"Everything You're Feeling is Appropriate" - Taylor Mac in the New York Times Dec 8, 2015
*photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
“Everything you’re feeling is appropriate,” says Taylor Mac, repeatedly, as if to soothe anxious children, during the second three-hour installment of his opus in progress, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” which is having its premiere at New York Live Arts as part of the Under the Radar festival. The assurance may well be needed for anyone in the audience uncomfortable with being uncomfortable — either physically, emotionally or politically.
In Mr. Mac’s frolicsome romp through three decades of the hit parade (with many digressions into music more obscure), much is asked of the audience. We descend from our seats almost as soon as the show has begun to huddle onstage together as if in a Depression-era shantytown. Later, all the white members in several rows of the audience are asked to squeeze into the sides to mimic in miniature the white flight to the suburbs that took place in the 1950s.
Given the demographics of theater audiences — even for a genre-bending and gender-obliterating performer like Mr. Mac — much squeezing is necessary; the suburbs are more crowded than the shantytowns. I was relieved when the gays were allowed back downtown. (“But no gentrifying!” Mr. Mac admonished.)
And how do you feel about Nazi armbands rendered in glittering sequins? Would you be interested in slipping one on and joining Mr. Mac for a romp through the bucolic German countryside to the jaunty tune of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top”?
In truth, of course, those of us who have come along for Mr. Mac’s sprawling adventure into the making and masking of culture(s) through music will mostly feel the same giddy exhilaration we experienced through the first part. And even Mr. Mac’s more discomfiting salvos are charged with sly purpose. As he explains during the show, an overriding theme of this ambitious endeavor — to culminate in a 24-hour concert covering all 24 decades of music, from 1776 to 2016 — is exploring “how communities are built through dire circumstances.”