Regina Taylor’s spectacular gospel musical, Crowns, premiered one decade ago, and audiences and critics have been raving about the hit musical ever since. The story chronicles the journey of young Yolanda as she travels from Chicago to South Carolina following a family tragedy, and details the spiritual connections she makes along the way. Now, Goodman Theatre has the high honor of celebrating the 10th anniversary of this soaring musical with an expanded production featuring a fleshed-out cast performing new choreography and never-before-heard songs. Much like Yolanda’s journey, writer and director Regina Taylor has undergone her own journey with Crowns. We sat down with her to discuss the experiences and impact this show has had on her own life.
Q: How have you been shaped by your journey with Crowns?
A: I feel very blessed and fortunate to work on this piece with the talented ensemble that we have. Coming back to the piece has been such a joy. Everyone—actors, designers—have been so open with their gifts and are filling it with life. I’m discovering new things everyday with the piece. The backbone of Crowns remains strong but I’m constantly discovering new ways of fleshing it out.
Q: Yolanda’s experience helps her connect to her African roots. At what point did you find your connection?
A: I’ve always felt rooted. It runs through me. It’s the nod of my head, the sway of my walk, my “mmhmm’s…” The traditions found in food, in hats, in the rhythms of music; it permeates every part of my life and crosses over many cultures and permeates American culture. This Africanness is bound to who we are as Americans.
Q: What’s the story behind your favorite hat?
A: My favorite hat was the first hat I bought for myself that I wore to the very first opening of Crowns 10 years ago. It was a large-brimmed, asymmetrical hat with iridescent feathers and netting—it was quite substantial.