"We're making a 24-decade history of popular music. It is a Radical Faerie realness ritual sacrifice."
Thus begins this stunning promo video for the upcoming San Francisco production of Taylor Mac's acclaimed A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, all 24 hours of which will be performed for only the second time at The Curran this September. The video was shot on the streets of SF a few weeks back on a sunny Saturday, featuring an array of drag queens, performers, and random extras who turned out for the shoot. It's all set to one of the barn-burning, cathartic numbers in Mac's epic piece, "Amazing Grace."
"In the show, I use 'Amazing Grace' as a way to talk about how, during the performance, we're not going to worship the creator but the act of creation, we won't worship the artist but the making of the art, and we won't worship the noun but the verb," Mac tells Rolling Stone. "It's my way of using an iconic religious song in a subversive and more inclusive way. Plus it's fun to sing it in a minor key."
The show, which takes on the 24 decades of American history through popular songs, one decade per hour, was previously performed in part in SF in January 2016 only the first six hours worth (see the SFist review here). The entire 24 hours has only been performed in one 24-hour go once, in Brooklyn last fall, and it was something that New York Times critic Wesley Morris called "one of the greatest experiences of my life." The show was also a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The San Francisco production, which is being produced by The Curran and Stanford Live in association with Magic Theatre and Pomegranate Arts, will happen in four six-hour segments spanning two weekends in September. Chapter One will begin on September 15 at 5 p.m., with the second chapter that Sunday starting at 2 p.m. Chapter Three will be on September 22, with the fourth and final segment on Sunday, September 24. Mac and his Dandy Minions will then be doing an abridged, three-hour version on the Stanford campus.
Mac has said that his form of "durational theater" was inspired by witnessing the AIDS crisis firsthand as a teenager, participating in the first AIDS Walk in San Francisco. "I wanted to put the audience in a situation in which they are under some kind of complicated circumstance and I’m under some sort of complicated circumstance and as a result of falling apart together we’re building bonds," he said.
Tickets go on sale next week, starting July 4.