Back in 2016, legendary performance artist Taylor Mac staged the show of a lifetime—of many lifetimes.
“Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour History Of Popular Music” was a one-time-only, immersive musical theater experience unlike any other, in which the story of America is told through the songs that shaped the culture, from the founding of our country to the present day.
There was camp, there was theatrics, there were giant inflatable penises waging war to the tune of the David Bowie’s “Heroes,” there was a diatribe on the American Revolution standard “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and of course there was a simulated orgy soundtracked by Laura Branigan’s classic “Gloria.”
And, yes, that title is literal: The show was the length of an entire day! After every hour of performance, a member of the talented ensemble would leave the stage until, at the end, only Mac remained.
Taylor Mac is a New York City staple whose work over the years has been awarded with a MacArthur Genius Grant, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and received a Tony Nomination for Best Play (2019’s Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus, starring Nathan Lane).
But even with all of those accomplishments, the musical marathon that was the 24-Hour History Of Popular Music still feels like Mac’s magnum opus.
Thankfully, somebody had the good sense to film it!
Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour History Of Popular Music is a new concert documentary from award-winning directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (the duo behind The Celluloid Closet and The Times Of Harvey Milk), making its film festival premiere this month before hitting HBO on June 27.
The doc blends performance highlights with intimate, behind-the-scenes interviews from Mac and the many artists and collaborators who helped bring the show together, including the inimitable Machine Dazzle who designed fabulously elaborate pieces for make to wear and change into as the performance evolves.
Designer and performance artist Machine Dazzle reveals how creativity and activism intersect and who’s influenced him throughout his groundbreaking career.
And, at 106 minutes long, you may be relieved to hear the film itself isn’t a full 24 hours—though it does manage to bring viewers back to that day in 2016 and allow you to feel like you were really there. With the best seats in the house.
Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour History Of Popular Music will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Wednesday, June 14, followed by a special closing night presentation at San Francisco’s Frameline47 on Saturday, June 24.
After that, the film will air Tuesday, June 27 on HBO, and will simultaneously become available to stream on Max.
Check out the trailer for Taylor Mac’s 24-Hour History Of Popular Music below:
This year’s Tribeca Festival is packed with 38 selections, including star turns from Billy Porter and Luke Evans.