A Conversation with Christopher M. Ramirez, part of the ensemble of The Old Globe's upcoming production of Hair premiering August 10

Getting back to in-person shows, talking about nudity, representation and how to own it

The cast of Hair. Photo by Jim Cox.

Christopher M.Ramirez is no stranger to San Diego. Working in productions such as Freaky Friday at The La Jolla Playhouse and The Heart of Rock & Roll, a musical that premiered at The Old Globe, inspired by the songs of Huey Lewis and the News, Ramirez became aware of the Globe's MFA program. "I was always interested in doing Shakespeare, so I auditioned for the program and got in. I was an out of towner and now I am a local". A program that not only led him to the Bard but also the upcoming production at The Globe, Hair.

You would think that this new production would play at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage as all the musicals presented by The Globe but no. Hair will take place at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, the outdoor stage! The first musical presented there in over 20 years. This is a big deal.

Christopher M. Ramirez (Ensemble) The Old Globe
"It is a really incredible opportunity. I think it is the perfect musical to do in a space like that, outside under the stars. So when Dionne comes out and sings Aquarius in the beginning, she says -the moon is in the seventh house-, we get to see the moon. And that just adds another layer to the storytelling".
Shared Christopher in a conversation with From Another Zero.

Hair involves a couple of firsts, aside from being the first musical on the Festival Theatre outdoors in over two decades, it is the first -in-person- production after the pandemic. The Globe did a wonderful series of outdoor concerts at the same venue with Solea Pfeiffer, Carmen Cusack, and Eden Espinosa which were like dipping our toes in the water. Sort of getting us ready along with the Arts Engagement's well-curated, free, and family-friendly events hosted at the Plaza.

For those not familiar with Hair, the piece originated at The Public Theatre in New York in the late sixties, then Broadway followed, and then a movie adaptation in the late seventies. There is nudity and there are adult situations. 

I had to ask how the San Diego incarnation would be handled, what the audience will experience, and what will they see... "We have an intimacy director which is very new to the theatre, but very necessary. Somebody that is trained, comes in and makes sure that everybody feels comfortable and safe. Traditionally in this production, there is a reveal and nudity, however, we decided as a group that that's a choice of the individual, of the actor, and so there is going to be various degrees to the nudity. Personally, I think it is very much a part of the storytelling. It is an act of protest and liberation, freedom and this sort of ritualistic act that they do as a community".

As a young actor preparing to work on a production that is based on true events that happened when he wasn't even alive, Christopher did his research and also shared a civil war documentary by Ken Burns that he likes.

"I watched a lot of those resources and also there is a lot of reading and discussion but also, I think there are a lot of direct parallels, relatable things going on in this show that we are experiencing today with social justice, black lives matter and all these protests that we have seen. I personally, as a person of color as well, connect to sort of the topics of race that are discussed in this play. There's a lot of discussions, conversations, unpacking, and then reflecting on the historical context of a specific choice, where that is coming from. That is where I kind of work from".

Artwork courtesy of The Old Globe.

With a Colombian father, growing up in Indianapolis, Christopher was not used to nor realized, the lack of representation in theatre regarding the Latin American community. It was until he moved to the East Coast that it became evident. "Every single time I have to work on a job, I hold that as a profound privilege to be able to represent the LatinX community you know?".

For all those aspiring young thespians in underrepresented communities, (which are a lot), Ramirez says "own it", to reach out in school and not be afraid to ask questions as well as to get involved with community theatres to gain the experience and know that it is an excellent place to get your foot in the door.

Going back to Hair...

"This powerful story is being told by a group of artists who are heart-centered," adds Chris. 

"Which is absolutely what this story needs. Audiences are going to see a musical in an outdoor space and there is a magic to that. A show that is about liberation and freedom and expression. Things that people have been hungry for and we've reclused for the past year because we have been forced to. I think this is the perfect musical to sort of unveil yourself and feel that empowerment to be free and express yourself".

Hair begins previews on August 10 and will be running until September 26. For tickets and showtimes please go to their website.

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