Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Taylor Mac: Fusing Influences from Commedia Dell'arte to the Theater of the Ridiculous, Taylor Mac Has Brought Originality and Oomph to New York's Off-Broadway Scene

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Taylor Mac: Fusing Influences from Commedia Dell'arte to the Theater of the Ridiculous, Taylor Mac Has Brought Originality and Oomph to New York's Off-Broadway Scene

Article excerpt

The award-winning actor, playwright, director, and singer-songwriter is known for works such as The Lily's Revenge, The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, and Hir, plays that span sociological themes. Nowadays, judy (Mac uses the lowercase gender pronoun "judy") is developing A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, describing it as "a durational concert that spans years, locations, and contains an onslaught of popular songs ..." I spoke to Mac in grand theatrical fashion.

I saw your version of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" on YouTube and loved it.

Some critic once wrote that I'm Ziggy Stardust meets Tiny Tim. I wear these crazy outfits, but also with a little glam aesthetic to it, but disturbing at the same time. I didn't want to be defined that way, so I made a show called Comparison Is Violence and I sang Bowie songs and Tiny Tim songs. We talked about comparison and what it represents.

You're working on A 24-Decade History of Popular Music?

It's about the ritual aspect--you see it again and again. If we perform one of the decades in a town, the idea is performing the other decades there too, so the more we perform it, the more we have to perform it. There's a pyramid-scheme aspect to it. It's a performance art concert. We'll do Ted Nugent's "Snakeskin Cowboys," but we slow it down and make it sound like a gay prom, so everyone has to get up and dance with someone of the same gender. We turn this Ted Nugent song into something very queer. In a way, it's appropriating things I don't like--though we also appropriate plenty of songs I like. Some we do as originally performed, some we deconstruct, some we change the keys from major to minor. By the end of the show, it's just me. We lose a musician every hour.

Do they fall through a trap door?

They all leave in mysterious ways. They fly away, some of them. [Laughs.] All the songs aren't necessarily the most popular songs from the decade--sometimes it's the most popular song from a small community. From 1896 to 1906, we do songs popular in the Jewish tenement.

You've likened yourself to a fool, in the Elizabethan sense. Is that because you say what people are thinking?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I try to look for what's the power structure in the room where I'm performing. If I'm performing in Lincoln Center, I'm going to talk to the court. In the basement of a queer bar, I'll talk to whoever's controlling that space. To me, that's what an Elizabethan fool is doing--try to knock down power structures and point out the ridiculousness of people wanting to win. …

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