Taylor Mac: how a 24 -hour pop odyssey redefines American history
The performer is embarking on an ambitious project a 246 -song marathon performance that seeks to sum up a new, queer vision of America
A couple of weeks ago, Taylor Mac spent the evening rehearsing a number from A 24 -Decade History of Popular Musicat St Anns Warehouse in Brooklyn. An ecstatic and skeptical exploration of American song, Macs project is divided into eight three-hour concerts that will eventually be scrunched together into one 24 -hour cathexis.
The number at hand was Tiptoe Through the Tulips and Mac was rehearsing an epic dance-off between 12 ukulele-strumming Charles Dickenses and 12 tapping Tiny Tims. As none of the strummers or hoofers had been called to rehearsal, Mac was alone onstage.
It didnt is felt that way. Mac induced the tinselswagged platform feeling mobbed, hectic, delirious. A sometimes solo artist with titanic presence, outsized glamour, and coruscatingly queer sensibilities, Mac can fill a room as awesomely as the gods of the Homeric hymns, who would cast off their human disguise and suddenly rise to the ceiling.( He can display a deities cruelty, too. Especially if youre a patron with a bourgeois air and an aisle seat .)
But offstage, bereft of eyeliner and trash-drag couture, Mac seems almost poignantly human with a bald head, sad eyes and a demure smile. Mac prefers the ambiguous gender pronoun judy, which is, Mac says, its own performance art piece and its own fun, but when garmented down he presents as male. Theres something nearly childlike about Mac and you can glimpse that queer child from the California suburbiums, who first found refuge in community theater and then in the wild club scene.
Macs oeuvre includes pieces in which Mac has imagined the apocalypse, played a sentient flower, portrayed Macs dead fathers former pen pals. Mainstream culture is not exactly judys thing, but for the past five years, Mac has heard America singing, then selected 246 ballads that define the country from 1776 to the present, eventually working with the pianist and arranger Matt Ray to adapt them for Macs voice( a warm and unexpectedly hardy tenor) and for an orchestra that begins with 24 musicians and shrinks to just one. The producer Mark Russell, an early champ of Macs, calls the result a sorcery act and a music act and a complete astonish at all times.
Mac describes the show, performed by more than 200 people, as a revolutionary fairy realness ritual. Like Macs last piece, the more or less realistic Hir, A 24 -Decade History isnt an outwardly political work. But the popular songs and the narratives Mac swirls around them are available to attain American audiences face up to the nations past, especially the parts of the past that weve repudiated, stifled, sidestepped. A 24 -Decade History offers a return of the repressed. This time the repressed is dres sequins and a hot-pink merkin.
Its about were all in this room together and we happen to have this history on our back, Mac tells. How do we deal with it?
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