Bark of Millions

By Taylor Mac (Lyrics and Direction) and Matt Ray (Music and Musical Direction)
Produced by Brooklyn Academy of Music, Onassis USA, and Pomegranate Arts

Off Broadway, Song Cycle
Ran 2.5.24 - 2.10.24
BAM Strong, Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street


by Shani R. Friedman on 3.11.24


Bark of MillionsThe cast of Bark of Millions. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.


BOTTOM LINE: A marathon song-cycle event with 55 songs, one for each year since Stonewall.

Taylor Mac has been around for some time, but it is understandable if you have not encountered this singular artist before. From The Lily's Revenge at HERE, to Mac's Broadway premiere (as a playwright) with Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, Mac's theatrical outings have seen fairly short runs, even if sometimes the performance itself may challenge one's stamina. After all, Mac is perhaps most famous for A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which in its full form is an event that spans a full 24 hours, with Mac performing the entire time. Having regrettably missed that back in 2016, I jumped at the chance to get familiar with the Taylor Mac Experience, if only for a quarter of the time.

In Bark of Millions, Mac joins with his 24-Decade collaborators Matt Ray and Machine Dazzle to create another take on music and queer history; indeed, with Mac and company, it's as much about the history as it is the sounds. Bark of Millions takes its name from the myth about dual-gender Egyptian sun deity, Ra. As Mac explains, The Bark is a boat that Ra travels on, sharing the sunshine with those the God passes. Bark, in turn, has the sun burst through the centuries of real and fictional queer activists, authors, singers—from Marsha P. Johnson to Larry Kramer and Margaret Cho, and many others less well known.

Mac and the ensemble open the show with "Atum" (another name by which Ra is identified). Through different musical genres, including pop, gospel, and rock, we learn about fascinating figures such as Jack Bee Garland (performed by Stephen Quinn), a 19th-century author who went by many other names, including Elvira and Babe Bean, and who was an early example of someone living as a trans man. As Beebe Beam, Garland even embedded as a writer with the U.S. Army in the Philippines.

Another historical figure is Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, a massively influential interpreter of Mexican rancheras and an international star in Europe and Latin America in the mid-20th century, but someone who is perhaps less familiar to US audiences. Brought to life by El Beh, Sean Donovan and the ensemble, we learn how Chavela, as she was known professionally, turned gender norms upside down, dressing like a man, smoking cigars, and wearing a red jorongo (a poncho worn by men) while singing songs meant to be sung by men pursuing women. She didn't record her first album until her 40s but ultimately had 80 albums to her name, and is a massive influence to artists today.

While Bark of Millions spans a lot of history, there isn't much story per se; I could have used a bit more narration or shape, especially given the lengthy running time and lack of intermissions (like Mac's other marathon performances, the audience is invited to leave and return at their discretion). But in the absence of plot, I let myself be immersed in the kaleidoscope of music and color. Machine Dazzle dresses the players in a spectacular pageant of costumes. The headpieces alone, reminiscent of the Versailles court of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, are stunning. Bark of Millions is ultimately an awe-inspiring night of theatre from Taylor Mac, Matt Ray, and Machine Dazzle, a team who will hopefully continue collaborating on this kind of genre-defying queer spectacle.

(Bark of Millions played at BAM's Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, from February 5-10, 2024. The running time was 4 hours 15 minutes, with no intermission. For more information visit

Bark of Millions is by Taylor Mac (Lyrics and Direction) and Matt Ray (Music and Musical Direction). Co-Directed by Niegel Smith and Faye Driscoll. Choreography by Faye Driscoll. Costume Design by Machine Dazzle. Lighting Design by John Torres. Sound Design by Brendan Aanes. Props Design by Oscar Escobedo and Zach Blumner.

The cast is Ari Folman-Cohen, Bernice “Boom Boom” Brooks, Chris Giarmo, Dana Lyn, El Beh, Greg Glassman, Jack Fuller (Vocal Captain), Joel E. Mateo, Jules Skloot, Le Gateau Chocolat, Lisa “Paz” Parrott, Machine Dazzle, Mama Alto, Marika Hughes, Matt Ray, Sean Donovan (Associate Choreographer), Steffanie Christi’an, Stephen Quinn, Taylor Mac, Thornetta Davis, Viva DeConcini, and Wes Olivier.