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October 12, 2004

“Make Love, Not War”

Cast Of HAIR in Minneapolis Raises $23,000 for Iraq Orphanage

Motivated by the true meaning and spirit of their highly-acclaimed production, the cast of HAIR in Minneapolis recently raised $23K for an Iraqi orphanage, honoring the memory of a National Guard solider who was killed in war-torn Baghdad. HAIR was presented at the Pantages Theatre from July 8th to August 1st, by the Hennepin Theatre Trust and International Theatres Corporation. Directed by Michael Brindisi, choreographed by Michael Matthew Ferrell, with musical direction by Thomas Mustachio, the cast was made up of 23 Minneapolis area actors, singers, and dancers.

Cast member Tony Vierling writes:
“One day during rehearsal, we were feeling so good about the piece and our work as an ensemble, that we began discussing how to let the spirit of the show go beyond the walls of the rehearsal studio to share with people on the outside. How could we keep it going and growing further beyond our little realm? We decided to pick a charity and do something - raise money, volunteer – in order to make a difference.

“I had a friend, Lori Witmer, who has 5 children. Her three daughters were in the National Guard and had been sent to Baghdad, Rachel 23, and twins Charity and Michelle 19. The week before Michelle was to come home she was killed by a sniper on a routine patrol of the streets of Baghdad, becoming the first National Guard's woman in the history of war to be killed in action. In her off-duty time, Michelle volunteered at the Sisters of Charity orphanage near her base. We decided that we would raise money for this tiny orphanage in her honor, by making a nightly announcement to the audience and doing a collection in the lobby following each performance. We felt that we could make a difference in the lives of these children, help the healing to begin in their lives amidst the brutality and chaos of war, true to the message of our musical: "Make Love, Not War."

“The audience response was overwhelming. We raised $23,000 in just 4 weeks. On opening night, Lori and her daughter Rachel, came to see the show. They did not know about our decision. We surprised them with the announcement and they were touched and overjoyed that Michelle's memory was alive in the place she spent so much time. Later in the run, Michelle's twin sister Charity came to see the show with her fiancé, who was home on leave and had to return to Baghdad. I should also add that we had the full support of the Executive Producers Thomas K. Scallen, Fred Krohn, and Tommy Scallen.

“The cast felt that in these times of social and political unrest, both here and abroad, that somehow we made our voices heard clear around the world. We believe that it will make a difference, much like the young voices that still echo so true in the words and music of HAIR: “We believe in Love…”

Tony Vierling
Cast of HAIR

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