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How to Sit Through a Six-Hour Performance

 Taylor Mac explains the secrets to musical endurance as he gears up for a 24-hour marathon. 


Later in 2016 Taylor Mac plans to perform for 24 hours straight—with very few breaks—in his first full run of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, his operatic tour through 240 years’ worth of popular songs in America. But to run a marathon, one must train. So this month, Mac will start from the beginning of the sequence for the very first time, with two three-hour performances and one six-hour performance covering the years from 1776 to 1836, at the Curran theater. We know: Sitting still in a theater seat for a quarter of a day seems like a daunting task. But Mac is willing to share some of his survival tips.

Reset the surprise timer every 10 seconds.
“I’m a firm believer that something needs to happen every 10 seconds,” says Mac. “It might be something big or something as subtle as a song you’ve heard your whole life, but played in a new light.”

Use apples as your secret weapon.
To survive the longer performances, Mac will snack on apples, which are, he says, a big part of the show “in the usual original sin metaphor but from a radical fairy perspective.”

Give the audience agency.
With no formal intermissions in the show, Mac encourages the audience to take breaks when necessary. “If you need a mental break,” he says, “just go to the lobby and be quiet for 10 minutes, then come back.”

Wilt when you must.
As Mac puts it, “Deterioration is a big part of the show. We—the audience and I—are supposed to fall apart together, and that creates a bond.” Besides, “you don’t have to be comfortable for six hours straight. That’s part of life.”

January 21–30 at the Curran theater. Get tickets here.

Originally published in the January issue of
San Francisco

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