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PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with James Vásquez

Photo by Mark Anthony Holmes

We sat down with Director James Vásquez to chat all things Hair, the ’60s, and the voices of a generation.

Hair is onstage Sep 30 – Oct 22 / 2023.


Having directed this electric musical at the Old Globe in 2021, how has the intervening time changed your approach to Two River’s production?

When we produced HAIR at the Old Globe it was the first show back coming out of the shut down. While the story was full of fight and passion, it also had the energy of stepping back out into the world again. The re-emerging from hiding out in our houses for a year was both exhilarating and frightening. While we’re still finding our way, I do think our feet are a little more firmly on the ground. I’m excited to approach the story with more confidence and fight this time around.


What made this musical special for audiences in 1968? What makes it special for audiences in 2023?

Here’s the brilliance of HAIR… it celebrates the voices and fight of the up-and-coming generation, of those that see hope and a possibility of change for our future. Those voices are ever-present with every new generation stepping into their own. Also, at a time when we’ve had the opportunity for change and growth as a country, and yet we’re as divided as ever – let’s hear those hippies sing about peace and humanity. It’s beautifully, and sadly, continually relevant.


What’s your favorite song or moment in Hair?

How much space can you give me here?! I mean, every time I listen to the music from the show… “This is my favorite song. No, THIS is my favorite song!” Truly, it’s hit after hit after hit. Though, I will say, I do love the Act 2 Hallucination section. I’ve had this irrational fear all my life that we’re all just puppets being controlled inside a box. Sometimes you bring your fears to life on stage…


How did your relationship with this musical begin?

I grew up knowing and singing the songs. So much of this music is iconic. But to be honest, until I really dove in to figure the piece out and what it meant for us at the Old Globe, I didn’t think it was a show for me. It felt too big and distant. I didn’t think I had a fight strong enough or important enough inside me. But again, that’s one of the beautiful things about HAIR. When you really sit and listen, we’re all in there. We’ve all got a voice and fight worth being heard.


What do you think you bring to Hair as a director?

Heart and humanity. I try to lead with those as a storyteller. It’s got to be personal and it’s got to be important. I hope to not only entertain, but send audiences out at the very least talking and looking at the world differently.

I think I also bring a sense of playfulness. At the end of the day, what we do is pretty silly. Let’s have a good time doing it.


What would you say is central to the story or message of Hair? What is this musical fundamentally about?

Life. And living it fully and authentically. And celebrating every single breath of that.