Storm Lever has spent a lot of time in San Diego, from ALMOST FAMOUS at The Old Globe to SUMMER: THE Donna Summer MUSICAL and FLY at the La Jolla Playhouse she has been gracing San Diego stages for the last few years. Now she opens HAIR at The Old Globe playing on their outdoor Festival Stage through September 26th. Storm talks about how she made San Diego her quarantine home, how her activism during that time feels like it directly speaks to her role in HAIR, and what the audience can expect.
Lever was performing in FLY at the LA Jolla Playhouse when quarantine closed the show. Storm ended up spending her quarantine period in San Diego, where she became involved in activism movements, volunteered for not-for-profit organizations, and even was a poll worker in the election. Lever says that all of this work she did has helped her bring her character, Sheila Franklin, to life in a really authentic feeling way.
I play Ms. Sheila Franklin, NYU second-semester student and she’s a protester. That’s what we know of this powerhouse woman. I adore Sheila, it’s crazy and meaningful, and kind of wild how much I identify with Sheila at this point in my life. We had a huge Black Lives Matter movement last year and it motivated a lot of people to get involved in the civil rights movements. I worked with not-for-profits, got really involved in protesting, worked at phone banks, and worked as an election poll worker.
That is Sheila – she is going to school, she is busy with other things, she is making sure that her voice is heard and she is this other side of the hippie movement that you see in HAIR. The group of kids that are out in the park having all of these meaningful conversions, but she’s putting action to them. She’s using her voice and bringing this group of hippies to the United States Induction Center and protesting against the war.
Having already originated roles on stage, HAIR provides Lever the first opportunity to step into an established role and make it her own. As a self-described “theatre nerd” she says this was a very exciting opportunity.
This is the first time I have ever done a pre-existing show, something already established, and is a different feeling on how to work. You can look at other people’s interpretations, watch the movie, see videos on youtube, and there’s a HAIR book and you can read up on the writers’ process of creating the show. What I loved about it this time is that I am a theatre nerd, a musical theatre graduate first and foremost so I love studying the show, and having so much material to work off.
Storm also feels that due to how relevant the topics in the show are, it’s the perfect show to help transfer from no live theatre to doing theatre again.
It’s a show about sexual liberation, racism, sexism, name any “ism” and the show has it. So it’s been fascinating-these are all modern-day issues. We can study the 60’s and the huge civil rights movement, and here we are having to sit back and recognize that we’re not really so far away from the civil rights era. All of these issues are coming back up and to fight them we have to understand them from where they are coming to understand where we are at today. HAIR is a great way to dig my teeth into the time period and also see how we ended up in 2021.
Theatre should be a movement, theatre should challenge the audience, and should make an audience uncomfortable and challenge their perspective. Have something meaningful and important to say that sometimes goes against the grain of society.
Lever is excited for audiences to see this cast’s interpretation as it works with so many relevant issues and feelings. With a diverse cast of people, eleven of which are performers of color, this cast reflects a current-day America.
You have this beautifully diverse cast that is very much commentating on what it means to be an American in 1967 and by proxy commenting on what it means to be American in 2021. It’s a cast that is so sensitive to how meaningful that is, how important it is to take up that space that’s not traditionally made for them, and I think seeing this multi-ethnic cast tell this story in particular. These issues have not gone away, these issues have changed and we’ve made progress. Let’s celebrate that these beautifully talented humans are the leads of this show and telling this story. We are just as American as anybody else – but it adds another layer to the show that I think highlights the progress but also the injustice. And they’re also wonderful human beings and I love working with them!
See Storm Lever and the cast of HAIR at The Old Globe on their outdoor Festival stage through September 26th Performance show times vary between 7 and 8 p.m. on your chosen date. For more information on tickets, pricing, and start times go to www.theoldglobe.org
You can follow Storm on Instagram at @_stormieweather
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