For years writers have been told to “write about what you know.” Whether you believe in the mantra or not, there is some truth to the saying. From all accounts, Halifax playwright Tara Taylor has taken it to heart with her new musical, Love, Peace & Hairgrease.
I just knew all this hullabaloo, all of these conversations, all the celebrations, and the joy of doing hair had to be on stage. – Tara Taylor
A hair salon owner herself, Taylor has also worked at two other Black-run and owned salons where a sense of community is as important as the work.
“I just knew all this hullabaloo, all of these conversations, all the celebrations, and the joy of doing hair had to be on stage,” she says by phone during a break in rehearsals.
The original new musical is the story of a young girl on her journey of discovery.
“Whatever her hair looks like, she has a personality to match it,” explains Taylor, who also directs the show. “She’s dating two guys, and she discovers that as she chops all of her hair off, the real one who loves it will stick around while the other one will think she’s crazy and leave.”
Taylor’s third foray into the musical theatre realm, she felt this particular story lent itself to a musical theatre treatment. “All the music is either about hair or love, about transformation, about discovery,” she says.
As a singer, it is also a genre Taylor feels comfortable working with.
“I remember the old movie Sister Act where she said to the young lady, if you wake up and all you think about is singing, you’re supposed to be a singer,'” she says. “And so that’s all I do. I can drive by, watch the leaves falling off the trees, and make a song about that. So it’s just life inspires me, and it inspires me to sing about it.”
Born out of Eastern Front Theatre’s (EFT) emerging playwrights unit, the company presented an excerpt from the musical at its Stages Theatre Festival in 2021.
“And oh my god, people were loving it,” says EFT’s artistic director Kat McCormack. “At EFT, we do exclusively local, new work, so you’re not going get the chance to see this anywhere else.”
Taylor is particularly proud that this world premiere features an all-local cast and crew.
“I don’t know if it is an omen to talk about it being local, local, local because we originally had two people cast from Toronto, but then it just didn’t work out and now 100% of the cast is local and I am so grateful for that,” adds Taylor.
Love, Peace & Hairgrease: The Musical is a play about love and transformation that celebrates afro-textured hair, old and new thoughts and techniques. When Lauren Johnson takes over the legacy of her grandmother’s salon and renames it Love, Piece and Hairgrease (an Ebonics term meaning “bye”) the venture comes at a great personal cost. When they told her she couldn’t, she did it anyway. How does one find love and peace in the midst of hairgrease life storms? Say bye to fear, old habits, wigs, weaves, and stressed hair.
To ensure more people will get to see Love, Peace & Hairgrease, EFT is offering tickets with a pay-what-you-can-afford pricing model.
“I really believe that theatre is for everybody, and it’s better when everybody’s involved,” says McCormack. “I know what it’s like to want to see a show, and you can’t afford it. So we’re doing the tiered pricing to be accessible to everybody. It’s local work, and we want local audiences to be able to come out and see it without having to worry about whether they can afford it.”
The ticketing strategy will hopefully bring in a segment of Taylor’s intended audience.
“Some of the folks I want to come to see the show are young, Black females and males that struggle with their hair,” she says. “I want them to come and be prideful of what God gave them on their head.”
Taylor is also hopeful it will help others understand the challenges.
“I want folks who want to learn about our hair and the struggles that we go through so they can understand what it is really like to have the hair we have on our head,” she says.
Eastern Front Theatre and Charles Taylor Theatre & Media Arts Association present Love, Peace & Hairgrease: The Musical at Alderney Landing (2 Ochterloney St, Dartmouth) October 21-31. Visit easternfronttheatre.com for tickets and information.