For LGBTQ people, the holidays can be filled with more stress than good cheer. Taylor Mac hopes to provide an antidote to all that with a show full of holiday songs, campy drag, and irreverent fun.
For those looking for a temporary reprieve from the traditional winter holiday celebrations, Taylor Mac offers the show Holiday Sauce, taking place at the University Of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts on December 7 and 8.
Taylor Mac (who prefers the pronoun “judy” (in lowercase), as a tribute to Judy Garland) is a MacArthur Fellow and award-winning theater artist who has written and performed in dozens of shows. Holiday Sauce comes after Mac’s 2017 show, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which was a Pulitzer Prize Award finalist. In that show, Mac used judy’s own form of drag to showcase American history through an undertold queer lens. The usage of drag in Mac’s performances is an act of survival for judy, and an attempt to alter the narrative of the holidays from a heternormative lens to a more queer one.
“I came in to my sexuality at the height of AIDS, and I learned from the acts of activists that you don’t have to ask permission to participate in the creativity of your own survival,” Mac said. “So I just started to make my own work. And for me, it was the way I could survive in this world, not just a comment of the world but a manifestation of the world I want to live in. Not just comment on hating the holiday season, but doing something about it that improves my life and the lives of the audience.”
With Holiday Sauce, Mac plans to embrace the aspects of the winter holidays everyone loves, while also critiquing the aspects of the holidays everyone dreads. By focusing on the campier aspects of the holidays, such as Christmas songs, the abundance of glittery decorations, and overall over-the-top-ness, Mac wants to give queer people the opportunity to enjoy a time of year that oftentimes is more stressful than not.
“So many people — many queers I know — when they talk about the holidays they roll their eyes, and are like, ‘Ugh, I gotta get through this burden every year.’ And every year gets longer and longer,” Mac said. “It’s October to December now, and even into January a little bit. That’s a lot of time every year not liking the aesthetics, the politics of the holidays, the pressure of awkward family conversations. It’s a lot of time to be unhappy. We wanted to make the holiday time fun for us, wanted to hang with chosen families and sing songs without dogma attached to them.”
And as for why Mac decided to start judy’s tour in Richmond, at the University of Richmond instead of somewhere else? To bring the message Mac conveying to audiences that might not expect it, and to help break the echo chamber. Mac purposefully books tour stops in locations that might not be the most obvious to help open people up to other ideas about America and the world beyond what they already know.
“People are excited to see a culture they normally don’t get to see,” Mac said. “You turn on the TV, and if you turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race, you won’t see someone like me. It doesn’t represent what we do. I’m the only theatre artist in America that’s doing what I’m doing, and I have a certain amount of pride in that.”
Mac hopes that those who see Holiday Sauce will leave feeling like they’d been invited to a great party. Mac doesn’t want to prescribe any certain way for audience members to interpret or feel the show, but judy still wants them to have a good time with everyone, including those performing on stage.
“We all get to have fun together,” Mac said. “I’m in it for the hang with the audience, the hang with the musicians, the hang with the ideas that came before me, the hang with the lineage. I’m just in it for the hang. And I hope everyone will want to come hang with me.”
Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce tour starts with two performances at the Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8. Tickets and additional information can be found on the Modlin Center’s website. Mac’s tour will continue with performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC on Dec. 12, at the Power Center in Ann Arbor, MI, on Dec. 14-15, and at the Moore Theater in Seattle, WA, on Dec. 19-20.
Top Photo by Little Fang Photography