Lincoln Slentz was not yet born when “Hair” premiered on Broadway in 1968, but the popular Indianapolis actor who plays one of the main characters in the musical believes it is still relevant to both the young and those who experienced the turbulent ‘60s. Slentz will join a large cast of his contemporaries in a BOBDIREX production of “Hair” when it opens Saturday, July 5, at the Athenaeum, located in the Mass Ave. arts district in downtown Indianapolis. The production runs for three weekends, closing July 20. Bob Harbin, the founder of BOBDIREX, is also director of the show which is produced in conjunction with the Athenaeum Docent Club.
“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical”, with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, was revived in 2009 and won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. It tells the story of a “tribe” of young people caught up in a rebellious counter culture that espoused peace, love, and sexual freedom and which was the conduit for a peace movement that sought to end the Viet Nam War—all of which alienated them from what they felt was a rigid, conservative establishment.
Slentz, 27, a native of Waterloo, Ind., plays Berger, the irreverent free spirit of the “tribe.” He says he always intended to make acting his career but pursued a degree in chemistry at Purdue University, from which he graduated in 2010, so that he could have a backup plan. After moving to Indianapolis to work in a toxicology lab, he spent his first year out of college driving to and from W. Lafayette to participate in ballroom dancing, an activity in which he used to compete. Eventually the constant travel back and forth became a hardship, so Slentz gave up ballroom dance competition and turned his attention to local theater.
Since then Slentz has appeared in BOBDIREX’s “Cabaret” and “Spamalot”, “Godspell” with Actors Theatre of Indiana, “Spring Awakening”, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Phoenix Theatre, “465: Sex Drive!” with Red Boat Productions and “White Christmas” at Footlite Musicals. “I’ve been really lucky as far as staying involved over the last three years and I have managed to do a show a quarter. I have been blessed to stay involved the way I have. It’s been phenomenal,” exclaimed Slentz during a recent phone interview.
In March Slentz said he “took the plunge” and quit his job at the laboratory so he could pursue acting full time. To support his passion he took a job as a bartender at the recently opened Nine Irish Brothers Restaurant on Mass Ave. “It’s a little scary but exciting and I feel like if you are not doing something that scares you, you are probably not chasing the right thing.”
Slentz said what drew him to be in “Hair” was the fact that he had been in another production while a student at Purdue, but in that instance he played Claude. “It has a very special place in my heart. I have a lot of fond memories.” As far as the piece itself, he said, “The concepts explored in the show are relateable to me and people in my generation. The whole idea of peace and love is kind of timeless, and because it is so energetic and exciting it will appeal to the younger crowd. For those who are older, I remember the last time I did it, and they came because they wanted to relive their youth. Some even came dressed in headbands made of flowers which I thought was really cool.”
As far as what sets this Bob Harbin production of “Hair” apart from others, and the movie version, which theater goers may have seen, Slentz said, “The combination of this particular cast, Bob’s direction, Trevor Fanning’s musical direction and Kenny Shepard’s choreography will make our rendition of ‘Hair’ an experience that everybody should have at least once in their life.”
Other members of the “tribe” are Ben Angelo, April Armstrong, Rashida Bonds, Audrey Brinkley, Erin Cohenour, Tori Gowdy, Nicholas Heskett, Ramon Hutchins, Dejuan Jackson, John Kern, Tawj Monroe, Julie O’Mara, Tyler Ostrander, Jenny Reber, Katie Rae, Ashley Saunders, Paige Scott, Anthony Snitker, Arianne Villareal, Craig Underwood, Claire Wilcher
“Hair” evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 with discounts for seniors and groups of 20 or more. Because of its subject matter, language and brief nudity, “Hair” is only for mature audiences. For tickets and more information visit www.bobdirex.com.
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