‘Hairspray’ offers plenty of history lessons

Daily Reporter Staff Reports

INDIANAPOLIS — The cast members of Footlite Musical’s “Hairspray” are not only getting some theater experience but also a history lesson.

The theatrical setting of “Hairspray” is 1962 Baltimore. People dressed differently and had very different beliefs and attitudes than they do today, especially when it came to human rights.

As the cast delved into the script, director Camilla Upchurch fielded a lot of questions from the teens in the show about language and references in the script that didn’t mesh with their modern sensibilities. She felt it was important for the kids to get a feel of how things were back then.

“We are definitely trying to be reminiscent of the ’60s,” Upchurch said.

Skirts were at the knee, and girls wore white bobby socks. Given the title of the show, it’s no surprise hairspray was also very important to ’60s style.

Rather than try to re-create the retro hairstyles, wig artist Drew Bryson was tasked with styling more than 30 wigs worn by the cast members.

Upchurch also asked Footlite board member Jeff Farley, who is a designer by trade, to create a couple of exhibits in the lobby. On display are recreations of a 1960s beauty parlor and a 1960s living room.

There are social lessons to be found in “Hairspray” as well. The cast members and the audience get an education in battling segregation and pushing for justice and treating each other as equals. Upchurch said he felt it was important to grasp the struggle that blacks went through to earn respect and equality.

“The show teaches us that differences should be celebrated,” Upchurch said.

Producer Scott Hainey believes it’s worth noting that the dates the show runs coincide closely with the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the famous speech given by Robert Kennedy that had such an uplifting and calming effect on the black community at the time.

“Hairspray” runs through March 29. Visit footlite.org for ticket information.