Insianapolis, Indiana - Hair, which has been the subject of prolonged and continuing legal action in Boston and the center of controversy on artistic-moral grounds elsewhere, has created rows in three Indiana cities. The major dispute is here, in the state's capital and largest city.
In South Bend, the management of the Morris Civic Auditorium refused to book the Gerome Ragni-James Rado-Galt MacDermot musical. His explanation was that the show, which contains a nude scene, controversial use of the American flag and numerous allegedly obscene lines and words, is "unsuitable for a community-owned theatre."
In Evansville, where it is scheduled for a three-day engagement, Larry Aiken, the local promoter, said that he has been advised by attorneys that the nude scene may remain, in compliance with the state obscenity law, however, minors must be denied admission, he added. Both South Bend and Evansville are industrialized towns, the former in the norhtern part of the state and the latter in the southwest corner.
The possibility of a compromise was suggested in the situation in Indianapolis, although matters are apparently complicated by the difficulty in obtaining a suitable theatre for the New York musical to play. If that problem is solved, the question is likely to be whether the show would have to be revised for local performance.
The situation here isn't even as clear as the availability of the Murat Theatre, the local legit house. There have been different views expressed by the owners and the manager, complicated by questions of possible police action and the prospect of elimination of portions of the show's stage action and dialog.
Hair was booked for the Murat for two weeks beginning Sept. 14, with no indication which of the various companies would fill the date. There are editions of the musical in Boston, Chicago, Detroit starting this week, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Las Vegas, all apparently doing profitable business. One possibility is that a new company would be formed for this and subsequent engagements.
After a meeting here last week between police officials and representatives of Barsolona Productions, the New York firm presenting the touring musical, Capt. William E. Owen, of the vice squad, said that the city would relent its opposition to the show if the nude scene at the end of the first act were modified. He proposed the use of body stockings, mesh bras or pasties.
"We are not prejudging the play," he said "But if there are scenes in violation of the city ordinance, an arrest will be made. If a compromise can be made we'll be all for it."
The offer of compromise about the nude bit brought differing reactions from two Barsolona executives. "I would hate to take it out," said Barry Hoffman, Barsolona president. "But if I have to I will."
Sol Posnak, the other Barsolona executive here disagreed. "We'll not compromise on basic principle. We'll explore the law and discuss it with officials. As far as I am concerned, th show will open here as scheduled."
Posnak said that he is prepared to make some soncessions. He added that the flag scene will be withdrawn from the play and that admission would be limited to adults. "We even invite the grand jury to see the show as guests opening night, with their wives," he asserted.
Owen said that the brevity of the nudity scene or that it may be virtually invisible to the audience in dim light does not give it immunity. Visible or not, publicly displayed nudity violates the city ordinance, he declared.
The police official revealed that the substancial volume of mail brought to him by the controversy shows an anti-Hair majority. He admitted, however, that some of the letters were critical of his action and that he was denounced for using police authority to exercise censorship.
The Murat Theatre, owned by the state's Masonic Order, has concelled the show under orders of Richard E. Hickam, grand master of Indiana. "Freemasonry has long been known and respected for its emphasis on high moral standards, lofty patriotism and responsible citizenship," his announcement asserted.
Posnak, however, declared, "Indianapolis wants the show and we guarantee it will be played as advertised, beginning Sept. 13. At this time we are not in a position to name the theatre. We feel the Nurat officials have sold us down the river by not advising us that approval of Hickam was needed for the use of the theatre."
Karl Fredericks, building manager of the Murat, says he hasn't heard any complaints being lodged against Hair at the Murat office. "I'm speaking for myself and not the Murat board of directors," he commented. "The show is evidentally very popular and people want to see it.
"Why should people be forced to go to Cincinnati or Chicago to see Hair?" he demanded. "It does have several good musical numbers in it. We need the business here in Indianapolis. When you send people out of town to see something like this, the city loses business at the restaurants, the theatres and everywhere else."
There may be difficulty in finding an appropriate theatre location. Clowes Hall, which is operated through the auspices of Butler University, turned down the show after a vote of its board directors. Clowes and Murat each has approximately 2,200 seats. There is no other local theatre with a seating capacity nearly that large. However, Hair has a relatively low operating budget and could probably make a profit in a much smaller house. The Broadway production is in a 995-seat theatre and the other local productions are in houses of the following respective capacities - Boston, 1,200 seats; Chicago, 1,694; Detroit, 800; Los Angeles, 1,024; San Francisco, 1,266; Seattle, 1,496; and Toronto, 1, 496.
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