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Regina Taylor Wants ‘To Root’ Herself In St. Louis As The Rep’s Playwright-In-Residence

Fifteen years ago, the Repertory Theater’s artistic director Hana Sharif forged a relationship that’s now led to one of the company’s most exciting collaborations to date. Acclaimed actress, director and playwright Regina Taylor will spend the next three years working with the Rep as the Andrew Mellon grant playwright-in-residence.

“I have a great admiration for Hana Sharif,” Taylor told St. Louis on the Air in an interview that aired Thursday. “We’ve known each other for a long time. So when she got her new position, she gave me a call, and I immediately said, ‘Yes.’ She is so fierce, and so brilliant. I wanted to be on her team.”

Taylor’s notable film and TV work includes “I’ll Fly Away,” "Clockers," "Courage Under Fire," "Lean on Me" and “Lovecraft Country.” She was the first Black Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, three NAACP Image Awards and two Emmy nominations.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor has only connected with the Rep’s artistic team virtually, but plans to begin visiting St. Louis in January of 2021. Taylor also aims to partner with a variety of local artists, musicians, museums — “connecting the art to life,” she explained. “That would also [include] building bridges to policymakers [and] social justice groups to help welfare, education, institutions and individuals.”

Taylor is already thinking of creative ways to be a part of the local community, “physically and spiritually.” She said she’d like to start a community garden in St. Louis that would include flowers from her late mother's garden in her hometown: Dallas, Texas.

“I am rooted in this work. I was planted here to be in St. Louis to continue that very rooted work,” she said.

These days, she’s working with local and national artists on a piece for the Rep called “Love and Kindness in the Time of Quarantine.” The series of songs and spoken word pieces speak to their life experiences during the ongoing pandemic.

“What I'm finding is that there is love and kindness in places that I didn't imagine there would be love and kindness,” Taylor said. “And so I'm inviting the artists to share a piece of themselves in terms of what they've been going through since COVID … I think this is a time that tests our humanity, tests who we think we are and what we're capable of.”

Throughout the industry, entertainers are trying to figure out ways to connect with audiences and avoid bogging them down with “Zoom fatigue.” But Taylor assured listeners that impactful theater can still translate online.

“I think people are drawn towards stories, whether you're sitting around the fire, where we [first] started sharing our lines,” she said. “It’s how we make connections to truths about our journeys, how we connect with people to let them know that they're not alone in this world. There is that interaction that we are seeking one on one, which I think can still be presented online.”

Taylor is also writing new plays for Audible and Southern Methodist University called “the black album.2020.resistance.” It explores what it is like to be Black in 2020.

“It is all of those conversations that overlap, conversations we've been having right now in terms of identity: past, present, future,” she said. “And that resistance in terms of erasure — it is told from a very unapologetically Black gaze.”

Related Event

What: “Regina Taylor Presents: the black album. 2020. resistance.”

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 27 and Thursday, October 29, 2020

Where: Register here

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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