Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Devin Taylor

Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Devin Taylor

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF DEFINED

I am a contributing writer and Assistant Stage Manager.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

I think it’s the way these stories are told through the Naked I series that is important. One thing common to all marginalized groups is the expectation that any individual can and should speak on behalf of their entire community. This restrictive way of “listening” is a passive form of oppression. It creates tension among individuals and an impulse to override the speech of others within our shared community out of fear of being misrepresented to the mainstream. The blended voices of THE NAKED I are united in message, while maintaining individuality of voice. The message of the overall production remains dialectical and constructive, while giving voice to the subjective, the personal, and the radical.

The power of performance is everything when you are trying to make people think. Not everyone integrates new information in the same way or at the same level, and people vary in their ability to adjust their way of thinking and their capacity to accept change. The multitude of stimuli afforded through the art of theatre creates a powerful means of penetrating the consciousness of all types of minds and personalities from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

I don’t think the significance of THE NAKED I is entirely didactic, though. From what I’ve observed in my work on the production, it has a powerful ability to create community for those looking for community. Sometimes, that is the best thing art can give.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an intense fear of making noise. Even as an adult, I often have trouble communicating because I panic at the sound of my own voice. I learned to write at an early age and that became a safe way for me to privately express feelings and ideas, and to record the events and details of imaginary worlds and characters that filled my daydreams. I never thought of it as anything I would share, until much later.

Growing up, I tried my hand at most areas of the arts (music, movement, visual arts), and I developed an appreciation for theatre because it combined them all. I came to realize that it allowed writers to demonstrate their craft in a visible and audible way, like other artists—one that doesn’t just depend on the interpreter’s willingness to read and interpret text. When I went off to college and began studying writing, a beloved professor turned me on to the genre of creative nonfiction and I began to understand the power of shared personal experience.

I’m still reluctant to share deeply personal writing outside trusted writing groups—but I remember the relief and gratitude I’ve often felt upon reading or hearing that perfect piece of writing at the perfect time—the sense of connection and the vulnerability entrusted to me, the reader/listener. I also remember those moments when someone else’s perspective, born of experience vastly different from mine, made it impossible for me to go on thinking about something the way I always had. It’s my hope that I, in harmony with the astonishing work of the other NAKED I artists, might challenge, inspire, comfort, and connect people in a similar way.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

I consider myself an advocate of neurodiversity, and while I have seen this concept increasingly tacked on to discussions of intersectionality, I think we have a long way to go toward realizing it in practice. It is a frontier that people are still largely afraid to approach due to lack of personal understanding and deeply embedded social and cultural stigma. In a similar vein, equal opportunity in education has also become a major passion of mine. It’s a big part of what keeps pulling me back into special education. I think every student deserves to go as far as they can, without being held back by the effects of poverty, language barriers, learning differences, or the fear of violence or ostracism based on some aspect of their identity.

Working toward a more inclusive feminist movement is also important to me. Acknowledging the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender identity is an important step, and one that projects like THE NAKED I strive to achieve.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

There are really too many to name, and it would invariably send me off on a tangent not related to my involvement with THE NAKED I!

Thinking about collaborative productions, which encompass multiple genres, voices, and identities, Eve Ensler comes to mind. As an undergraduate, I performed in a campus production of The Vagina Monologues. It was the first time I had encountered work that
empowered and prioritized the types of voices and experiences represented in the
collection. It was the first time I’d seen them be anything but mocked or censored. You don’t easily forget the first time you don’t feel quite so ashamed and afraid to be you. You never forget the first time you feel powerful for it.

In general, I am inspired by people who create art against the odds or in reaction to personal adversity. I’m inspired by those who spend their creative and intellectual efforts in the humble act of teaching, molding, and nurturing others.

What’s your favorite hangout spot and why?

Book stores, libraries, anywhere quiet. Honestly, I love being home by myself. I love and appreciate the people in my life, but when I don’t get time with myself, I really, really miss me.

When not involved in this production, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies? 

By day, I’m a teaching assistant in special education. By night, I’m a personal care assistant to a young woman with autism. I fit in theatre work whenever I can. I spend a good amount of time editing academic writing for friends and colleagues, and my goal is to spend more time completing my own writing projects. I devote my spare time to staying fit, volunteering, and supporting the local performing arts.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on? 

I hope to be involved in 20% Theatre’s 2016 production of Q-STAGE in May.