A 24-Decade His­tory of Pop­u­lar Mu­sic

The crown­ing jewel in Mel­bourne Fes­ti­val’s pro­gram is a 24-hour feat of en­durance that aims at noth­ing less than chang­ing your life – and maybe even the world

Time Out (Melbourne) - - MELBOURN FESTIVAL -

WHEN PEO­PLE SPEAK of life-chang­ing the­atre, it’s not al­ways hy­per­bolic: New York play­wright and per­for­mance artist Tay­lor Mac says that peo­ple who have met at pre­vi­ous stag­ings of A 24-Decade His­tory of Pop­u­lar

Mu­sic have started busi­nesses to­gether, fallen in love – even had chil­dren to­gether. Part con­cert and part theatri­cal ex­trav­a­ganza, 24-Decade takes au­di­ences on a tour of ‘pop­u­lar’ mu­sic through Amer­i­can his­tory, tak­ing in 246 songs from across 240 years, ar­ranged in decades. It starts in 1776 with a big band, and ends in 2016 with Mac alone on stage play­ing ukulele and pi­ano; in between there are per­for­mance artists, pup­pets, a march­ing band and ac­ro­bats. “It’s a his­tory of mu­sic and the United States, but what it’s re­ally about is how com­mu­ni­ties build them­selves as a re­sult of be­ing torn apart,” says Mac. Mel­bourne Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Jonathan Hol­loway, who has pro­grammed the show as four six-hour chunks across the two weeks of the fes­ti­val, jok­ingly de­scribes it as a “queer Amer­i­can Ring Cy­cle”.

Mac, a play­wright and icon of down­town New York’s queer per­for­mance scene (who uses the pro­noun judy – as in Gar­land – in­stead of ‘him’ or ‘her’) has been work­ing on the show since 2011, lead­ing up to a once-only 24-hour marathon of the fi­nal work at New York’s St Ann’s Ware­house in 2016, which was nom­i­nated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and awarded the Kennedy Prize for drama in­spired by Amer­i­can his­tory. Mac de­scribes

24-Decade as a “rad­i­cal faerie re­al­ness rit­ual” in which the du­ra­tion and for­mat of the show is as im­por­tant as the mu­si­cal con­tent. “We’re es­sen­tially build­ing a com­mu­nity in the the­atre,” judy says. There are sing-alongs, get­ting-to-knowyou ex­er­cises – even beer pong. In New York, au­di­ences were in­vited to re-en­act the Civil War, and take part in a fu­neral pro­ces­sion for Judy Gar­land – among other things. “As a re­sult [au­di­ence mem­bers] start to get to know each other, be­cause they’re shar­ing these par­tic­i­pa­tion mo­ments to­gether, and they’re help­ing to make the show to­gether, but also be­cause we’re go­ing through this his­tory to­gether.” Cassie Tongue with Dee Jef­fer­son àthe Fo­rum, 154 Flin­ders St, Mel­bourne 3000. 03 9299 9860. www.fes­ti­val.mel­bourne/2017/. $199$699. Oct 11-20.

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