Twenty years after joining the Goodman Theatre’s artistic collective, TV and stage star Regina Taylor continues to spark a dialogue with her newest play, stop. reset.
Regina Taylor takes on the challenges of technology and its effect on our lives in her latest play, stop. reset., at the Goodman Theatre starting May 23.
From ’60s-set NBC drama I’ll Fly Away to USA’s new thriller Dig, television has played a big role in Regina Taylor’s career as an actress—and the Goodman Theatre has played a major role in her success as a playwright, mounting 12 of her plays since 1993, including Oo-Bla-Dee, Drowning Crow, and Crowns. This month, Taylor directs her latest show there, stop. reset.
What got you writing this piece?
It started when one of my daily rituals—going to the bookstore, getting coffee, browsing the aisles—was interrupted when the store closed. That made me stop and think about all the changes that are happening at this moment in time: changes in technology, but also what’s erupting in terms of race, gender, sexuality, economics.
How do those thoughts take shape in the play?
The play is about Alexander Ames, an African-American book publisher trying to figure things out as e-books outsell actual books. He decides to downsize. All of his workers are over 40, except the janitor, a semiliterate and tech-brilliant 19-year-old. So you have this 70-year-old man in discussion with a 19-year-old about change, about what the future might look like.
Is your play as much about history and memory as it is about the challenges of technology?
Absolutely. Mr. Ames looks at books as vessels of history and memory. They are how he stays connected to the ancestors. The voices continue to be passed on, palm to palm, through books. So it is about tradition and how we are always being challenged by the next generation and how we deal with the passing on of legacy.
As a theater artist, you must be concerned that your medium is increasingly challenged by digital entertainment options.
Yes. And I started thinking about the portals of storytelling that take us beyond the walls of the theater. So I have been collaborating with others—photographers, writers, composers—who will create their own pieces that relate to the themes of the play. And these pieces will be archived on the Goodman website.
What other strategies have you initiated to expand the conversation the play proposes?
We have been having dinners with people from all walks of life, from sociologists to doctors, at which we discuss changes in their fields. At one we had Haki R. Madhubuti, publisher of Third World Press; Ytasha Womack, writer of Afrofuturism; and Frank Sennett, the director of digital strategy for Crain’s. These are taped and archived as well. Audiences can choose these as entry points to the play, or not. This is really all about challenging traditional audiences and meeting new audiences and new generations where they live. stop.reset. runs May 23-June 21 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., 312-443-3800