Theater artist extraordinaire Taylor Mac is coming to Providence this week, Sept. 12–15, and you won’t want to miss it. Providence-based arts organization FirstWorks and the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University have teamed up to present an artist residency, culminating in a performance of Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged)” at The VETS on Sept. 14.
The MacArthur Fellow, Tony-nominated performer and playwright delves into social biases and celebrates diversity. This dynamic performance combines music, history and theater while exploring how communities build themselves because they are being torn apart. Taylor Mac’s original, full-length show spans 246 songs across 240 years of history and mixes musical styles and voices from folk to ballads to disco and more. For the abridged Providence performance this weekend, Taylor has chosen to focus on songs related to the theme of resistance. “A 24-Decade of Popular Music (Abridged)” is immersive, challenging and, at times, audience interactive with moments that are heartwarming and hilarious.
A shout out must be given to the amazing local artists who will be a part of the Taylor Mac spectacle, made possible with support from the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism. The sounds and revelry of The Extraordinary Rendition Band (ERB), Providence’s own activist street band featuring brass, reeds and drums, will fill the air outside the VETS lobby as audience members arrive.
Nonprofit choral group RPM Voices of Rhode Island will also perform starting at 7:15 p.m. in The VETS Gallery. This statewide chorus brings together a unique melting pot of voices that embody the state’s diverse population and is committed to the preservation of African American folk traditions and cultural expressions.
As a highlight of the performance, Taylor has chosen local vocalist Victoria Ruiz, a self-described “Chicana Punk Rocker,” to collaborate on stage for a poignant duet. Ruiz is the vocalist for Providence-based bands Downtown Boys and Malportado Kids. Ruiz sings in both English and Spanish, and her energy and activism are apparent in her lyrics. The singer, writer and activist’s work has been featured in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, SPIN and The New York Times.
Taylor Mac will be outfitted in spectacular, one-of-a-kind regalia created by celebrity costume designer Machine Dazzle. These costumes played a vital role in the original 24-hour show for which Dazzle created 24 costumes — one for each decade of American history. (Swoon — I’ll be dreaming of his champagne cork headdress.) Mac will be accompanied by a stellar band led by music director Matt Ray. He and Mac shared the 2017 Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired By American History for “A 24-Decade,” and the tour is produced by Pomegranate Arts and Taylor Mac’s Nature’s Darlings.
For more information on Taylor Mac's "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged)" and associated residency events and tickets, visit first-works.org.