicits conversation and future projects. Chaplin’s films, though mostly silent, were loud through passion, promise and political awareness. Seventy-eight years ago Chaplin made a film called The Great Dictator. The film’s core values, messages and societal heartbreak are paralleled in the discussions of our current political climate. Does one listen to their own heart and mind or the persuasion of governmental propaganda?

“He was an American icon, hell he is a legend. Maybe something we didn’t know about this master of comedy — he was a perfectionist. ” Kriss Perras

The Chaplin dialogue continues through an event presented by the Topanga Film Festival and Institute. We received permission to screen the film through the help of The Criterion Collection. Their copies of films are remastered works, to be able to show footage closest to the original. Experience the legend in all his glory.

On October 27th, the same month The Great Dictator was released in 1940, the film will be screened followed by a riveting panel discussion. The event supports the love of film, the support of community and immerses you in all things Chaplin. Join the producers of the event for a night of film, conversation, memories and a Chaplin Speech that fills the heart with hope in a dark time in history.

Chaplin From History: A Short Bio on the Legend and the Event’s Producer

Charlie Chaplin was brought to the Topanga Film Festival by Miranda Robin, a Chaplin aficionado. Her love of Chaplin started in sixth grade studying the Great Depression. The appreciation of Chaplin’s talent, humor and style have encouraged Robin to follow her dreams expressing herself through all art mediums. To relish in Chaplin’s brilliance is an art form eliciting conversation and raw vulnerability. The next Chaplin event featuring The Great Dictator is an opportunity to come together and listen to a speech written 78 years ago that could be current. Chaplin mixes sorrow with happiness along with love and forgiveness all balanced with humor. “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

The Great Dictator
October 27th, 2018
At The Topanga Community Club
1440 N Topanga Canyon Blvd
Topanga, CA 90290
3pm – 7:30pm

ON THE WEB:

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/charlie-chaplin-the-great-dictator-tickets-50792453596

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8bVG8XC-4I


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Sisyphus in the City: A Review of The Advocates


Special To Topanga Journal

Years ago, we went to L.A.’s Skid Row to attend a rooftop screening of an old film that’d recently been discovered. It was being shown by some local historical society, the big point being that a few seconds showed the same area of L.A. we were sitting in, but nearly 100 years ago. We rode our bikes to get there, and, running late, we focused entirely on pedaling as quick as we could on the way in. By doing so, we avoided noticing the expanse of tents and refuse, the people lingering wherever they could. 

Rick Paulas

By Rick Paulas

But a friend took the bus to meet us, and by the time the film was over, that line had stopped running. This was before Lyft or Uber. And so, in the middle of some late Saturday night, we walked through Skid Row.

Nothing overtly memorable happened, but it’s a kind of journey you never forget. It was only a few blocks from the rest of downtown L.A.—the whole trip couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes—but it felt like we had been transported to an entirely different country, time, or maybe universe. There were unique smells, garbage fire flickers, and chaotic arguments wafting into night. Residents were holding court inside or outside their tents, passing drugs or booze or food, or whatever else.

the whole trip couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes—but it felt like we had been transported to an entirely different country, time, or maybe universe.” Rick Paulas

Despite the expensive high heels and tailored suits in the swanky bottle service nightclubs nearby, here was an entire community that had been abandoned. This was the last place these people had to go, and when they got there, they were forgotten. I never looked at the city the same way. 

Homelessness is one of the most pervasive signs of a system that’s fraying at the edges, and since our late-night walk through Skid Row years ago, it’s only gotten worse in America. As one commenter in Rémi Kessler’s new film The Advocates points out, while encampments used to be relegated to the various city Skid Rows throughout the country, they’ve now sprawled well beyond that. Tents are pitched along highways, nestled under overpasses. They populate city parks, while others place cardboard boxes in storefront alcoves. You’d be astounded at the number of folks who spend their nights in their cars. 

While development quickens and high-rises continue to be built, what’s missing in our current urban mindset is building housing for people who need it. There’s already plenty for people who don’t, but have the money to invest; this is how you end up with so many empty, as one commenter put it, “safety deposit boxes in the sky.” But what’s also missing to get there—and this is at the core of Kessler’s film—is the idea that secondary solutions to homelessness (drug rehabilitation, treatment for mental health issues, a good paying job) are not as important as literally making houses.

During my work as a journalist in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, I’ve interviewed countless of homeless folks for a variety of reasons, and whenever I ask them what they need to get off the streets, the one thing they mention is: An indoor place to go. While there are people on the streets with mental health issues, for many, problems like drug abuse or violent mood swings are not the reasons for why they’re on the street, but problems that occurred after they got there. 

Consider: What would it be like to sleep on a city street, with traffic blaring by, unprotected from the elements, unsafe from passersby? Would you feel a little bit groggy every day? Maybe not in peak shape to attend a job interview? Or—and here is the dark secret of homelessness in America—maybe not rested enough to keep the job you have? And then, if someone has a drug that’s take the edge off for a few moments, would you refuse it? 

Kessler’s film begins with the tale of Yolanda and Ruben, a brother-and-sister pair who once had indoor lives. They live in a few cars that double as places to store their possessions, but the cars don’t run, and due to parking restrictions, every week they have to push them across the street to avoid a ticket. Imagine the toll that takes on a life, and how those parking tickets could add up if, one day, you’re not well enough to heft the heavy automobile across the street. Try being in a kind mood, or mentally focused enough to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, with that lifestyle.

As an expert says toward the end of the film, the solution to homelessness is very straightforward: Give people homes. After seeing The Advocates, you’ll see why.

ON THE WEB:

http://cinemalibrestudio.com/the-advocates/#video


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