Pat Wynn Brown, a former Westside resident and graduate of Bishop Ready High School, takes her lifetime of hair-raising stories to the stage for a good cause on March 12.
Women have always had a love and hate relationship with their hair, and one Westside native is taking that relationship to the stage for a good cause.
Days before any celebration, Pat Wynn Brown’s mother used to whip out a box of Toni Home Permanent and apply liberally to her daughter’s mane.
“Every mother in the 1950’s wanted their daughters to have curly hair like Shirley Temple so they would just give us a Toni Home Permanent,” said Brown. “It was just plain torture.”
She recalls seeing mothers in their front yards the night before an important event, such as picture day or a religious event, giving their children the treatment.
“We just ended up looking like Brillo pads.”
She has many more hair stories from childhood and adulthood to tell, and is always willing to share them in order to make people laugh.
“I always wanted to be a performer,” she mused, “despite forgetting the only line I had during a high school play.”
Brown is a 1969 graduate of Bishop Ready High School. That is the school where she met her future husband, Steve Brown, and where she butted heads with the sisters, who wanted hairdos clean and small.
“This was during the bouffant, the Supremes and Priscilla Presley, so it was fashionable to want an atomic cloud on our heads,” she said. “We would always try to get away with it, but usually got sent to hairdo detention.”
She said she and her friends tried explaining that the higher they had their hair the closer they were to God, but that excuse seldom worked.
“We told them having high hair was a religious experience.”
She considers a trip to the hair salon like one also, and that is where she first noticed that what goes on in a salon is akin to theater.
“There was this one lady sharing her hopes and dreams with her hair dresser, the hair dresser was giving advice and everyone was laughing and having a good time,” she said. “I noticed that afterwards, this woman felt better about herself, looked better and then I thought ‘This is theater.’”
Soon after, Brown started writing episodes for her newly created Hair Theater, which celebrates the triumph and tragedy of hair and life through song, dance, and crazy hairpieces.
“There are 12 episodes in the Hair Theater and we do a different one at every performance,” she said. “On March 12 at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café, we’re unveiling the first performance of Summa Cum Haire, which is Latin for With Highest Hair.
“These are tough economic times, and we just want to make people feel better by singing cabaret songs, joining in on silly activities, wearing fanciful hairdos and outlandish outfits if they want, and have a great time.”
Portions of the show’s proceeds also go towards a worthy cause.
After a bout with skin cancer, which she says she was fortunate not to lose her hair during recovery, she came up with the Hair Theater Wig Fund at the Columbus Foundation. The Wig Fund helps puts wigs and/or hats on the heads of the women of central Ohio who lost their hair during chemotherapy.
She said the need for wigs has doubled since the Wig Fund started in 2001, and wants to enlist the help of hair salons by having a special tip fund for their clients to donate if desired.
“Cancer is devastating enough and I can’t stand watching people lose their hair and then not be able to afford a wig if they want one,” she said. “I just can’t stand for that – and the Toni Home Permanent.”
She said that while the comedy Summa Cum Haire will not be about cancer, it would be about having “a funny look at life in these crazy economic times by telling stories on how to get through the tough times.”
“The show is entertainment, but it’s also therapy,” Brown said. “Everyone looks so much better when they’re happy and the audience always looks 10 years younger afterwards. It’s like getting an inexpensive face-lift.”
Summa Cum Haire takes place on March 12 in the VIP room at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café, located at 1421 Olentangy River Road, in Columbus.
Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 the day of the show. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Dinner is not included in the ticket price, but a special menu service will be available until the start of the show.
To purchase tickets in advance, e-mail Pat Wynn Brown at email@example.com.