Internationally acclaimed cabaret artist, Taylor Mac, is back with his sequin sprinkled, high energy ‘20th Century Concert’. But not before he returns from the US where he’s bunkered down at an exclusive work retreat.
What was your motivation to participate in the retreat?
It's called the Sundance Theatre Lab retreat and it takes place at the Sundance Resort in Utah. It's essentially for playwrights to workshop new plays and is the Cadillac of retreats in America. I feel pampered, enriched with ideas and art, and my new play ‘The Fre’ is really shaping up as a result of being here.
You perform one song from each decade in ‘20th Century Concert’. What sort of songs are you covering?
The oldest was written in the first decade of the 20th century by Irving Berlin and the youngest is a Tori Amos song written in the 1990s. The concert consists of standards, new age, disco, an agit-prop song, an epic Patti Smith song that's in the tradition of spoken word and punk, and just about everything.
Your costumes are very crazy and edgy. Do you assist with the designs?
I used to design everything I wore, but in the last five years I've been working with the magnificent Machine Dazzle (one of New York's best costume creators). I usually talk to Machine about my concept for the look and then let him go at it. He always surprises and exceeds expectations.
What else can the audience expect from ‘20th Century Songs’?
It's always different every night, because there's so much improv in the show, but the foundation of the show stays the same. We sing songs, make people laugh, challenge their boundaries (in a kind way) and generally make fools of ourselves.
In the early ‘90s you took nine months off from performing and walked across the United States. What inspired that journey?
It was a political walk to spread information about nuclear proliferation. It changed my life and I think, in many ways, showed me what kind of artist, activist, and human being I wanted to be.
Taylor Mac plays the Brisbane Powerhouse Thursday August 15.