Regina Taylor stars in Crowns

The unification of African American history, culture and tradition is revitalized in the Crowns gospel musical. Crowns is a musical adapted from a book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.

Actress-writer Regina Taylor has brought the musical to Chicago, with local actress Marketta Wilder in the lead role. Crowns opens at the Goodman Theatre June 30 and runs through Aug. 5. For more information, visit

–lydia k. nesmith

Regina Taylor and actress Marketta Wilder

What was your intro to the theater?

I have always been a writer, since the age of 5. My appreciation for acting grew during my college years. I enjoyed the chemistry of acting which allows one to step into a role, a different life we as people share and take on journeys through acting, coming from those journeys with a fuller perspective of the world.

What inspired you to do Crowns again?

The Goodman Theater asked me to revisit Crowns. I moved to Chicago to find unification of place. I want to connect with the current issues of Chicago communities. I want to address the gang violence which shatters families. I have synced this Crowns production to Chicago; Yolanda is now a 17-year-old from Englewood.

What is the message of Crowns?

Crowns reflects the symmetry of life and its situations. In this story, Yolanda moved to the South where she is introduced to “Hat Queens.” These are women who own 100 or more large-brim hats. Each hat is a marker of life’s events. Under the brim are struggles. … Yolanda returns to Chicago with open eyes.

How did you did you find your cast for this Crowns production?

I knew I wanted Chicago actors. Marketta Wilder, a new graduate from Illinois State University, came to an open call. I was blown away! Marketta is ferocious! She is truly an amazing artist. I knew I wanted each woman for this project. I invited them individually to lunch and asked if they would take this journey with me.

What type of inspiration can be found in Crowns?

The poetry of the Bible. The sounds of field hollers, blues, jazz syncing with American musical traditions such as hip-hop music. … Crowns is a collage of images of black culture.

How do you find balance between theater, film and screen?

Between the four-year run with “The Unit,” I wrote plays. For this moment, I have stepped away from the screen, and I [have] signed with Signature Theater in New York City to write three new plays.