DIONNE - THE BLACK HIPPIE
Ragtime, Nunsense, Joseph, Spamalot and now, Hair. What do these shows have in common? For me, these are all shows that I've been lucky enough to reprise a favourite role with a new cast & crew.
There are many actors who choose to not do a show if they've done the role before. For various reasons. Although there are wonderful things you bring to a character/role you've never played before, there's something about revisiting a familiar role and finding something new and exciting about it.
My first production of Hair was as part of the Whitby-Ajax branch of The Confidential Musical Theatre Project (CMTP). Part of the magic of it, is that the cast puts together the show - scenes, singing etc - with no rehearsal. So, though I fell in love with the music, I never had the chance to delve into my characters (I played both Ronny & Dionne).
This time, I'm only playing Dionne, but the opportunity to delve into what makes her (me) tick has been revelatory.
Luckily, Jacqui's directing style compliments how I see my role.
Part of my research for Dionne was the simple question: Why am I here? Black Hippies are few and far in-between, so what is it about this movement that drew me in?
In her first published essay, The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?, Alice Walker wrote "I think there are so few Negro hippies because middle-class Negroes, although well fed, are not careless. They are required by the treacherous world they live in to be clearly aware of whoever or whatever might be trying to do them in."
So for me, following the 'Hippie Path" (for wont of a better phrase), is a conscious choice. My Dionne didn't blindly fall into the Tribe. She chose to be there.
For me, there must be a weight, a substance, that balances the "Free Love, Hippie Movement" that so many people automatically think of when they think of Hair and of the Hippies portrayed.
They think of the drugs and the tripped out smiles and the constant sex. But there was consciousness behind the Free Love. They rebelled for a reason. And each person had an individual reason, that was completely different from every other person in the Tribe.
Dionne is a mix of Free Love and Black Power.
A marriage of Peaceful Protest and Militant Meditation
An Iron Fist in a psychedelic pair of Hemp-fabric gloves
And I thank Jacqui, Jamie & Deb for helping me find her voice.
Hair will perform a limited run from June 9-11, 2017 at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts
Tickets available at http://jaybirdproductions.ca