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Taylor, Regina 1959(?)–

Regina Taylor 1959(?)

Playwright, actor

Encouraged by Her Mother

Starred in Ill Fly Away

Developed as Actress, Playwright

Selected works

Sources

As the star of the television series Ill Fly Away, Regina Taylor has successfully established herself as a dramatic actress. Through her role on the award-winning television show, she has helped dispel myths about black domestic servants during the early days of the civil rights struggle in the South. Emerge magazine contributor Mary Helen Washington noted Taylors Ill Fly Away character was one of the most intelligent, independent and courageous women on American TV.

Taylor echoed that opinion in an Essence interview when she said: In terms of fully exploring a female character, I believe I have the best television role for a woman, black or white. Yet few people in any walk of life will say less about themselves than Regina Taylor. In interviews she refuses to discuss her private life and will not give her age, preferring, instead, to talk about the characters she portrays and their lives as she has imagined them.

Prior to landing the coveted part, Taylor had worked principally on stage, doing everything from one-woman shows to Shakespeare. I wanted to be the [opera great] Leontyne Price of classical theater, she told People magazine. The role of Lilly Harper in Ill Fly Away provided Taylor with her first national exposure. First aired by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Ill Fly Away made its premier as a two-hour movie in 1991, and then aired weekly in hour-long episodes. The show was an instant success with the television critics, and it garnered numerous nominations for Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and even the Peabody Prize. Taylor was nominated twice for the best-actress Emmy Award, and she won the 1993 Golden Globe Award for best actress in a dramatic series.

Encouraged by Her Mother

An only child, Taylor was born in Dallas, Texas, and was raised by her mother, a Social Security Administration employee. A job transfer resulted in mother and daughter moving to Oklahoma when Regina was in the second grade. Asked about her childhood, Taylor told People: I developed an active imagination very young and was always writing plays and musicals. Her mother was an inspiration. She taught me never to set limits on who I could be.

Taylors mother also instilled pride and a sense of justice in her young daughter. Regina needed that pride when, in 1972, she became a seventh grader at a school that had only recently been integrated. On her first day of class she was seated next to a white girl who promptly told the teacher: I do not want to sit next to this nigger. Taylor was completely stunned by the pronouncement and taken aback by the girls seething hatred. I thought, How can she hate me when she doesnt know me?, Taylor recalled in People. The memory of that incident stayed with Taylor, helping her to understand the people of her mothers generation who lived with that kind of intolerance every day.

After high school, Taylor enrolled at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, planning to study journalism and creative writing. On a whim she took an acting

At a Glance

Born c. 1959, in Dallas, TX; daughter of Nell (a social worker) Taylor. Education: Southern Methodist University, B.A., 1981.

Career: Actress and writer, 1981-; Goodman Theatre, Chicago, artistic associate, 1995-.

Awards: Viewers for Quality Television Awards, 1992, 1993, for Ill Fly Away; Golden Globe Award, 1993, for Ill Fly Away; NAACP Image Award, 1995, for Ill Fly Away; American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award, 2000.

Addresses: Office Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60601.

class and found that she liked it much better than her journalism classes. She also had recognizable talent. While she was still a student she earned her first important role, in a made-for-television movie called Crisis at Central High. In that show, produced in 1981, Taylor appeared as one of the black students affected by the landmark integration of a Little Rock, Arkansas, high school.

Taylor earned her bachelors degree in 1981, and immediately left for New York City with the goal of becoming a professional actress. Joining the ranks of the struggling artists, she found herself sharing a two-room flat with three other people and using a makeshift bed on a rotating basis. I fell in love with the city, she told People. She made ends meet by working as a housekeeper and later found employment with a firm that refurbished homes and apartments. At every opportunity she auditioned for stage roles, and very slowly, she began making her way into important parts.

Taylors big break came in the mid-1980s, when she was accepted into New York City-based Shakespeare Festival Company, a prestigious group that stages classical plays under the guidance of important American directors. One of these directors was the late Joseph Papp, an innovator who believed in nontraditional casting for the well-known dramas of Shakespeare. It was Papp who assigned Taylor the part of Juliet in a 1987 staging of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. The actress thus became the first woman of color to appear as Juliet on Broadway, a significant professional achievement.

The stage work led to television roles as well. Taylor portrayed an attorney in the starring role of the made-for-television movie Howard Beach: Making a Case for Murder in 1989. She then proved her range as an actress by appearing in the feature film Lean on Me as a recovering crack addict. She had returned to New York City and her theater work when she was called to audition for the role of Lillian Harper in Ill Fly Away in 1990.

Starred in Ill Fly Away

Taylor immediately recognized the Lilly character as that rarest of opportunitiesthe chance to play a well-drawn black woman on television. Lilly is a composite of many women, the actress told Essence. The role has connection to my relatives and others who had to sit at the back of the bus or drink from a water fountain marked FOR COLOREDS. I refuse to let her slip into somebodys mammy myth (a reference to the derogatory name for a white childs black nanny.) Although Lilly is a housekeeper responsible for three white children, the show also explores Lillys family life and her personal sacrifices in the quest for civil rights. An aspiring writer, Lilly begins and ends each episode quoting from entries in her journal, and the show addresses such sensitive topics as white supremacist Ku Klux Klan activities, legal injustices, and lynching.

Taylor told USA Today that portraying Lilly was very educational to her. I knew something about the time, she said. But its one thing to have second-hand knowledge and another to take on the character. In a sense, I live her life. But when I go home, I go in the front door. Im afforded certain rights that Lillian could only dream about. She added that Ill Fly Away is film quality. All of us are challenged by it. New York media critic John Leonard wrote of the series: Ill Fly Away doesnt so much transcend as it accretes, by scruple and witness. Were watching Lilly think her way to heroism. In this incremental history of Americaa story about something else besides what white men do in the daytimeLillys is the defining intelligence.

Unfortunately, Ill Fly Away failed to attract a large enough audience to sustain it. Mary Helen Washington, for one, felt that the show spent too much time developing the white characters and not enough time on Lilly and her peers. The critic asked: Isnt it ironic that black people, who produced, directed, cast, and starred in the original Civil Rights Movement, have become minor players in its dramatic reenactment? Isnt it tragic that after all the protests, all the freedom songs, and all the marches against white domination, black images in media are still largely controlled by whites? Although the show finally did attract a sizeable black viewership in its second season, it was moved from time period to time period, sent on hiatus, and finally dropped by NBC in 1993.

Ill Fly Away did not just disappear, however. While Taylor went back to New York City and her stage work, a small but loyal group of viewers mounted a letterwriting campaign on behalf of the show. The Virginia based Viewers for Quality Television lobbied NBC to resume the series, and an astounding 80,651 fans voted for Ill Fly Away in TV Guide s annual Save Our Shows poll. This ground swell of popularity led producers at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to buy the 39 existing segments of the series and to create a new made-for-television movie as a denouement. In Ill Fly Away: Then and Now, first broadcast in 1993, Taylor reprised her role as Lilly, showing how the former maid became a successful writer and lecturer in the wake of the civil rights movement advances.

Developed as Actress, Playwright

Having bid Lilly farewell, Taylor continued her work as an actress and a playwright. She has appeared in several feature films, including Clockers, Courage Under Fire, and The Negotiator, and she has also made several television appearances, including roles in the 1997 series Feds, and the 2001-02 series The Education of Max Bickford. In 1999 she played the role of Anita Hill in the Showtime original film Strange Justice, about the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Clarence Thomas. Increasingly, however, Taylor has devoted most of her time to the stage, both as actress and playwright. A regular performer on the stage in Chicago and New York, she has increasingly acted in her own plays Early in 1994 she appeared Off-Broadway in Escape from Paradise, a one-woman show she wrote herself. In a review of the production, New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote: As a whole, Escape from Paradise emanates an appealing wistfulness that lingers. Ms. Taylor has yet to find the theatrical polish to match her ambitions. But the pursuit of those ambitions bears watching. Taylor has since had several of her plays appear on Broadway, including Crowns in 2002 and Drowning Crow in 2004. Both plays explore, in different ways, the relationships between African Americans and the images they have of themselves.

Taylor told Back Stage West writer Anne Louise Bannon that her acting and writing go hand in hand. I think one informs the other, she said. As an actor, I feel like I can write very good dialogue. I know that the actors can fill moments around the words. As an actor, I learned how to break apart a script. On the other hand, going back [to being a playwright] helps me in being able to figure out or plot my character in a piece, filling in a piece. She has been able to nurture both sides of her career at Chicagos Goodman Theatre, where she has worked as an artistic associate since 1995.

Regina Taylor remains mute on the subject of her romantic attachments and her home life in general. She splits her time between New York City, Chicago, and wherever her plays are running, and she is always willing to relocate for movie or television work. Undeniably, Ill Fly Away has enhanced Taylors marketability as a serious, committed artist; its also made her a celebrity. Asked how she feels about the fame she has reaped from her work on Ill Fly Away, the actress admitted that she was startled by it and not entirely comfortable being so well-known. People are starting to come up and start conversations, she told USA Today. I still wonder why theyre talking to me. She added, Its hard for me to give up my bohemian status. Ten years from now, Ill still be exploring.

Selected works

Films

Lean on Me, 1989.

Jersey Girl, 1992.

Losing Isaiah, 1995.

Courage Under Fire, 1996.

The Negotiator, 1998.

Plays

Watermelon Rinds, 1991.

Escape from Paradise, 1994.

Ties That Bind: A Pair of One-Act Plays, 1995.

Oo-Bla-Dee, 2000.

Urban Zulu Mambo, 2001.

Crowns, 2002.

Drowning Crow, 2003.

Television

Crisis at Central High, 1981.

Howard Beach: Making a Case for Murder, 1989.

Ill Fly Away, 1991.

Ill Fly Away: Then and Now, 1993.

Feds, 1997.

Strange Justice, 1999.

Cora Unashamed, 2000.

The Education of Max Bickford, 2001.

Sources

Periodicals

Back Stage West, November 9, 2000, p. 12.

Emerge, September 1992, p. 35.

Essence, March 1992, p. 42; March 2004, p. 128.

New York, September 28, 1992, p. 61; October 11, 1993, p. 79.

New Yorker, December 16, 2002, p. 104.

New York Times, October 11, 1993, p. C16; February 18, 1994, p. C19.

People, March 23, 1992, pp. 75-6.

Time, October 11, 1993, pp. 82-3.

USA Today, December 24, 1991, p. D3.

Anne Janette Johnson and Tom Pendergast

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"Taylor, Regina 1959(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Taylor, Regina 1959(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-regina-1959-0

"Taylor, Regina 1959(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-regina-1959-0

Taylor, Regina 1959–

Regina Taylor 1959

Actress, writer

At a Glance

Forsook Journalism for Shakespeare

Garnered Critical Success

Sources

As the star of televisions Ill Fly Away, Regina Taylor has successfully established herself as a dramatic actress. Through her role on the award-winning television show, she has helped dispel myths about black domestic servants during the early days of the civil rights struggle in the South. Emerge magazine contributor Mary Helen Washington noted Taylors Ill Fly Away character was one of the most intelligent, independent and courageous women on American TV.

Taylor echoed that opinion in an Essence interview when she said: In terms of fully exploring a female character, I believe I have the best television role for a woman, black or white. Yet few people in any walk of life will say less about themselves than Regina Taylor. In interviews she refuses to discuss her private life and will not give her age, preferring, instead, to talk about the characters she portrays and their lives as she has imagined them.

Prior to landing the coveted part, Taylor had worked principally on stage, doing everything from one-woman shows to Shakespeare. I wanted to be the [opera great] Leontyne Price of classical theater, she told People magazine. The role of Lilly Harper in Ill Fly Away provided Taylor with her first national exposure. First aired by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Ill Fly Away made its premier as a two-hour movie in 1991, and then aired weekly in hour-long episodes. The show was an instant success with the television critics, and it garnered numerous nominations for Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and even the Peabody Prize. Taylor was nominated twice for the best-actress Emmy Award, and she won the 1993 Golden Globe Award for best actress in a dramatic series.

An only child, Taylor was born in Dallas, Texas, and was raised by her mother, a Social Security Administration employee. A job transfer resulted in mother and daughter moving to Oklahoma when Regina was in the second grade. Asked about her childhood, Taylor told People: I developed an active imagination very young and was always writing plays and musicals. Her mother was an inspiration. She taught me never to set limits on who I could be.

Taylors mother also instilled pride and a sense of justice in her young daughter. Regina needed that pride when, in 1972, she became a seventh grader at a school that had only recently been integrated. On her first day of class she was seated next to a white girl who promptly told the teacher: I do not want to

At a Glance

Born c. 1959, in Dallas, TX; daughter of Nell (a social worker) Taylor. Education: Southern Methodist University, B.A., 1981.

Actress and writer, 1981. Principal stage work includes Doctor Faustus, 1988, Romeo and Juliet, 1989, and Escape from Paradise, 1994. Principal television work includes Crisis at Central High, 1981, Howard Beach: Making the Case for Murder, 1989, and 111 Fly Away, 1991-93. Film work includes Lean on Me, 1989. Author of play Escape From Paradise.

Selected awards: Emmy Award nomination, best lead actress in a dramatic series, 1992,1993; Golden Globe award, Hollywood Foreign Press Association nomination, and Image Award nomination, all for best actress in a drama series, all 1993, all for Ill Fly Away.

Addresses: Office c/o National Broadcasting Company, Inc., 3000 W. Alameda Blvd., Burbank, CA 91523.

sit next to this nigger. Taylor was completlely stunned by the pronouncement and taken aback by the girls seething hatred. I thought, How can she hate me when she doesnt know me? Taylor recalled in People. The memory of that incident stayed with Taylor, helping her to understand the people of her mothers generation who lived with that kind of intoleranceand moreevery day.

Forsook Journalism for Shakespeare

After high school, Taylor enrolled at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, planning to study journalism and creative writing. On a whim she took an acting class and found that she liked it much better than her journalism classes. She also had recognizable talent. Even while she was still a student she earned her first important role, in a made-for-television movie called Crisis at Central High. In that show, produced in 1981, Taylor appears as one of the black students affected by the landmark integration of a Little Rock, Arkansas, high school.

Taylor earned her bachelors degree in 1981, and immediately left for New York City with the goal of becoming a professional actress. Joining the ranks of the struggling artists, she found herself sharing a two-room flat with three other people and using a makeshift bed on a rotating basis.

I fell in love with the city, she told People. She made ends meet by working as a housekeeper and later found employment with a firm that refurbished homes and apartments. At every opportunity she auditioned for stage roles, and very slowly, she began making her way into important parts.

Taylors big break came in the mid-1980s, when she was accepted into New York City-based Shakespeare Festival Company, a prestigious group that stages classical plays under the guidance of important American directors. One of these directors was the late Joseph Papp, an innovator who believed in nontraditional casting for the well-known dramas of Shakespeare. It was Papp who assigned Taylor the part of Juliet in a 1987 staging of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. The actress thus became the first woman of color to appear as Juliet on Broadway, a significant professional achievement.

The stage work led to television roles as well. Taylor portrayed an attorney in the starring role of the made-for-television movie Howard Beach: Making a Case for Murder in 1989. She then proved her range as an actress by appearing in the feature film Lean on Me as a recovering crack addict. She had returned to New York City and her theater work when she was called to audition for the role of Lillian Harper in VII Fly Away in 1990.

Garnered Critical Success

Taylor immediately recognized the Lilly character as that rarest of opportunitiesthe chance to play a well-drawn black woman on television. Lilly is a composite of many women, the actress told Essence. The role has connection to my relatives and others who had to sit at the back of the bus or drink from a water fountain marked FOR COLOREDS. I refuse to let her slip into somebodys mammy [derogatory name for a white childs black nanny] myth. Although Lilly is a housekeeper responsible for three white children, the show also explores Lillys family life and her personal sacrifices in the quest for civil rights. An aspiring writer, Lilly begins and ends each episode quoting from entries in her journal, and the show addresses such sensitive topics as white supremacist Ku Klux Klan activities, legal injustices, and lynching.

Taylor told USA Today that portraying Lilly was very educational to her. I knew something about the time, she said. But its one thing to have second-hand knowledge and another to take on the character. In a sense, I live her life. But when I go home, I go in the front door. Im afforded certain rights that Lillian could only dream about. She added that Ill Fly Away is film quality. All of us are challenged by it. New York media critic John Leonard wrote of the series: il Fly Away doesnt so much transcend as it accretes, by scruple and witness. Were watching Lilly think her way to heroism. In this incremental history of Americaa story about something else besides what white men do in the daytimeLillys is the defining intelligence.

Unfortunately, Ill Fly Away failed to attract a large enough audience to sustain it. Mary Helen Washington, for one, felt that the show spent too much time developing the white characters and not enough time on Lilly and her peers. The critic asked: Isnt it ironic that black people, who produced, directed, cast, and starred in the original Civil Rights Movement, have become minor players in its dramatic reenactment? Isnt it tragic that after all the protests, all the freedom songs, and all the marches against white domination, black images in media are still largely controlled by whites? Although the show finally did attract a sizeable black viewership in its second season, it was moved from time period to time period, sent on hiatus, and finally dropped by NBC in 1993.

Ill Fly Away did not just disappear, however. While Taylor went back to New York City and her stage work, a small but loyal group of viewers mounted a letter-writing campaign on behalf of the show. The Virginia-based Viewers for Quality Television lobbied NBC to resume the series, and an astounding 80, 651 fans voted for Ill Fly Away in TV Guides annual Save Our Shows poll. This ground swell of popularity led producers at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to buy the 39 existing segments of the series and to create a new made-for-television movie as a denouement. In Ill Fly Away: Then and Now, first broadcast in 1993, Taylor reprised her role as Lilly, showing how the former maid became a successful writer and lecturer in the wake of the civil rights movement advances.

Having bid Lilly farewell, Taylor is hard at work in New York again. Early in 1994 she appeared Off-Broadway in Escape From Paradise, a one-woman show she wrote herself. In a review of the production, New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote: As a whole, Escape From Paradise emanates an appealing wistfulness that lingers. Ms. Taylor has yet to find the theatrical polish to match her ambitions. But the pursuit of those ambitions bears watching. Taylors dreams may yet be fulfilled, because although canceled, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) made plans to air segments of Ill Fly Away periodically, even though its budget does not provide funding for further episodes.

Regina Taylor remains entirely mute on the subject of her romantic attachments and her home life in general. She still lives in New York City, although she is always willing to relocate for movie or television work. Undeniably, Ill Fly Away has enhanced Taylors marketability as a serious, committed artist; its also made her a celebrity. Asked how she feels about the fame she has reaped from her work on Ill Fly Away, the actress admitted that she was startled by it and not entirely comfortable being so well-known. People are starting to come up and start conversations, she told USA Today. I still wonder why theyre talking to me. She added, Its hard for me to give up my bohemian status. Ten years from now, Ill still be exploring.

Sources

Emerge, September 1992, p. 35.

Essence, March 1992, p. 42.

New York, September 28, 1992, p. 61; October 11, 1993, p. 79.

New York Times, October 11, 1993, p. C16; February 18, 1994, p. C19.

People, March 23, 1992, pp. 75-6.

Time, October 11, 1993, pp. 82-3.

USA Today, December 24, 1991, p. D3.

Anne Janette Johnson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Taylor, Regina 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Taylor, Regina 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-regina-1959

"Taylor, Regina 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-regina-1959