In The Rolling Stone, Myra Lucretia Taylor plays Mama, a Christian woman who is influential in her Ugandan church’s congregation. When I asked her before a recent matinee to assess the actions of her character, she replied, “I can’t view her through an outside lens. I can only view her from inside, from the actions that are taken on the page.”
When I ask Taylor to speak to the script itself, she mentioned “the tempo of this text. It’s almost like you could set the scenes to a metronome, because there is a certain meter that has to be maintained.” The play’s language, she added, “is deceptively simple. The syntax is not quite what you think it’s going to be. You’re constantly balancing this naturalism and almost an expressionism at the same time. That’s a challenge and I enjoy it.”
A graduate of Yale College, Taylor’s career has included many challenges and directions. On Broadway, she has appeared in Nine, Macbeth, Electra, and, for LCT, Mule Bone and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Off-Broadway, she has played Prospero in The Tempest and Headmistress Francis in the recent hit School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. She was Madame Morrible in a national tour of Wicked. “I’ve been really really fortunate to get such interesting things to play,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that her variety of roles has not been deliberate. “I’m not someone who says: ‘I’ve got to play this part or that part.’ You make your decisions based on a lot of things. Sometimes, you work because you need the health insurance or to build your pension. Other times, you read something and at that particular time in your life it speaks to you and you have to play it.” She went on: “For me what matters is to work with good people and to have a good work ethic. And to be curious and interested.”
Among her key influences Taylor mentioned Nikos Psacharopoulos, her theater teacher at Yale and the co-founder of the Williamstown Theater Festival. “He was my mentor,” Taylor said. “I spent almost a decade of summers at Williamstown. There, you come into context with a lot of different people: musical people, film people, straight-drama people.”
Taylor said that Psacharopoulos was perhaps not known as a strict technician. “He worked on emotion. It was a feeling he taught about what it meant to be onstage. He would put me up there, and if I did something he liked he would say, ‘Right, Myra!’ You had to earn the air. And you learned to be generous opposite other actors.”
As for the actors in The Rolling Stone, Taylor remarked, “Because there’s no furniture in the play, your orientation is to each other. The emotions become the furniture, become the anchor for the story. You do feel a little naked up there, but that increases the vulnerability and the power of the story.”
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com