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Stage & Studio: Regina Taylor at PassinArt

Dmae Lo Roberts talks with the celebrated actress and playwright, who will be in Portland for PassinArt Theatre's Pacific NW Multicultural Festival Aug. 17-20.


Actress and writer Regina Taylor, in Portland for PassinArt’s Pacific Northwest Multicultural Festival.

Dmae Lo Roberts first saw actress Regina Taylor on the television show I’ll Fly Away in 1991. She admired her presence and the way she could command a scene with just a look and a feeling. That show went on for 38 episodes and a followup movie.  She also won a Golden Globe and three NAACP Image Awards for her work. She then went on to act in movies such as Courage Under Fire and more recently tv shows such as the acclaimed HBO’s Lovecraft Country and The First Lady, Paramount’s The Good Fight and  FX’s Justified. She was also the first Black actress to play Juliet on Broadway.

She’ll be in Portland for PassinArt Theatre’s second biennial Pacific Northwest Multicultural Festival of films, staged readings, and panel discussions on August 17-20 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 1000 N.E. Multnomah St. Taylor will be on two panels, at 1 p.m. Aug. 17 and 1:45 p.m. Aug. 18, as well as a reading of her new play A Black Album Mixtape at noon Aug. 19.

In addition to celebrity attendance, more than 45 emerging artists of color from across the nation will be presenting their newest scripts and films during the three-day festival. See schedule.

Listen to Taylor’s conversation with Roberts here:

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In this podcast you’ll hear Regina Taylor talk about:

Best Advice from a director: “It is always to find your authentic self, your own particular voice as you’re journeying through. At first you’re trying to find it by imitating others. ‘I wanna be like, I wanna sound like,’ and so you try and emulate the best, but along the way you have to tap into just viscerally what makes you who you are.”


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Of her groundbreaking role as Lily Harper in I’ll Fly Away: I’d never seen anything like this before. This African American woman, a certain time period, certain place, and giving her a voice, a mind, a heart, a community, usually in playing the role of a maid. It is that you see her hands, her back, her sweat. And with this, they were brave enough to explore her fully. And so I knew that was really special and I brought everything to it, my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, the people that helped to raise me, my community, I imbued myself with the truths, the people. That I know to be multi-layered, multifaceted. I brought that in.”

What keeps her going: ” I love what I do. I always say in terms of where I come from, my grandparents starting out as sharecroppers as it’s better than picking cotton, but it’s more than that. It is a joy. It is to continue to have the wonder of a child. It’s play. You get out and you get to play in terms of the acting of it. I have different interests that speak to each other with acting, writing, directing. They all join voices to live a creative life. And I think that was the mandate of my mother as she was teaching me how to write as a child. (she said) ‘Creativity is your survival tool. How are you going to implement that in your life?'”

Regina Taylor is an actress, director, playwright, and educator/activist. Her work spans three decades. She was featured in CSI Vegas (Paula Newsom, Anthony E. Zuiker), East New York (Amanda Warren), Justified (Timothy Olifant, Aunjanue Ellis), First Lady (Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson ), Lovecraft Country (Jordan Peele, J J Abrams, Mischa Green), Netflix’s All Day and a Night (Jeffrey Wright, Ashton Saunders and directed/written by Joe Robert Cole writer: Black Panther), Red Line (Ava Duvernay) and The Wonder Years. (Lee Daniels, Saladin K. Patterson)

Taylor ‘s first major and groundbreaking role was as  Lily Harper in I’ll Fly Away in 1991-1993. For that she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress, three NAACP Image Awards and two Emmy Award nominations. Other television roles include The Unit. Taylor was first African American lead performer in Masterpiece Theatre’s Cora Unashamed, and starred as Anita Hill in HBO’’s Strange Justice (Gracie Award) and A Good Day to Die starring Sidney Poitier. She has co-starred in USA Networks’ Dig and guest-starred in Elementary, The Black List, Council of Dads (NBC), The Good Fight and Blue Bloods, and A Jenkins Family Christmas (BET).

Taylor’s film credits include Saturday Church, The Negotiator, Courage Under Fire, Clock-ers, Losing Isaiah and Lean on Me.

Taylor was also the first Black woman to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. (Belasco Theatre). She’s writing a new play for The Old Vic called Jubilee: Concert, which is about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, as well as  a solo show  for Theatre Aspen. She is also directing and workshopping a play by Phanesea Pharrel for La Femme Productions in New York City.

Taylor’s playwriting credits include Bread (Edgerton Award; Water Tower Theater), Crowns (four Helen Hayes awards, including Best Director), Oo-Bla- Dee (Steinberg-ATCA award), and Drowning Crow, (Broadway, MTC), The Trinity River Plays (Edgerton Foundation Award) and stop.reset (Signature Theater Residency Five). Taylor received the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair Fordham University at Lincoln Center. As artistic associate of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Taylor is its most-produced associate artistic playwright.


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Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.


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