A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is a unique mash-up of music, history, performance and art. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music features co-direction by Niegel Smith, music direction by Matt Ray. In it, performance artist Taylor Mac, wearing elaborate costumes by longtime collaborator Machine Dazzle, performs songs spanning the history of America. Mac has embarked on a mammoth musical journey to chart the 24-decade history of popular music in America, interpreting songs from the birth of the nation to the present day, in ways that are by turns irreverent and poignant.
OZ Arts Nashville, a co-commissioner of this Herculean undertaking, will present two performances of three of the decades, 1806-1836, on February 19 & 20. These concerts, in which Mac will be backed by a five-piece band and surprise special guests, will give Nashville its first taste of an artist who totally redefines stage presence and an opportunity to participate in the creation of an epic performance work.
Taylor Mac has garnered acclaim as a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, cabaret performer, performance artist, director and producer, for work ranging from Mac’s OBIE Award-winning piece The Lily’s Revenge to Mac’s critically lauded collaboration with Mandy Patinkin, Susan Stroman and Paul Ford, The Last Two People On Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville, which co-stars Mac and Patinkin. Mac made many top critics’ Best Theater of 2015 lists for Hir, a dark comedy that made its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons in the fall.
Niegel Smith is a theater director and performance artist, whose theater work has been produced by Classical Theatre of Harlem, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Magic Theatre, New York Fringe Festival, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The Public Theater, Summer Play Festival and Todd Theatre.
“I create performances that engage, provoke, and expand the limits of self-expression,” says Smith. “I hold myself to a rigorous aesthetic process that equally values emotional intuition, intellectual discourse, and the intersection of national and cultural identities, and I strive to incite dialogue by acknowledging and implicating the audience.
Smith was associate director of the Tony Award winning musical FELA! – restaging that production in London, Lagos and its world tour, and both the broadway and off-broadway productions of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change. He has worked on the artistic staffs of The Public Theater, Trinity Repertory Company and Providence Black Rep. He is a 35th Anniversary Artist-in-Residence at Second Stage Theatre and the Associate Artistic Director of Elastic City.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Smith has received grants and fellowships from Theater Communications Group, Tucker Foundation, and Van Lier Fund. Before surviving high school in Detroit, he grew up in the North Carolina piedmont, fishing with his dad, shopping with his mom and inventing tall-tale fantasies with his two younger brothers. www.niegelsmith.com.
Smith will be in attendance at the performances. Performances of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1806-1836 will take place at 7pm (with doors opening at 6pm). Running time is 180 minutes without intermission; audiences are free to leave and re-enter. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at www.ozartsnashville.org. OZ Arts is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle in Nashville, Tennessee.