Be there for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius this week at McDaniel College as students transport the audience back to the late 1960s with their production of "Hair."

The musical tours through the counterculture of the decade, with frequent references to drugs, sex, racism, and anti-war efforts as it follows a group of young people working their way through the major social battles of the era. It is intended for mature audiences.


Director Elizabeth van den Berg said she polled the students on what musical they wanted to do and "Hair" quickly rose to the top. She said she's long been a fan of the show, having seen both the original London performance in the '70s and the 2009 Broadway revival. After the presidential election last Tuesday, van den Berg said their rendition of the show took on an added importance.

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"There were a lot of people who were upset on Wednesday. They came in almost shellshocked," van den Berg said. "They were really upset, and I said to them that this is the perfect play to be doing right now because you get to yell and scream about this and make a statement."

One of the major challenges of the show is to transform a cast of millennials who came of age during the Obama administration to a group of hippies, draft-dodgers and free-lovers. To help them prepare for their roles, van den Berg said she had each actor do research on the '60s, learning about everything from Timothy Leary to the Vietnam War.

Emma Bartels-Jones, a sophomore from Cockeysville, dons a mock-pregnancy belly to play Jeanie in the show. She said that as a history buff, she was well prepared for her role in "Hair." Though she wasn't familiar with the show herself, she said that as soon as she told her parents, they became hugely excited and started sharing their own stories of the '60s.

For some of the cast, the show was difficult to grasp at first, with its sprawling cast and loose narrative. Senior Antoinette Martin, from Cape Coral, Florida, said she hated the show at first because she couldn't understand the story it was trying to tell. One day, at rehearsal, it all came into focus.

"There's a moment at the end of the show that broke everyone's heart and it broke my heart, and I looked back at the stage and realized that it's so much deeper than I gave it credit for," Martin said.

"It's in the lyrics and the songs. They sing about 'facing a dying nation,' and the analogy you can make between then and now is just so vivid."

The cast of "Hair" performs at McDaniel College's Alumni Hall stage on Monday November 14, 2016.
The cast of "Hair" performs at McDaniel College's Alumni Hall stage on Monday November 14, 2016. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

The show is not restricted just to the tie-dye color stage, but actors make their way out into the audience to bring viewers directly into the show itself. They hand out flowers, pamphlets and even invite members onstage to be a part of the production.

Najee Banks, a senior from Baltimore, said he thought the audience interaction is one of the keys to the show's long-held relevance.

"It's always going to be an important story," Banks said. "There's always wars, there's always drugs, there's always sex, and rock and roll."


If you go


What: "Hair"

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 through Saturday, Nov. 19

Cost: $10 for adults, and $8 for seniors, students military and the McDaniel College community

For more information: Call 410-857-2448.

The show contains adult content including mature language, sexual content, simulated drug use and brief nudity.