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Spotlight on Taylor Mac

// Sep 30,2014

By Clare Shaffer

Most theatre artists are relatively easy to classify. There are actors, directors, playwrights, singers, dancers, songwriters, comedians… the list goes on. Taylor Mac boldly defies classification because he is all of these (and a self-proclaimed “student of humanity” besides). Synthesizing his mastery of all of these art forms, Mac creates thrilling multi-genre performances that speak to audiences as diverse as his artistry. Even Mac’s gender identity speaks to his passion for unconventional artistic expression—he states that his gender is ‘Performer’, and his sexual preference is “Audience Member”.

Mac is dedicated to bringing people together for powerful shared experiences, and his 24-Hour marathon concert— A 24-Decade History of Popular Music —is his most ambitious and immersive project to date. Slated to be performed in New York in 2016, the day-long performance will feature guest artists, a 24-piece band, dance numbers, and dazzling costumes for each decade. Audiences are encouraged to participate in a myriad of creative ways, from singing and playing parts to spending an hour completely blind or at war. Masterfully crafted from elements of theatre, cabaret, stand-up comedy, drag, and performance art, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music challenges us to rethink history through song.

In this world premiere performance, Taylor Mac transports us back to the 1910s for an evening of popular music from the decade. His set—featuring a three act song cycle of pre-war, war, and post-war songs—is an invaluable addition to UNC’s ongoing WWI Centenary Project and examines America’s developing wartime experience.

In the hands of such a brilliant curator, our nation’s art—especially its music—offers an entertaining, nuanced, and unabashed historical record. Mac deftly deconstructs each song in his repertoire, providing sharp political and social commentary and delving into issues of the era with wit and humor. His overarching goal—to remind audiences of the range of their humanity—is made possible by the range of his talent and the depth of his passion for people and their experiences.

Clare Shaffer is a recent UNC graduate with a degree in dramatic art and communications. She is currently an apprentice with Olney Theatre Centre, doing casting in the D.C-area. She has worked on over 30 productions at the collegiate and professional level, primarily as a director, producer, and lighting designer.