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Taylor Mac Wins Ibsen Award and Records 'Holiday Sauce' Album

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The International Ibsen Award is given every two years to an individual or company that has brought new artistic dimensions to the world of drama or theater.

Four years ago today, just before an election expected to install the first female U.S. President, Taylor Mac premiered the entirety of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, comprising 246 songs that were popular in this country from 1776 to 2016, in a 24-hour marathon performance. That work epitomized Mac's community-building artistry, offering an alternative to the dominant history of the U.S., narrated through activism and music that was popular from the nation's founding to the present day. Now, Mac (who uses the pronoun "judy") has won a prestigious honor that recognizes the international resonance of judy's work, and has recorded an album that epitomizes judy's artistry.

The International Ibsen Award is given every two years to an individual or company that has brought new artistic dimensions to the world of drama or theater. Mac is the first American to win the honor, whose previous recipients include iconic artists such as Peter Brook, Ariane Mnouchkine, Heiner Goebbels, and Forced Entertainment. Founded and funded by the Norwegian government, the Ibsen Award offers a prize of 2.5 million Norwegian kroner (approximately $300,000 U.S. dollars).

In a statement released today, the International Ibsen Award Committee said, "Taylor Mac asks fundamental questions about what theater should be and why it matters in in the twenty-first century. In a world of increased polarization and divisions, Mac crafts work that shows theater's potential to bind and unite audiences, to think about how we relate to culture in its various forms, and what it means to engage with other human beings imaginatively, ethically, and politically, through the act of performance."

Taylor Mac said, "It is a great inspiration to be included in the lineage of Henrik Ibsen, Peter Brook, Ariana Mnouchkine, and all the past recipients of this award. It makes me want to get up and play."

The International Ibsen Award committee normally announces the winner on Henrik Ibsen's birthday, March 20, but postponed this year due to COVID-19. Likewise, the Award ceremony, which usually takes place at the Norwegian National Theatre's biennial Ibsen Festival, has been postponed and reimagined as a digital celebration in light of the pandemic. It will now kick off a special live-streamed event entitled Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce...Pandemic! (December 12, 2020, at 8pm EST), in which judy joins forces with longtime collaborators including designer Machine Dazzle, Music Director Matt Ray, and producers Pomegranate Arts. Conceived as a virtual vaudeville, Holiday Sauce...Pandemic! will blend music, film, burlesque, and random acts of fabulousness. There is more to the holidays than rampant capitalism and gift giving and, in Mac's world, creativity and imagination are their own spirituality. This holiday season will be bittersweet for so many; Mac will remind us of the collective power of our chosen families, a message that will be particularly resonant this year, when so many have lost so much.

On November 13, Mac will release the album Holiday Sauce via Favorite Fruit, a new company established by A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and Holiday Sauce executive producer Pomegranate Arts (Linda Brumbach, Founder and Director; Alisa E. Regas, Managing Director, Creative). Produced and arranged by 24-Decade music director Matt Ray, mixed by Grammy-winner Fernando Lodeiro (Esperanza Spalding, Vampire Weekend, Lady Gaga), and mastered by Grammy-winner Emily Lazar (Beck, Lou Reed, David Bowie), the recording celebrates the holidays we hate with unique renditions of songs we love. In addition to traditionals including "God Rest Ye Gentlemen," "How Can I Keep from Singing?," "Little Drummer Boy," and "Silent Night," the album features an original entitled "Christmas with Grandma" and covers such as Graham Nash's "Cathedral" and the Velvet Underground's "The Black Angel's Death Song" and "All Tomorrow's Parties." Perhaps most surprising is an interpretation of Frank Ocean's "Super Rich Kids," which in Mac's Holiday Sauce live shows was part of a medley about capitalism, a driving force behind America's holiday celebrations.

Mac dedicates the album to Mother Flawless Sabrina, judy's drag mother, who passed away three weeks before the Holiday Sauce live show made its world premiere at Town Hall NYC in December 2017. In the liner notes, judy writes, "What better way to celebrate the winter solstice than through motherhood? Especially drag motherhood. In ancient Roman times, gender-play was a key element of Saturnalia, a tradition that evolved out of the Neolithic harvest rituals accompanying the winter solstice. How can we ever thank the sun for life without knowing how to fully live? Look to the queens, Queen. Or as Mother Flawless would say, in her best Liza lisp, 'Each one, teach one.'"

Holiday Sauce features Mac on lead vocals and ukulele and a band including Matt Ray on piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, glockenspiel, bells, and background vocals; Bernice "Boom Boom" Brooks on drums; Steffanie Christi'an on vocals; Thornetta Davis on vocals; Viva DeConcini on guitar; Antoine Drye on trumpet; Greg Glassman on trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes on trombone; Marika Hughes on cello, Dana Lyn on violin; and Gary Wang on bass.

Favorite Fruit will donate a portion of the net proceeds from Holiday Sauce to the organization LGBT Asylum Task Force.


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