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Composer and musician Johari Jabir, and artistic directors Doug Holsclaw and John Fisher of Theatre Rhinoceros collaborated to create HairStory, a new musical theatre piece exploring hair and the role it plays in identity construction. Jabir wrote, “My vision for HairStory sprang out of my interest in the barbershop or beauty parlor being such a gathering place historically for the African American community.”

The project artists had prior experience working together. In 2001, Jabir and Holsclaw worked with poet Marvin K. White to create White’s For Colored Boys, a musical theater piece. For HairStory Jabir and Holsclaw co-wrote a text based on oral histories; and Jabir created the original score. He also served as the stage and musical director.

Johari Osaze Jabir holds degrees in voice, and among his many engagements as a soloist, has appeared at Carnegie Hall and has been a guest composer and soloist with the St. Louis Symphony for their annual Gospel Christmas. Jabir served as assistant musical director of the national Broadway tour of The Wiz with Andre de Shields and Stephanie Mills, and musical conductor for productions at a range of United States theaters.

Theatre Rhinoceros was founded in 1977 by Alan Estes to provide a place where gay artists could see their creative efforts realized. In 1984, a new era at Rhinoceros was catalyzed by two events: Estes’s death from AIDS and the Studio premiere of Artists Involved with Death and Survival: The AIDS Show, the first major work by any theater company in the United States to deal with the new epidemic. Developed by Doug Holsclaw, The AIDS Show brought Theatre Rhinoceros national attention.