Drew Hayden Taylor
Self Isolated Artist
Cylla von Tiedemann
I had heard of playwright Drew Hayden Taylor as his play ‘Cottagers and Indians’ was to have been presented this summer by Port Perry Ontario’s Theatre on the Ridge. Unfortunately, the production was canceled so I am hoping it will take place next summer. When Drew sent me his CV, I was sorely mistaken when I thought he was a playwright.
Self-described as a contemporary storyteller, Drew’s exploration of the storytelling tradition has crossed many boundaries. He has written more than twenty plays (resulting in almost a hundred productions). As a playwright, Drew has proudly been a part of what he refers to as the contemporary Native Literary Renascence. In the world of prose, he enjoys spreading the boundaries of what is considered Indigenous literature.
Drew and I conducted our interview via email:
1. It has been nearly three months right now that we have been under this lockdown. How have you been doing during this period of isolation and quarantine? How is your immediate family doing?
Life in the age of Covid is annoying and somewhat difficult but overall, things are fine. I go back and forth to my reserve north of Peterborough, Ontario, and Toronto for a change of scenery but overall, life as a writer I am used to long periods of isolation. One of my best memories was spending a month in the Leighton Studios in Banff…but three months is getting kind of ridiculous. I am so sick of my own cooking. Also, I am jonesing for a play/movie/restaurant or something like that.
2. Were you involved or being considered for any projects before the pandemic was declared and everything was shut down?
Oh God, I think I’ve had four, maybe five productions of my work shut down this spring and fall, and about a good six to eight speaking engagements canceled. One of the projects I’m working on is a documentary series for APTN and we are several segments short of finishing the 13 episodes. Add to that I was to have a talk how on APTN too that was postponed. As a result, it has been a pretty quiet spring.
3. What has been the most difficult and/or challenging element of this period of isolation for you?
I used to travel a lot. I love crossing this country and this world spreading the Gospel of Indigenous Literature. Some writers hate that, but I actually quite enjoy it. Ah, for the smell of jet fuel engine.
4. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lockdown?
Well, I’ve written a novel. Started work on another anthology in my ‘Me’ series of non-fiction. Developed two plays that I will be starting work on in about a week or two. Planted a garden and put on some weight.
5. Any words of wisdom or sage advice you would give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What about to the new theatre graduates who are just out of school and may have been hit hard? Why is it important for them not to lose sight of their dreams?
I know many performing artists have been hit hard. All I can say is this too shall pass. Soon they’ll be back on stage being underpaid just like it never happened. As a writer, I just tell other writers to put it to good use. As I said, I don’t think I’ve been more productive.
This time next year, there is going to be an explosion of babies, divorces, and novels/plays. Turn something negative into something positive.
6. Do you see anything positive stemming from this pandemic?
I do not know if it’s positive but, up until six weeks ago, I had no idea what ZOOM was. Now I get ZOOMED regularly. And I’ve almost caught up on my reading. And again, I don’t know if it’s positive, but I binged all of the ‘Tiger King’ series.
7. In your estimation and informed opinion, will the Canadian performing arts scene somehow be changed or impacted as a result of COVID – 19? Will streaming/online performances become part of the scene?
Good question. I don’t know. I am not a performing artist…other than lecturing and I have a feeling so much more of that will be done via ZOOM. It’s a lot cheaper and a lot less fuss for the hosts.
8. What is about the arts that COVID will never destroy?
The ability to dream, to imagine.
With a respectful acknowledgment to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews:
a. What is your favourite word?
In which language!?!?!? For the sake of argument, let’s say ‘coobmen’. I am not sure about the spelling but in my community’s dialect of Anishnawbemowin, it means ‘I’ll be seeing you.” There is no word for goodbye where I come from.
b. What is your least favourite word?
c. What turns you on?
d. What turns you off?
e. What sound or noise do you love?
f. What sound or noise bothers you?
g. What is your favourite curse word?
h. What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt?
i. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything involving a cubicle
j. If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?
“Tell me a story.”
To learn more about Drew, visit his website: www.drewhaydentaylor.com.