Taylor Mac Sings A Different Tune

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Bored by performance art? Can’t sit through another sad production of edgy theater? Don’t believe there is hope for either medium? Let Taylor Mac change your mind. This winner of a MacArthur genius grant combines the best of intimate drama with the rare electric charge of real time visual art. Not to mention an understanding that message mongering might best be delivered in drag. His 24-Decade History of Popular Music opens tonight at 6 p.m. at the Theater at Ace Hotel downtown. Presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, it is the first of four individual chapters, each lasting six hours long, which means 24 decades of music in 24 hours with 24 wildly elaborate costume changes.

Mac, who ironically goes by the “gender neutral” pronoun of “Judy,” wrote this epic by drawing from and deconstructing two centuries of popular American music working with musical director Matt Ray. Impact is driven over the top by Machine Dazzle, whose costume designs have evolved as an art form all their own. From his earliest years working and exhibiting at the influential space Exit Art in New York, doing his own performance art, Dazzle seems the ideal collaborator for Mac’s move away from working as a trained theater actor and into the realm of imaginative delight and biting observation.

LA Times drama critic Charles McNulty’s insightful profile of Mac includes gems in Mac’s own words: "Identity politics is just not interesting enough to me," Mac said. "That doesn't mean my identity isn't declared or referenced. I'm queer, but the work is not about queerness. It's always there, but it's not the point….The show is really trying to get the audience to express the full range of what America has been and can be." 

CAP offers tips on how to enjoy each six-hour evening. The audience is encouraged to move around, to socialize. Drinks and food are offered for sale. As Dazzle helps Mac change costumes in full view of the audience, each construction of headdresses and appendages and glitter will be left on a mannequin to be seen at close range as detailed works of wearable assemblage sculpture.

Below you will find CAP’s description of the four evenings and the history that they summarize:

Photos by Teddy Wolff at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY (October 2016)

CHAPTER I: 1776-1836
Thu, Mar 15, 2018 The American Revolution from the perspective of the Yankee Doodle Dandy, the early women’s lib movement, an epic battle between drinking songs and early Temperance songs; a dream sequence where the audience is and the heteronormal narrative of colonization.   

Photos by Teddy Wolff at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY (October 2016)

CHAPTER II: 1836-1896
Sat, Mar 17, 2018 Walt Whitman and Stephen Foster go head to head for the title of Father of the American Song culminating in the queerest Civil War Reenactment in history.  Oh…and a production of the Mikado set on Mars.  

Photos by Teddy Wolff at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY (October 2016)

CHAPTER III: 1896-1956
Thu, Mar 22, 2018 A Jewish tenement, a WWI trench, a speak-easy, a depression and a zoot suit riot all make the white people flee the cities.

Photos by Teddy Wolff at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY (October 2016)

CHAPTER IV: 1956-Present
Sat, Mar 24, 2018 Bayard Rustin’s March on Washington leads to a queer riot, sexual deviance as revolution, radical lesbians and a community building itself while under siege.

Got that? Real time texting and tweeting are encouraged. See you there. Tickets are still available at cap.ucla.edu.