Taylor Mac

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Taylor Mac is a theatre artist who prefers to write a bio in the first person.  Hello.  I’m also a theatre artist who longs to be rid of the usual bios that are lists of achievements.  Here’s something different.

In case you don’t know, my pronoun is judy (only capitalized when at the start of a sentence, like a normal pronoun).  A few people have claimed I use this pronoun as a joke.  They are uninformed.  It’s not a joke, which doesn’t mean it’s not funny.  It’s a personalized pronoun for someone whose gender (professionally and personally) is constantly changing. My gender isn’t male or female or non-binary (which oddly creates a binary between people who are non-binary and people who are binary).  My gender is “performer” (one day I’ll get it on the passport).  It’s also an art piece.  Imagine getting to have a pronoun that’s an art piece!  I’m here to tell you that it’s as annoying to navigate as it is delicious.  You too may change yourself. I suppose that’s why I’ve made a life in the theatre, because it’s a life geared towards the act of change.

Here’s something a bunch of us theatre folk are considering, in terms of change: How can we make “wondering” the center of dramatic action, rather than centering the achievement of goals that are inherit in conflict? Sarah Ruhl says most theatre is made in the form of a male orgasm.  That seems accurate, in terms of theatre usually engorging to catharsis. But may we add that the radical queer understands a male orgasm may be varied, multiple, and circular?  All this to agree: There’s more than one way to engage with others.

There was once an acting teacher who said, “When your character is alone on stage their action is one of three things: Praying, figuring out, or recalling.”  Wise as that craft may be, may we can transform that triumvirate into a truncation, one which offers an expansion?  While the method acting teacher is interested in showing how people are, some of us are (also?) interested in using theatre to explore possibility. Could we turn our craft into a vagary of wondering?  In other words, how do we become less knowing and more Socratic?

And are these actions reserved only for when we are alone? Or singular?  Or hierarchical?  Here’s a funny thing you start to wonder about as you climb the ladder:  If access to the ivory tower means no access to the street, maybe, baby, it ain’t worth it. And that tower may be the room where it happens, but the street is where it starts and where it’s at.

I also wonder: Would an isolated child really dream towards theatre if it meant spending even more alone time? Though, is a character ever really alone? Even when rehearsing a one-person show, the ancestral makers are present. So rather than being in a tantrum-tower-building-isolating-your turn-my turn conflict, how might we wonder WITH them?

A start may be to rid ourselves of numbers.  Twenty-four-hours.  Two hundred people.  Eight acts.  Five-character play.  Ninety minutes.  Are all these numbers ways to disengage from the challenge of content?  Does form do the same?

Judy’s been a form queen.  I love a hand painted map.   Personalized, researched, detailed, figurative, metaphorical, and imperfect.  Essentially: Stack the genres, layer the forms, delight in the human warbles, throw in a little direction, notice the image is faded, get lost, damp, realize it’s grown something that might be harming you, try to fix it, try to clean it, hope it worked, realize it hasn’t, choose to make use of the harm, find a different way, repeat with variation, and call it theatre.

And… I wonder if it’s time to consider that form, style, aesthetics, pace, duration, craft, and process may not be content?  Gosh forbid.  We haven’t yet achieved enough critical mass of agreement that they are content.  Don’t give up yet Taylor Mac.  There is more work to be done before derailing this wholistic approach with sabotaging doubt.  Commit gyrl.

Still… there is a nagging question:  Are we all simply Virgos obsessing over the categories, stratagems, and lists in order to ground our nomadic insecurities with an organizing principal chained to want?

Here’s a biographical detail for this bio:  I’m a Virgo.  Though I don’t believe in astrology.  Most of the people I hold dear are astrology nuts.  It’s hard to hold firm to a belief when dearness gets in the way.

Another dear thing, which keeps getting in the way of belief: How can we be quiet while still freeing ourselves from the Puritan dominance over expression?  Another way to ask it:  How may we maintain our gentle souls in a tough place full of so many rules and mountains?  Must the tender queens be “fierce” to chisel a place for themselves in the world?  In order to survive?  Must they be queens; rulers with subjects?  May they not be tender? Must they pull up their bootstraps and emerge from dark caves, ready for battle? Must they brag and promote and grow, grow, grow, simply to be considered?

There’s a middle-aged consideration for ya.

Speaking of middle age and bragging and promoting… back to the bio.  Some theaters, producers, and playbills have rules about bios:  No jokes; don’t thank anyone; get rid of the personal; forget the philosophy; 100 word count; and simply list.  And perhaps, in a world of so many themes, a list is kinder.  Must we be challenged everywhere?  Shall we manifesto ourselves into corners, even in the playbill?  Shall we exhaust the reader with questions before the show has even begun?

And a different framing:  Is the “list" similar to the peaceful and important work of the calling of the names? A way of saying, “This happened!  You may not have been there to witness, but it happened!  Recognize!”  And if the title fails to provide you with the information that it was a sideshow musical about the gentrification of Coney Island—starring Bridget Everett, Tigger!, Dirty Martini, Bianca Leigh, and Ruby Lynn Maher, where Julie Atlas Muz choreographed Basil Twist’s lady puppets to watch on as Taylor Mac performed a naked, and painted green, de-tucking—perhaps it is enough to wonder with nothing more than its title: Red Tide Blooming.

In case all this might be true (that a list in a bio is more virtuous), below is the traditional biographical list of shows (rituals), competitive kindnesses (awards), and debt (gratitude). It’s essentially an engorging towards catharsis.  Feel free to read it and decide for yourself which gives you the context you need to open your heart (perhaps neither… oh no, then we’ll have to put our hopes on the show).  Or as the drag queen with extra makeup time once said, “Yes, and...”.

Taylor Mac is the author of Joy and Pandemic; Gary:  A Sequel to Titus Andronicus; A 24-Decade History of Popular Music; Prosperous Fools; The Fre; Hir; The Walk Across America for Mother Earth; The Lily's Revenge; The Young Ladies Of; Red Tide Blooming; Cardiac Arrest or Venus on a Half-Clam; The Face of Liberalism, Okay, A Crevice, The Hot Month; and the revues Holiday Sauce; The Last Two People on Earth (created with Mandy Patinkin, Susan Stroman and Paul Ford); Comparison is Violence; and The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac.  Mac is the first American to receive the International Ibsen Award, is a MacArthur Fellow, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, a Tony nominee for Best Play, and the recipient of the Kennedy Prize (with Matt Ray), the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim, the Herb Alpert Award, a Drama League Award, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, the Booth, two Helpmann Awards, a NY Drama Critics Circle Award, two Obie’s, two Bessies, and an Ethyl Eichelberger.  An alumnus of New Dramatists, judy is currently the resident playwright at the Here Arts Center.

Thank you Linda Brumbach, Alisa Regas, Kristin Marting, Morgan Jenness, Nina Mankin, Lynbarbara Mahler, Liz Swados, Paul Lucas, Machine Dazzle, Matt Ray, Niegel Smith, Robin Bowyer, Marcy Coburn, Kat Wentworth, Patt Scarlett, mom, and all the people who keep coming back.  

Albums

Holiday Sauce

The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac:  Live

image

The Lily's Revenge

Published Work

Film/Video

Gallery: 1998-2020

24-D

"A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" is a 24-hour long performance art concert.  Its creation began in 2010 and the entirety of it was performed from beginning to end in 2016, at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn and subsequently in four 6-hour chapters at The Curran Theater, Theater at the Ace Hotel (CAP UCLA), The Melbourne Festival, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (The Kimmel Center), and the Berliner Festpiele's Immersion program series.  It won The Kennedy Prize, an Obie, two Bessies, two Australian Helpmann Awards, a Drama Critics Circle Award, and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The piece was developed and produced by Nature's Darlings and Pomegranate Arts.  

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Gary

"Gary:  A Sequel to Titus Andronicus"  premiered on Broadway at the Booth Theater in 2019. It received 7 Tony Nominations including Best Play. The production was directed by George Wolfe and starred Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, and Julie White.

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The Fre

"The Fre" is an all-ages play about the polarization of America. It ran through previews at the Flea Theater in 2020 before becoming a casualty of the COVID shutdown (staging a play inside a ball-pit was bad timing gyrl).

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SAUCE

"Holiday Sauce" is a performance art concert tribute to Mother Flawless Sabrina, disguised as a holiday show.  It began at Town Hall, NYC in 2017. The project was developed and produced by Nature's Darlings and Pomegranate Arts.

 

https://www.taylormacholidaysauce.com

 

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Hir

"Hir" is a play about America's changing paradigms.  It  premiered at the Magic Theater, directed by Niegel Smith, in 2013.   To date it has had over 70 productions. It received the Sydney Theater Award for Best New Play.    

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LTPOE

The Last Two People On Earth:  An Apocalyptic Vaudeville is a two-person work devised by Mandy Patinkin, Susan Stroman and Taylor Mac, in which the only two people who survived a flood on Earth put on a show for the Seagulls.  It was first presented by Classic Stage Company, NYC.  

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Walk

"The Walk Across America For Mother Earth" was inspired by the true story of a group of activists who walked across the United States to shut down the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.  The play premiered at La Mama in 2011.  It was produced and commissioned by The Talking Band, was directed by Paul Zimet, and features music by Ellen Maddow.  

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CisV

"Comparison is Violence:  The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook"  premiered in 2010 at Joe's Pub, NYC.    

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Lily

"The Lily's Revenge" is a 36-cast-member, 5-Hour Epic about a flower who wishes to be a man.  It premiered at the Here Arts Center in 2009, directed by Rachel Chavkin, Paul Zimet, Faye Driscoll, Aaron Rhyne, David Drake, Kristin Marting, and Taylor Mac and features music by Rachelle Garniez.  As a result of the production, Taylor was awarded judy's first Obie.

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YLO

"Young Ladies Of" is a performance art play about assumptions of lineage.  It premiered at The Here Arts Center, NYC 2007, and went on to tour the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the US.

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Beast

"The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac" premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006.  It was awarded the Herald Angel Award and played over 200 performances around the globe.

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Red Tide

"Red Tide Blooming", a side-show musical about the gentrification of Coney Island.  It premiered at PS 122 in 2006, as a result of the Ethyl Eichelberger Award.  

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Cardiac

"Cardiac Arrest or Venus on a Half-Clam" used Taylor's failing love life as a metaphor for the War on Terror.  It premiered at The Fez, NYC, 2004.  

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FOL

"The Face of Liberalism" was Taylor's first performance art cabaret.  It premiered in 2002 at the Slide Bar in NYC.    

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