In 1962, the cost of gas was 27 cents per gallon. The mashed potato was a food and a popular dance. The sweet smell of hairspray filled the air, and on your living room TV, smiling white teens danced the jitterbug and cha-cha to the latest tunes. The influence and power of television was strong as people watched the square box to find the latest trends in products, fashion, hair, music, and dances. TV networks and advertisers were hard at work creating the image of the “American dream” on the set. However, the world outside the black and white box was changing quickly as the fight for human rights and equality had begun, and the picture was developing into a full, Technicolor world.
We began working on Hairspray in the spring of 2015, as Baltimore was headlining the news every day with stories of racial discrimination and police brutality. As I dove into the script, I was entranced by Tracy, this girl who wouldn’t accept the world as it was and did something about it. The world needs many Tracy Turnblads as we continue to break down prejudice of all kinds, systemic privilege, and barriers created by stereotypes. Tracy sees people as individuals and truly believes in a better world. Some people call that naïveté; others call it hope.
I invite you to watch this show and enjoy the nostalgia of the fashions, the pastiches of music, the dancing, and to take a step back in time to a different era. But I also hope you take a bit of Tracy Turnblad with you when you leave the theatre and turn to the person next to you, look them in the eye, and dance. Together we can do so much more to overcome what has divided us in the past. Enjoy the show and don’t forget – you’ve gotta dream big to be big!
—Amber Mak, Director of Hairspray