Final Theatre Paper
Compare and Contrast between Hair and RENT
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Theatre Final Essay
Theatre has been a prevalent form of entertainment for centuries. As time has progressed, the meaning behind theater has shifted to adapt with society appropriately. Different genres of theater have been emerging all throughout history and continue to emerge even today. There are so many different genres of theatre that any individual can relate to it. One can easily recall the major genres of theatre: drama, comedy, musicals. However, it is the sub-divisions within these major genres that evoke unique performances and experiences. One branch of the musical genre, the rock musical, is simply a theatrical work that contains rock music. The play’s story is told not only through spoken dialogue, but through songs as well. This type of musical has only emerged recently, roughly fifty years ago, with the opening of Hair. It was with this production that the rock musical became an important part of musical theatre. Another cornerstone for the rock musical was the musical RENT which, like Hair, pushed the boundaries of theatre and allowed audiences a rare theatrical experience. It is musicals like Hair and RENT that have helped the world of theatre come into its own and allow theatre to continue to push the envelope by bringing its audiences the highest form of entertainment.
Hair is considered to be a cult Broadway musical that made its debut in the 1960’s. It tells the story of Claude, a young man who journeys to New York City. There, he befriends a group of politically active hippies (the “tribe”) who live a bohemian lifestyle together in the midst of an extremely conservative society. The play tells the story of their lives as they fight against the draft into the Vietnam War. Ultimately, Claude must decide to either resist the draft as the members of the “tribe” have done, or succumb to societal pressures and serve in Vietnam.
HAIR responds directly to the Viet Nam War and the movement to end the war. In 1966, anti-war protests were held in New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. In April 1967, Richard M. Nixon visited Saigon and stated that anti-war protests back in the U.S. are "prolonging the war." On January 31, 1968, the Viet Cong launched what became known as the Tet Offensive. Although it was ultimately a military defeat for the communists, it had a profound effect on the U.S. government and shocked the American public. In 1968, averages of over 1000 U.S. troops were killed each month.
Racial integration and civil rights were major issues in the late 60s. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and in public facilities. In April 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. The 1960s were the era of the sexual revolution, free love, experimentation. In 1965, by a vote of 7-2 in Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Connecticut law prohibiting the use of birth control as a violation of a couple's right to privacy. In 1968 David Niven and Deborah Kerr starred in the Hollywood film comedy "Prudence and the Pill." These are all the things that the musical HAIR responds to.
RENT is a rock musical based off of the Italian opera La Boheme and made its debut on Broadway in 1996. Music and lyrics for this production were penned by Jonathon Larson who died suddenly the night before its off-Broadway premiere in 1994. The plot follows Mark, the play’s narrator, and his seven friends whose lives collide at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1989. RENT tells the story of one year of the lives of these bohemian artists and follows their struggle with love, and success as they fight to survive in New York City’s East Village.
In 1975, New York City...
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