Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac's production, "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music"—typically performed in a series of four, six-hour shows, totaling 24 hours and 246 songs—is a look at how the American people have time and again come together to grapple with racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. And though the show is an extravagant theatrical experience, Mac says it's meant to challenge audiences as much as delight them. 

According to theatre artist Taylor Mac, history can be rewritten. And better yet... it can be sung.

Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I'm found
Was blind but now I see

For the past seven years, the Macarthur fellow has been touring the world with his production, "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music." The show is an exploration of various types of American oppression from 1776 to present, all told through a bombastic combination of song, dance, and drag.

Taylor Mac: The thing that the show does a lot is it takes things that are harmful and it transforms it  into something that actually helps us progress a little bit and heal.

So that you must smile and answer

Indeed, Mac’s performances do encourage inclusiveness and personal growth... but not exactly in a soft, cuddly way.

Mac (onstage): Does anybody have a good puke story? Is there anybody who has a really good puke story? Raise your hand if you do. Raise it. He's pointing— so stand up and tell your puke story.

Mac: I love a flaw. I love something dangerous. I love something bad that happens. I don’t believe in safe space.

Mac (onstage): Okay, now that you all know who you are, we're going to have our first battle.

Taylor Mac encourages audiences to lean into their discomfort, dig into their preconceived notions, and hopefully leave with a changed perspective.

Mac: It’s thrilling to see the people—their brains open up and they go "Oh, I didn’t know you could do that." The work isn’t just a comment on how the world is or how it’s been, and it’s not just a wish for how the would could be. We’re actually making it.

Moving on up
Moving on up