This fall, Regina Taylor, an award-winning actress, playwright, and director, will join Fordham’s theatre program as the new Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre.
Taylor is known for her role as Lily Harper in the acclaimed 1991 series I’ll Fly Away, where she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Drama in 1993. She most recently starred in the CBS crime drama Elementary, and in Damon Cardasis’ indie flick, Saturday Church, which had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
“I’m very excited about working with Fordham University as the Denzel Washington Chair,” said Taylor. “I’m honored to join the amazing people who have taken this chair in the past and whose work I’ve admired, from Stephen McKinley Henderson to Phylicia Rashad.”
In addition to roles in TV shows such as The Unit and Dig, the Dallas-born actress has also starred in films such as The Negotiator, Losing Isaiah, Lean on Me, and the thriller Courage Under Fire, which also featured Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77. An accomplished playwright and artistic associate of Chicago’s famed Goodman Theatre for 20 years, Taylor has worked on several Broadway and off-Broadway productions. They include As You Like It, Machinal, Jar the Floor, The Illusion, and Romeo and Juliet, where she was the first black woman to play Juliet on Broadway in the classic William Shakespeare play.
Matthew Maguire, the theatre program’s director, described Taylor as a “triple threat” that the Fordham theatre community can learn a lot from.
“Her bio is one of the most important reasons why we selected her for the Denzel Washington Chair,” he said. “She is a major artist, and most importantly, she works in every medium—theatre, film, and TV. But no matter what she’s doing, she always returns to the theatre.”
Taylor will help to kick off the theatre program’s 2017 season by directing a production of her 2009 play, Magnolia, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
Set during the civil rights movement in Atlanta, Georgia in 1963, Taylor’s play chronicles the tensions that sprout after the city’s new mayor builds a wall to prevent black home owners from moving into a white neighborhood. In the midst of this controversy, Lily, a white landowner, returns from Paris to find her family’s Atlanta estate in foreclosure, as businessman Thomas, a descendent of former slaves to the estate, has already made plans for its future.
In her role as director, Taylor will guide and train the Fordham actors who will star in the play, which is a new approach to the Denzel Chair, Maguire said.
“Regina is vastly experienced,” he said. “Students will see her working with designers and other actors. They will also see the freedom with which she approaches a classical work [like The Cherry Orchard through Magnolia].”
Taylor said that although it is set in the sixties, Magnolia speaks to the current political and racial climate.
“Back then, there was a wave of change where you didn’t know what institutions would survive—what needed to change, what we needed to hold onto, or what we needed to let go of,” she said. “It’s the same now. There are great debates happening on all sides.”
Taylor said she hopes the Fordham production of Magnolia will challenge people to think deeply about how we we’ve progressed as a nation.
“I’m looking forward to the conversations and dialogues that I hope this piece will provoke and invoke,” she said.