Taylor Mac would like you to know that he doesn’t want to offend you.
If his fantastical makeup and clothes surprise you, then that’s OK because if you are surprised, then you are being shaken up a little. And shaking things up is what this drag queen considers his job to be.
If audiences are shaken up, then he is communicating.
“Offending?” says Mac over the phone from his New York home. “That’s not communicating,” he says, immediately dismissing the notion.
“When you shock somebody, they shut down.”
And Mac has too much he wants to communicate.
OK, really, there is just one thing he wants to communicate: “I have my politics,” he starts out saying. “But I am not trying to make the audience believe what I believe … I just want to remind them of their humanity.”
The message begins with the sequins glued to his face and the wild makeup beneath a stylish romp of hair and above an otherworldly assortment of clothing.
The effect is … freedom from any kind of context.
“It definitely serves a purpose,” says Mac. “It opens them [the audience] up completely from the get-go.
“It’s not a costume as it doesn’t show what I am not.
“I try to make it look like what I look like on the inside.
“This is how ugly and beautiful and macho and feminine and chaotic I can be at all times.
“I call it my finery. Throughout the evening, I can diffuse perceptions and break them down.
“So that is a journey; it is a growth.”
With the right atmosphere set for communicating, Mac launches into his act that is “part stand-up, part musical, part performance piece, part kitchen-sink drama, part conversation, part lecture, part puppet show.”
If Nakai Theatre wants its Pivot Festival to be on the fringe, it will do very well with this internationally acclaimed and respected drag queen.
“Or theatre artist,” adds Mac, helpfully.
“Joker is fine.” He mulls the question just a little longer. “I think of myself as a fool, an Elizabethan fool. I speak truth.
“The fool makes fun of the king and the king doesn’t kill the fool because he is considered mad.
“I want people to have a good time, but I want to expose them to anger and grace and total chaos and the total range of humanity.”
Mac is loved in college towns and in artistic communities and his YouTube videos have a rabid following.
Of those videos, the most poignant and sweetest are those that show him walking through New York’s streets and subways. He presents a character that is vulnerable to any harsh criticism from closed-minded and intolerant people. Yet he is accepted by children, and he jams with street performers. And, if any abuse does come his way, you know he will deflect it elegantly.
He plays the ukulele, which, according to Mac, is “such an uncool instrument, yet a very human instrument … very community driven.”
When he performs, he likes to see diversity in the audience and he likes to see community elites so that he can reach out to them, understanding that most would not want to see his show anyway.
“I’ve had lots of military people and they often want to talk to me afterward, and they are very generous because they didn’t expect to enjoy it and they just had to tell me.”
This is somewhat surprising as he has spent much time bashing their commander-in-chief these past eight years. But now that Barack Obama is president, Mac is not worried about a lack of material.
“No, no, no,” he answers. “There were 46-million people who voted for McCain and Palin, so there is much work to be done.
“Barack Obama is more conservative than Clinton, but I am just happy we have an intelligent man who is graceful and encouraging us to get involved.
“He is not as progressive as I want, but I will continue to support him … but I will challenge him.”
Taylor Mac will perform his show, The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac, at the Yukon Arts Centre Friday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. He also appears as a special guest with Joseph Tisiga’s Late Night with Grey Owl on Thursday, Jan. 29. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.
Oh, and if you see Mac in the airport before or after the show, you likely won’t recognize him at first because he will be wearing a costume: T-shirt and jeans.