Taylor Mac premiered A 24-Decade History of Popular Music four years ago in October 2016, just ahead of the last U.S. election, when many people in the country were feeling optimistic about the potential of electing the country’s first female president after eight years of the Obama administration’s progressive policies. The magnum opus — which comprises 246 songs that were popular in America from 1776 to 2016, in a 24-hour marathon performance — includes everything from World War I ditties and The Mikado to a mash-up of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as well as a fantastic queer reimagining of Ted Nugent’s “Snakeskin Cowboys”.
Since then, Mac was a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant and premiered his first Broadway play after years of performing in indie venues and fringe festivals around the globe. When the pandemic forced the closure of live performances as well as the elimination of many “survival jobs,” Mac launched Trickle Up, a grassroots project that raises money to support working artists and creatives in New York City.
Now Mac has won another prestigious honor, the International Ibsen Award, known to some as the “Nobel Prize for Theater,” which is conferred by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Mac is the first American to receive the award (it comes with a cash prize of approximately $300,000) and plans to receive it during a special livestreamed event, titled Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce…Pandemic!, on December 12th.
“Taylor Mac asks fundamental questions about what theater should be and why it matters in in the 21st century,” the International Ibsen Award Committee said in a statement. “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.”
On November 13th, Mac plans to release Holiday Sauce, an album that Mac dedicates to the legendary Mother Flawless Sabrina, Mac’s drag mother, who died in December 2017. In the liner notes, Mac 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.’”
The album includes new versions of holiday classics as well as covers, such as Graham Nash’s “Cathedral” and the Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (in a medley with “Little Drummer Boy”), which debuted today.