Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 38 / 21 September 2017

Season opens with real panache

Out There

On opening night in Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas performs Ravel's "Bolero." Photo: Drew Altizer
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Oh arts-loving pumpkins, the fall arts season has definitely begun! Your gay old uncle Out There has been running around to season openers like there's no tomorrow – which is silly, since there's a whole action-packed season ahead. In a week that included openings at the Orpheum ("American in Paris," to be reviewed in next week's issue) and Berkeley Rep ("Ain't Too Proud," reviewed this week), as well as a six-hour immersion in the fantastic world of Taylor Mac (see next item), it was the San Francisco Symphony 's Opening Night Gala Concert in Davies Symphony Hall that took the cake pop for starriest opener.

After wishing a happy new season to Symphony staffers and fellow pressies at a reception held in Davies Hall's Green Room, OT enjoyed the concert starring music director Michael Tilson Thomas, legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the extraordinary talents of the San Francisco Symphony. The glamorous after-party transpired in a tented pavilion and also al fresco on Grove Street. The champagne corks were popped, the drinks were swilled, and the arts-patronage livin' came easy. Bring on the season, we're primed!


Taylor Mac, creator and star of "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music," currently at the Curran. Photo: Teddy Wolff

Big Mac

Creative powerhouse Taylor Mac calls his show "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" "a radical faerie realness ritual sacrifice – and the audience is the sacrifice!" Out There attended "Chapter 1, 1776-1836," the first six-hour installment, last Friday night. Chapters II, III and IV will bring the show's total running time to 24 hours, and run through Sept. 24.

True, the musical potpourri, extended monologue, freakish fashion show, and over-the-top performance-art spectacle did remind OT of the wild, anarchic joys and transgressive energies of a radical faerie gathering. There was the same embrace of wild, gonzo drag, hallucinogenic visuals, and let-it-all-hang-out ethos. There was also something of a grounding in reality – in this chapter, the songs and spirit of American revolution, the push-and-pull of temperance and indulgence, the sweet strains of sentimentality in popular ballads of the day. Mac reminded us that the show was about creativity, not creation; about verbs, not nouns. Civilians knitting onstage alluded to the American spirit of making things, and the yarn hobbyists did remind us of a faerie circle. Outlandish costumery by Machine Dazzle , crack musical direction by Matt Ray , and the heartfelt ministrations of the Dandy Minions all added mightily to the effect, unlike anything now on the boards.

Later chapters feature meditations on Walt Whitman , Stephen Foster , "The Mikado" staged on Mars, Zoot Suits, gay hero Bayard Rustin's March on Washington, and sexual deviance as revolution. Taylor Mac is at the forefront of this artistic movement against passivity in entertainment, against bleak capitalist consumption, and against reflexive heteronormativity. We can think of no better general in the ongoing art wars.


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