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Regina Taylor’s Maiden Effort At The Rep Offers ‘Love And Kindness’ In A Pandemic

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The Rep via video screenshot
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The Rep
Regina Taylor appears in "Love and Kindness in the Time of Quarantine," a compilation of nine monologues and songs about life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Regina Taylor began her three-year tenure as playwright-in-residence at the Rep last month with a plan to spur dialogue among different communities of St. Louis.

Taylor’s first effort is “Love and Kindness in the Time of Quarantine,” a compilation of songs and monologues about life during the coronavirus pandemic that she curated and directed.

Nine participating artists recorded their performances, which are linked by Brittany Bland’s video design. The production is available to stream online through Dec. 31.

Several performers and playwrights in the piece are from St. Louis. Others are people Taylor has worked with in the past and reached out to for a COVID-era update. The project aims to help people break through the isolation of social distancing and keep their connections to others intact, Taylor said.

“You have these different people in different places, and we are uniting, in terms of this piece, in this space that is this sacred, theatrical space,” she said. “We can still share stories. We can still connect with people.”

In the monologue Taylor wrote and performed, she plays a woman who drives from New York City to her late mother’s home in St. Louis to wait out the pandemic safely. In a piece written by Isaac Gomez, Karen Rodriguez describes chaotic conditions in El Paso early on in the pandemic. Mariah Richardson performed her own monologue, portraying a woman baking and distributing cupcakes as a way to stay in touch with friends and neighbors.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin spoke with Taylor about “Love and Kindness in the Time of Quarantine,” and asked her why she chose this project as her first collaboration with the Rep as its playwright-in-residence.

Regina Taylor: It’s an introduction to people that I hope to have continued collaborations with as I move forward. I really wanted to have a dialogue with people, other artists, to see where they were, what they wanted to share. You have these very distinct, unique voices.

And it is about where we are right now. We are in the time of COVID. We are in a time of social unrest. We are in a time of great uncertainty — and promise, still. We are enshrouded in darkness and looking for flickers of light.

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The Rep
Regina Taylor became the Rep's playwright-in-residence in October.

Jeremy D. Goodwin: When you reached out to people and asked them to contribute, what instructions did you give them?

Taylor: I said that I am looking for their reflections, for their perspectives on what they’re going through and what we’re all going through. To open up their hearts, their minds. To be brave. To be honest and true to their feelings.

Goodwin: What did you think when you started receiving their pieces?

Taylor: I was delighted with each and every response. I was moved by each and every response. I was moved by their honesty, their bravery — to put yourself out there in a raw and sincere way. And I knew we would have something very special to share.

Goodwin: The piece that you perform is called “Exit Strategy (The Black Album)” and it’s a monologue about a person who lives in a city and travels by car, with a cat, to her family home in St. Louis to quarantine there. Could you speak a little about what inspired the particular angle that you took there?

Taylor: How do you find yourself rooted, in this time when everything is being uprooted? Everything that we know, that we believe in, that we hold onto, everything is being uprooted and turned around. That was the inspiration for the piece. Where do you find some semblance of comfort as you’re trying to figure out what lies ahead?

Goodwin: There is an essence of alienation here in that we’re missing the essential piece of theater, which is sitting in the same room together. But yet these pieces felt so intimate.

Taylor: Absolutely. The question being, how do you continue to be artists, to create, to share, in this time when we are essentially isolated from each other physically? What does that mean, then, to cross the divide, to touch each other through the screen?

We can still feel each other through these works. That’s the challenge. To pierce through time and space, as it were, and isolation.

People who donate to the Rep through the end of the year will be prompted with an option to direct the funds to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.