Taylor Mac and The Oregon Symphony Will Make History
But the list of descriptors could go on and on: MacArthur Genius. Playwright. Pulitzer Prize finalist. Judy. Just to name a few.
And this month Portlanders will get to see the dynamic theater artist make history once more. This time on their home turf, with a sure-to-be outrageously entertaining rendition of Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music with the Oregon Symphony.
The theater artist told Portland Mercury last month that judy (Mac’s preferred pronoun) and team “had a hunch that Portland would be game.” We think judy is right.
The one-night-only show, slated for March 31, will likely be bedecked with the traditional bedazzlement and regalia of a Mac performance—bejeweled head pieces by artist Machine Dazzle, ping pong balls galore, “human sacrifices” (Mac’s phrase for audience participation), and the likes. But for the first time Mac will perform the abridged version of the ground-breaking creation in concert with a symphony orchestra.
The award-winning show originally debuted in 2016 as a 24-hour-long performance art concert, totaling 246 songs, chronicling the history of American culture (and its dysfunction) through the lens of communities that have “built themselves because they were being torn apart,” Mac told Stephen Colbert in 2018, including but not limited to colonial era women’s lib activists, to Eastern European immigrants in NYC’s tenements, and queer individuals during the AIDS epidemic.
In its entirety, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music dedicated one hour to each decade from 1776 to 2016 via performances of about 10 songs an hour, ranging from disco hits to gospel ballads and Walt Whitman recitations. When it first premiered in Brooklyn, New York Times critic at large Wesley Morris described the marathon performance as “one of the great experiences” of his life. The following year it won the Kennedy Prize for Drama.
It has since been abridged and toured, with its Portland debut slated to last about 90 minutes, and cover themes most relevant to Rose City and the current international climate—as is Mac’s typical process, making no two shows entirely alike.
“A community is built over a number of years and experiences and is multifaceted. I needed variety and a form that would not only represent the thing but actually do the thing I was interested in exploring. The goal is that with each performance we build the community that is participating in this durational and evolving work,” Mac says. “It’s a dream come true to share this work in Portland, and if this is your first time joining us, welcome.”
Whether you’ve followed Mac’s work for years or are new to judy’s creations entirely, this month’s Portland performance are bound to be an unforgettable evening of fabulousness and reflection accompanied by symphonic tunes. Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music with the Oregon Symphony will be held on Thursday, March 31, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $29.
To learn more about the performance and Oregon Symphony’s other upcoming shows, please visit oregonsymphony.org.