Two Kent State University students are living their musical theater dreams, performing in the national tour of the joyful Hair while continuing their college studies online.
Senior Liz Casper is making it all happen and will still graduate with her class May 12, when the musical’s national tour has a break. This is the second national tour the Toledo native has done as a student, following her work in the ensemble for Grease during her sophomore year.
Casper has kept a 21-credit course load each semester and started college with Advanced Placement credits, which has freed some time for her to pursue professional work while still an undergrad at Kent State. She’s currently finishing her last math class online, which she does on travel days, in the morning, on days off or even after shows.
“I like to keep busy but it’s not too hard for me,” she said. “After the show I kinda have a lot of energy.”
Casper, who turned 22 Saturday, said she’s always played the “blond roles” — the peppy, preppy, hyper type, so she hadn’t envisioned herself as the right type for the Hair cast. But because the hippies in Hair come from all walks of life and have all types of personalities, her ensemble character, whom she has named Sarah Joy, is the energetic type who is always positive.
“I pretty much bounce the whole show,” she said of her exuberant character.
Casper and KSU junior Brittnie Price, a Hudson resident, have a special alumni link to the musical Hair: Graduate John Moauro performed in the show’s Broadway revival, on the West End in London and in the revival’s first national tour in 2010-2011.
Moauro, who had conducted a number of master classes at Kent State, helped inspire both Casper and Price to pursue a part in Hair’s second national tour, of which he was the assistant associate director and choreographer. His job was to help translate the revival’s original direction and choreography to the new tour’s cast.
“I think in general he gave me the confidence to go to auditions,” said Casper, who serves as assistant dance captain for the tour.
The show’s choreography, which is grounded in natural movement, allows each cast member to find his or her way of moving within a specific structure, so that it looks like each character is moving spontaneously.
“I remember John describing it a long time ago as organized chaos,” Casper said.
She and Price traveled to New York together last summer to audition for Hair. Casper was cast in the first round of intense auditions, with close to 1,000 actors vying for 23 parts. Price joined the cast in December, one week before rehearsals started, as a member of the “tribe” or ensemble.
For Price, her Kent State instructors are counting the national tour as a paid internship so she receives college credit. She is also doing a writing intensive class and a science class online while on tour.
“It’s not too bad. The professors have been very understanding,’’ said Price, a 2010 Hudson High School graduate.
Price, who celebrated her 21st birthday with the tour in Hamilton, Ontario, on Thursday, said she fell in love with the 1960s musical Hair when she saw Moauro in the tour in Cleveland. She took his master class at Kent that week and ultimately heeded his advice to audition for the show.
“I thought it resonated a lot with the way I am,” Price said. “I’ve always been a little bit of a hippie.”
“We all play teenagers in 1967 worrying about the draft and the war,” said Casper. “For me, it’s more about our generation taking the power into our hands and doing what we think is right to make a difference in the world.”
In order to get into the free love, pacifist zeitgeist of Hair, each actor did his or her own research on the time period.
“I did research on drugs because I don’t know very much about drugs,’’ Casper said. She also interviewed relatives and her boyfriend’s mother, who were in high school or college in the 1960s, when Hair takes place.
“I looked into what it was like to be black in the ’60s and ’70s,” said Price, who is of mixed race. “There’s not a lot about that in the hippie movement.”
In this story of “harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding,” as the lyrics from the song Aquarius go, both black and white characters are defying racial stereotypes.
“Everything that hinders anyone’s ability to love is what we are speaking out against’’ in Hair, Price said.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.