A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac


Wed 11—Fri 20 Oct

Forum Melbourne


One of the greatest experiences of my life.

From murder ballads to speakeasy jazz, Women’s Liberation anthems to Walt Whitman, this is a show 240 years in the making and 24 hours in the telling.

Taylor Mac’s mission is nothing short of extraordinary: to chart a complete social history of a nation through the music that scored its rebellions and revolutions, triumphs and tragedies.

Across four six-hour epics of staggering scale, Mac enlists the aid of over one hundred local and international performers—from acrobats and burlesque artists to choirs and marching bands—to join this fearless quest.

Hailed as a Ring Cycle for the 21st century, this once-in-a-lifetime experience has never been seen outside the US and is co-commissioned by and exclusive to Melbourne Festival. Part celebration and part exorcism, it’s a no-holds-barred extravaganza of music, history, performance and art that will take its place as one of the most spectacular stage events Melbourne has ever witnessed.

Taylor Mac also appears in two other events during the Festival, including the Closing Night Party and a free artist talk →

Learn more about the show before you go. Browse the house program →

Chapter I: 1776—1836
Wed 11 October

The American Revolution from the perspective of the Yankee Doodle Dandy, the early Woman’s Lib movement, an epic battle between drinking songs, early Temperance songs, a dream sequence where you are blindfolded and the heteronormative narrative as colonization.

Chapter II: 1836—1896
Fri 13 October

Walt Whitman and Stephen Foster go head-to-head for the title of Father of the American Song, culminating in the queerest Civil War reenactment in history. Plus a production of The Mikado set on Mars.

Chapter III: 1896—1956
Wed 18 October

A Jewish tenement, a WWI trench, a speakeasy, a depression and a zoot suit riot all make the white people flee the cities.

Chapter IV: 1956—present
Fri 20 October

Bayard Rustin’s March on Washington leads to a queer riot, sexual deviance as revolution, radical lesbians and a community building itself while under siege.

Need to know more? Read the FAQs →


Taylor Mac is the darling of New York's cabaret scene, hailed as its bedazzled shaman, radical angel and searing social critic. Mac’s stellar ascent has been accompanied by a constant stream of accolades, including Guggenheim and Doris Duke awards, Obie and New York Drama Critics Circle special citations and most recently the Kennedy Prize for Drama, whose previous winners include Hamilton. 

★★★★★ This 24-hour-long pop show is everything.

The Guardian

"A must-see for anyone who wants to see a kinder, gentler society."

Huffington Post

This downtown performer is hell bent on making us look at the hidden history of our favorite songs. In platform heels. For 24 hours.

The New York Times
Conceived, written, performed and co-directed by
Taylor Mac
Music Director / Arranger
Matt Ray
Costume Designer
Machine Dazzle
Niegel Smith
Jocelyn Clarke
Scenic Designer
Mimi Lien
Lighting Designer
John Torres
  • Made possible by generous donations from Taylor Mac's Giving Circle
  • Funded by donations from the
  • Patrons Circle

  • With support from

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is commissioned in part by Melbourne Festival; ASU Gammage at Arizona State University; Belfast International Arts Festival and 14 - 18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art; Carole Shorenstein Hays, The Curran SF; Carolina Performing Arts, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA; Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; International Festival of Arts & Ideas (New Haven); New York Live Arts; OZ Arts Nashville; Stanford Live at Stanford University; University Musical Society of the University of Michigan.

This work was developed with the support of the Park Avenue Armory residency program, MASS MoCa (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), New York Stage and Film & Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater, SPACE at Ryder Farm, and the 2015 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort with continuing post-lab dramaturgical support through its initiative with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The World Premiere of the complete A 24-Decade History of Popular Music was presented in its entirety at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn NH in a co-presentation with Pomegranate Arts September/October 2016.

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

PHOTO | Little Fang