Annette Daniels Taylor is a multifaceted theater artist. As a published poet, she has performed her writing all over the city, including this summer’s Silo City Reading Series, presented by Just Buffalo. As an actor, she has worked tirelessly in many companies, as well as an arts educator with Young Audiences of Western New York. Here she shares some thoughts about her life in the theater.
Question: You co-founded a theater company 12 years ago. What was your premiere production?
Answer: I co-founded A Symphony Down in My Soul with Joyce Carolyn and Sandra Gilliam in 2005, when we premiered the musical stage play of the same name. “A Symphony Down in My Soul” took audiences on a journey through American history using poetry and music-filled vignettes; it was my first venture in producing for the stage. We workshopped the production at the Langston Hughes Cultural Institute, Hallwalls, and the former Buffalo Ensemble Theatre before its world premiere production at Alleyway in 2005.
Q: How does writing poetry help you in your theater work?
A: Poetry allows me to write smaller, to consider the music in my language. As playwrights, sometimes we give actors too much information with too many words, instead of more action. When writers do this, they tell actors and directors, “I don’t trust you.” In my work, I like to give actors space to act, to think about how the character we are developing should play the role because I want actors to own their characters. Poetry helps me as a writer, director and actor to get to the essence of the play.
Q: What is a current weakness of Buffalo’s theater industry?
A: Many regular working directors have race and gender in common. This grows the beliefs that white men are the only individuals allowed and able to direct and produce any kind of show and audiences will always attend. Meanwhile those of us who were not raised to be white men can only direct shows written and cast with those who look more like us, whether we are women, Black, Asian, LGBTQ, Middle Eastern, etc. It speaks volumes.
I challenge theater artists to do plays differently, because different, strange and weird is attractive to ticket buyers. If theater keeps doing things the same way all the time, we will always be hungry for new audiences.