Thursday, February 7, 2008

Haircuts by Children

I posted this as my profile picture on facebook recently and a lot of people have been asking if there is a story behind the blue beard.

Here it is:

Two Sundays ago I went up to the Push International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver and attended a performance/event called Haircuts by Children.

The title really does explain it. A handful of 10 year olds, trained by local professional hair stylists over the span of a week, give free haircuts to anyone brave enough (or foolish enough?) to risk their vanity and trust an unknown child with scissors.

I had to do it! Not only did it sound like a blast, I LOVE the concept. It gently raises so many questions about us as individuals and about our social boundaries and power structures. I love the generosity of it. Can you remember a time in your young life when an adult trusted you with something important? Do you remember how empowering that was?

Before I went, I read everything I could get my hands on about the performance, its creator Darren O'Donnell, and his Toronto-based experimental theater company Mammalian Diving Reflex. So, I thought I knew what to expect when I arrived. O'Donnell had written:

I'd expected the scene to be relatively anarchic, with hair flying all over the place, but, in reality, with kids taking the responsibility so seriously, the mood becomes almost somber.

That's definitely not what I experienced when I walked in to the little Vancouver salon. The mood was anything but somber; it was positively jubilant. The back wall was lined with spectators giggling at their friends' new 'dos and cheering loudly any time a cut was finished. Many of the participants' hair looked jubilant too. Or at least a little more colorful.

I really don't care what my hair looks like. Shy of shaving genitalia into my mop, I don't think there's any haircut that would really embarrass me (at least short term). I also don't usually get stage fright, but I started getting a little nervous as I entered.

When I found Hazel--one of the organizers whom I had previously met only in my inbox--she ushered me down to the third chair where I waited for Daisy and Chance to finish up with their current victim--er, client.

Chance finished rubbing violet coloring into the man's newly acquired bald spots and then invited me to sit.

I gulped and did as I was told.

"So what can we do for you today?"

I told them they could do whatever they wanted with my hair, which I had been growing specially for the occasion, but I wanted to keep the beard.

"We'll turn it blue then!"

The two of them ended up dividing my head exactly in half, with Daisy timidly but conscientiously buzzing the left side. Chance, however, for all his gusto, seemed a little too eager to get to the beard coloration and did a slightly less ideal job shearing the right.

Now, in the mornings, since I haven't rectified the situation yet, I wake up with localized bed head. I look something like a mangy, lopsided macaroni penguin.

Aside from a few missed spots, they did fine. I'm not sure why though, after being given 100% artistic license with my hair, they opted to merely buzz it. There were a lot of crazier cuts going on, including "soccer ball head" and what I will affectionately refer to as "sporadic technicolor rat tails."

Not all of them were bizarre though. I hung around afterward and watched several women get straight up trims or "normal" haircuts (that turned out really well!). I think that's where the somberness O'Donnell mentioned comes in. Any time an adult requested something very specific and un-flamboyant the kids got really focused and took their job seriously.

Not too seriously though. Almost without exception, they couldn't resist adding at least a little color.


Anonymous said...

Lovelace! Is that you?

Heh . . that's GREAT!

Anonymous said...

What an awesome concept! I would totally do that!

Brian said...

Josh, who is Lovelace?? I googled him and the best I can guess you're calling me a murderer in Idaho.