Taylor Mac combined politics and theater while speaking about the queer struggle on Thursday night as part of the University of Richmond’s Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature and the Arts.

Mac is a MacArthur fellow, Kennedy prize winner and Guggenheim award winning playwright, actor, director, producer and singer-songwriter. Mac spoke with Dorothy Holland, UR’s associate professor of theater and women, gender and sexuality studies as part of an artist talk for the festival.

Mac discussed his most recent work, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” a critically acclaimed 24-hour-long performance containing 246 songs. He said it was largely created as the consequence of his growing up gay and his participation in an AIDS walk at age 14.

Mac said that after he had seen the gay community that the AIDS epidemic had built, he had felt the need to create a play that would be a metaphor for the connections that were formed from destruction.

“It had to be 24 hours long because I wanted the audience to fall apart, and the artists who were making it to fall apart, I wanted to fall apart,” Mac said. “All of us were falling apart together, we’re building something together.”

Mac has taken “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” on a tour around the world, and most recently, to Australia. The country is currently facing a referendum regarding gay marriage. 

In this charged environment, Mac said that queer audience members had cried throughout the duration of the show as they had addressed queer issues.

“It was a different kind of performance in that we were there to help them heal,” Mac said.

Mac also spoke about his role in expanding queer roles in theater through his productions. His play, “Hir,” uses a transgender girl as a representation of America. The production has been performed more than 40 times, and there has has been a transgender actor in each one.

Mac said this had expanded the role of transgender actors who were not often represented in theater.

Around 50 people filled the seats at the Cousins Studio Theatre where the talk was held. The audience was primarily made up of UR students.

Virginia Sun, first-year, said that she had never heard of Mac before, but after she had heard about his awards and work in theater, she had decided to attend.

Mac also discussed his playwriting process and his plans for the future. He said that, with the MacArthur fellowship, he has been rewarded $625,000, which he planned to invest in future productions.

Students, faculty and community members attending the talk had a positive reception of Mac.

“I think it’s good to have the opportunity to hear different perspectives that you take advantage of,” Sallie Cook, first-year, said. 

Contact news writer Alexis Angelus at alexis.angelus@richmond.edu. 

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