PRHMUSIC&ART The Theatre Geek
CONVERSATION with MACHINE It changes how you see Theater
by Marialena Rago photos by Teddy Wolff aylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music will be presented over two weekends during the Kimmel Center’s Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) this June. The 24-hour performance art concert tells the social history of America. There are more than 240 songs with more than 24 musicians and more than 100 local performers. There are also 24 breathtaking costumes by Mac’s designer, Machine Dazzle. I
spoke with Machine Dazzle about his inventive costumes and how they will make you think differently about the world around you. Q: How do you find inspiration for these costumes? A: I find inspiration in music, what was going on socially and politically at the time, the inventions of the time and tying that with clear thinking and considering queer people throughout history, even though it isn’t in any of the history books. Q: Can you give an example? A: The Civil War [costume] - the American hot dog was invented at that time and US barbed wire was patented at that time. I also used the Civil War soldiers costume as a jump off, which continues this day in school bands. Q: You mention queer history. You are quoted on The Cut, New York Magazine’s women’s site, saying, ‘I prefer to queer the history or the ideas instead of accept the status quo.’ Can you explain how you do that? A: It is hard to explain how you just are in nature. It involves not settling
and not accepting things as they are - like radical thinking and thinking outside the box. You don’t have to accept what people are wearing; you can wear something else, you can wear it a different way. The essence of queer thinking is not accepting things and not settling. It is a lot more organic and a lot more free-thinking. It is easy to accept things when there are no challenges. If there is nothing wrong, if you aren’t ostracized in society, everything’s fine. If you just exist, it’s fine and if you are the way society operates then you aren’t a queer thinker, probably, because you never had to survive in a different way. You never have to adjust yourself personally towards society. If you’ve never had to survive or exist, if you’ve never had to pretend to be someone else, if you never had to experience hardship in terms of just daily survival, then chances are that you aren’t a queer thinker. That’s not a blanket statement. There are people who are smart who see that things are not even. But if you never had to smooth yourself out just to fit in society - you know people who are totally tortured because they are queer - those are the people who are real queer thinkers. They have to think outside the box because no one is going to do it for them.
| ROWHOME MAGAZINE | April / May / June 2018
Q: I’ve seen your clothing described as gender-bending or drag. Is that how you would describe your style? Would you describe it differently? A: I don’t use the word clothing. Taylor doesn’t wear clothes, he wears costumes. There is a big difference. Not to be confused with fashion, either. When Taylor is on stage in my work...those are costumes and it’s art. Huge difference. It’s sculpture. It’s not about gender at all. Not really, anyway. I’ve learned to not think in those terms. Basically, what Taylor is wearing are sculptures made out of ideas. He is basically wearing ideas. Q: When did you and Taylor start working on the show? A: We started work shopping about seven years ago and in the fall of 2016, after six years of work shopping it, we did the big 24-hour, non-stop show. Q: Have your costumes changed since the beginning? A: I change things now and then. Q: And you help change Taylor while he is still on stage, correct? A: I will come out in a costume and change Taylor every now and then. That is my role. Q: Is there a reason for it? A: Taylor has 240 songs to memorize and he is usually singing at the same time that we are changing so he needs help getting into them because he can’t hold the microphone and change at the same time. Also in terms of drama, it is more exciting.
Q: Do you have a favorite costume? A: No. I love them all. I love all of my babies. Q: What should people expect when they see the show? A: They need to come and see what the show is all about. They need to come with an open mind and be ready to participate because there is a lot of audience participation. Q: What do you want your costumes and this show’s legacy to be? A: They will be in museums and revered very highly. I think there has never been a show like it. It is a very original show and I think the legacy will be, whenever you see something new, it raises the bar and it changes the way you see theater. People who see it, it will affect the way they see theater for the rest of their lives. People can expect to see theater differently and music because we get into the meaning of these songs that people take for granted that they never considered what the song actually is - oh this is a minstrel song, oh this is a song about slavery, oh this song is really offensive to Native Americans. We really get into it. You can see the Philadelphia Premiere of Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music in two 12hour parts at the Merriam Theater: June 2, 2018 – PART I (1776 – 1896), 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. June 9, 2018 – PART II (1896 – Present), 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. PRH gohomephilly.com
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