Who Is Taylor Mac? Get To Know The Acclaimed Mind Behind GARY- A SEQUEL TO TITUS ANDRONICUS
Who is Taylor Mac? A question that fans, critics, fellow artists, and even Taylor have been asking since Mac first made an appearance on the downtown theatre scene.
Some common titles associated with this veteran theatre artist include playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, drag artist, activist, director, producer, "fool" and "collagist", the latter two being Mac's own descriptors.
But over the years, the public and Mac have come to terms with the fact that there is no one title or adjective that can aptly define the emotional, hilarious, kooky, discomfiting, and often thrilling works that Taylor produces.
Mac's story begins in Laguna Beach, California, where an early interest in art developed through his mother, an art teacher whose philosophy of embracing one's mistakes rather than erasing them laid the foundation for what was to come.
His love affair with theatre began at age 9 when he joined a children's theatre program run by a Julliard graduate. A far cry from his conservative community, Mac made lifelong friends in the program while embracing the ability create in an open and accepting environment.
The heart of his artistic motivation truly blossomed in 1987, when he attended an AIDS walk in San Francisco. The sight of a community simultaneously celebrating identity while mourning astronomical loss had a tremendous impact on Mac.
Inspired by the community that had formed in the throes of the devastating epidemic, Mac came away from the day with the notion that it was possible and necessary to use pain to build.
A few short years later, he moved to New York and began studies at The American Academy of Dramatic art, while immersing himself in all aspects of the theatre scene. From Broadway to performance art, the wealth of inspiration he found would ultimately inspire his maximalist style, drawing from Greek theatre, commedia dell'arte, contemporary musical theatre, immersive theatre, improv, drag, and everything in between.
When he couldn't find work as an actor, Mac turned to drag. Drawn to the more daring end of the spectrum, he began to use bizarre, elaborate costumes and deranged makeup alongside his cabaret-style singing to juxtapose the grotesque with the beautiful.
As he began to create original works, Mac teamed up with longtime costume designer Machine Dazzle to bring his fantastical and contradictory visuals to life. Their longstanding collaboration is at the heart of Mac's work, with Dazzle's creations serving as a natural extension of his intent, often lending a number of new dimensions and deeper meanings to each piece.
To date Mac has created over a dozen original works over addressing various political and social issues, including The Hot Month, The Lily's Revenge, The Walk Across America For Mother Earth, The Last Two People On Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville, Hir, The Young Ladies Of, Dopplebanger, Comparison Is Violence Or The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook, Red Tide Blooming, The Face Of Liberalism, Cardiac Arrest Or Venus On A Half-Clam, Live Patriot Acts: Patriots Gone Wiiiiild!, and The Be(A)St Of Taylor Mac.
His most ambitious work to date is A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, a performance that tells the story of marginalized communities in the United States from 1776 to the 2016 through popular music.
For the piece, Mac selected 246 songs and crafted over 13 hours of original spoken material, with one hour dedicated to each decade, including corresponding elaborate costume for each hour.
This ambitious project culminated in only one full-out, 24-hour performance in Brooklyn in 2016. Subsequent performances have been performed in "chapters" over a span of weeks. In 2017, the piece was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Mac's work has been performed in hundreds venues across the globe including New York City's Town Hall, Lincoln Center, Celebrate Brooklyn, The Public Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, London's Hackney Empire and Barbican, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, Los Angeles's Royce Hall and Ace Theater, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, The Melbourne Festival, Stockholm's Sodra Theatern, the Spoleto Festival, and San Francisco's Curran Theater and MOMA.
Among the many honors received over the span of his career, Mac has been named a MacArthur Fellow, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama and is the recipient of multiple awards including the Kennedy Prize, a NY Drama Critics Circle Award, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim, the Herb Alpert in Theater, the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, 2 Bessies, 2 Obies, a Helpmann, and an Ethyl Eichelberger Award. An alumnus of New Dramatists, Mac is a New York Theater Workshop Usual Suspect and the Resident playwright at the HERE Arts Center.
With such an incredible career already behind him, it seems only natural that Mac would land on Broadway. And though he won't be taking the stage this time around, Gary retains the distinct DNA of any Taylor Mac piece, using theatrical invention alongside striking visuals and macabre humor to ask complex questions about our world.
Bringing along his penchant for the bizarre and grotesque, Broadway audiences can expect an entirely new experience when spending time in the mind of Taylor Mac.
With his aversion to categorization and a knack for upending the status quo, a visit from this revolutionary artist may just be what the doctor ordered. As a seemingly never-ending parade of bio-musicals, film adaptations, revivals, high school stories, etc. march through midtown, it's high-time that this genre-busting artist planted his freak flag on Broadway. With any hope, he can teach the rest of the neighborhood how to fly theirs too.
Learn more about Taylor Mac in the videos below!