Taylor Mac's Queer Extravaganza Sydney Opera House

Rebecca Varidel
17th Aug 2023

Bark of Millions - An Australian Exclusive Event ‌ ‌ ‌

“If you’re not invited to the party, throw a better one.” — Taylor Mac

In an Australian exclusive event, queer rock opera Bark of Millions by celebrated artists Taylor Mac and Matt Ray will have its world premiere at the Sydney Opera House as part of the cultural landmark’s 50th Birthday Festival. This electrifying collision of performance, live music, and drag spectacle will take over the Concert Hall for three nights from 18 to 20 October.

Part rock opera, part reimagined pride parade, Bark of Millions gathers a community of groundbreaking artists in a four-hour party-length performance of queer history, resilience, and revelry. Co-directed by visionaries Niegel Smith and Faye Driscoll, and with the extravagance of longtime Mac collaborator Machine Dazzle’s costume design, this joyous epic is brought to life by an international ensemble of 22 artists, including Australian Mama Alto.

Bark of Millions is a transformative and joyful experience that stages 55 original songs – one to mark each year since the landmark Stonewall Uprising – in an exploration of humanity through a queer lens. From the award-winning creative and producing teams that created the acclaimed A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, this new work reunites Mac with Ray and Machine to create both a celebration of, and gift to, the queer canon, expanding the archive for generations to come.

Taylor Mac a MacArthur Fellow, Ibsen Award winner, and Pulitzer Prize finalist explains that Bark of Millions grew out of an innate desire to create celebratory action.

"I grew up being told the world is inherently non-queer. For years and hours on every Sunday at church, this perspective would be reinforced. And though relatively liberated from that notion now, the feelings and impulses from years of indoctrination still linger. So Matt and I have gathered some of our favorite queer performers and allies; one song after another after another after another, we sing, until we begin to inch our way free of the years of harm. All in frivolity and with our hearts on our drag encrusted sleeves. Essentially we have a blast sharing queerness with the world.”

“To present Bark of Millions to the world for the first time at the Sydney Opera House will be a genuinely momentous and fabulous occasion.”

Taylor Mac and Matt Ray last collaborated on the celebrated The 24 Decade History of Popular Music - which is now the subject of an original HBO documentary, available in Australia to watch on Binge. While performing 240 popular songs from the last 240 years for that production - almost all of which centred on cis heterosexuals - Mac and Ray realised there was a deficit of queer songs in the canon. Together they ended up writing what would be Bark of Millions, a collection of 55 Mac/Ray originals, with each song being inspired by different queer forebearers throughout world history.

For Mac, Bark of Millions also emerged in response to capitalism's absorption of Pride; how the corporate world has absorbed and sanitised queerness, as well as the simultaneous backlash against waves of acceptance that have globally reignited fundamentalism and hate. As such, this new work is part alternative Pride parade and part queer church - with all the singing and none of the preaching. And just as in a parade, Mac envisions the songs as a parade of floats, amassing in a vital whole, an unending line forward into the queer future.

Bark of Millions revels in the queer worlds built over the last half-century – where queerness is not a remote concept orbiting a straight society, but rather its own centre – and invites everyone in. The production’s title is inspired by an Ancient Egyptian creation myth and the sun deity Ra, who was both female and male, and travelled on a sailing barque.