Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Q&A with Tripp Fountain from touring production of "Hair"

Courtesy Photo
Taking on an ensemble role in the musical "Hair" offered Tripp Fountain the chance to take a trip through time. As a cast member in the psychedelic musical, Fountain found a newfound appreciation for the social upheaval and shifting morals that marked the 1960s. More importantly, however, starring in the show gave the Colorado native a chance to come home. A graduate of Lewis Palmer High School in Monument, Palmer says the production of "Hair," which will run at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts until Oct. 16, has given him a unique brand of homecoming.
The Sentinel caught up with Fountain to talk about his roots in Colorado, as well as the legacy of the social movements explored in "Hair," a piece that spawned pop music hits and documented the cultural legacy of a generation.

AS: Can you start with sharing a bit of your background?

Tripp Fountain: I grew up in Monument; graduated from Lewis Palmer HS in 2004. I did a lot of productions at school, mostly down in the Springs. I moved to New York after school, and I went to NYU, to the school of the arts for drama.
From there I was auditioning, I was in and out of school on leaves of absence a few times to do other shows and tours. I finally graduated in 2010.

AS: So since you’re based out of New York for school and work, have you had many chances to come back home?

TF: Extended, yes.
I was in the national tour of “Evita” a few years ago. That came to the Pike’s Peak center for a whole two days. Besides that, this is the first time that I’ve really gotten to come back and enjoy some time in Colorado.

AS: What role do you play in the touring production of “Hair”?
I’m a swing in the show, which basically means I cover the entire ensemble. Mostly, that’s the eight ensemble men.
It’s really fun, especially with the way the show is structured. Everyone is such an integral part of the storytelling. The only other cast member that changes every night is the audience. There is definitely no fourth wall in this production. The audience definitely has the opportunity to become a part of the tribe.

AS: Is it challenging to bring modern audiences into the onstage world set so squarely in the social milieu of the 1960s?
TF: I think that this show just has such a huge heart. It really does allow an audience member to feel like they’re part of the experience. It’s so relevant even today.
We’ve come far, certainly, in the past several decades, but it’s funny how all of these core issues that are brought up about war and equality – We’re still fighting some of those battles.
Brought together with that message is this gorgeous score that you can’t get out of your head. It’s just gorgeous music.

AS: Has making the jump to the environment of 1967 ever been a challenge as an actor?
TF: It really has never felt dated. Even in rehearsals, we were encouraged always to go out to do research on 1967 and bring in research and tell stories.
It’s really a wonderful growth from taking these stories and experiences and trying to plug it into the universality that you find with theater. It’s easy with this piece.
Some of the equality issues really stand out to me. This tribe – 2007 and 2008 – the cast has been very much involved in marriage equality.
In 1967, I believe it was only the year before that interracial couples could get married legally. I think it really is finding those pieces – “Wait, what? That was in the 60s?” – and being able to find some sort of comparable contemporary issues.
AS: You mentioned the durability of the score. What are some of your favorite musical moments from “Hair”?
“White Boys” is one of the first one that comes to mind. It grooves so hard. The ladies up there are just wailing for you.
I guess one of the ones that was more surprising to me – coming in and opening up that score to “Ain’t Got No,” with the lists of words, I thought, ‘How am I going to remember this?’ Those are the ones that are always going to keep you on your toes.
“Walking in Space.”

AS: Did you have any hesitation about the musical’s signature nude scene?
TF: It is a part of the touring production.
It always has been a part of the show. In the original tour, the cities wouldn’t allow the companies to come in because of the nudity.
It’s so tastefully done. Is it going to be too much? It’s very beautifully done and it’s also a part of the story. It’s another form of protest in a very heightened emotional moment in the show during “Where Do I Go.”

AS: What are you looking forward to most in your return to Colorado?
TF: I’m so excited to see my mountains. That’s one of the best things about coming home. There’s nothing like a Colorado sunset.
I’ve very excited to be coming with a group of friends who have really become a family for me and being able to share Colorado with them.
I’m thrilled to be back. I can’t wait to share this experience.

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