Drew Hayden Taylor is one of Canada's leading Indigenous playwrights and humorists. His award-winning plays have been produced in Canada, the United States, and Europe, and his novels have been nominated for several awards, including the Governor General’s Award for fiction. He has also written numerous scripts for television series including The Beachcombers, North of 60, and Mixed Blessings. Taylor's writings are a significant part of the Indigenous cultural renaissance that has been gathering momentum since the 1980s.
In 1982 Taylor graduated from Seneca College, Toronto, with a diploma in radio and television broadcasting. After graduating, he worked in radio as native affairs reporter for the CBC. In print journalism he contributed articles to a large number of magazines and newspapers, an activity that continues to this day. In television he worked as a consultant on several series, and wrote scripts for The Beachcombers, Street Legal, and North of 60. Humour figures in all Taylor's work, eliciting laughter while exploding stereotypes and exposing bitter truths.
Taylor learned the craft of playwriting during his two-year involvement (from 1989 to 1991) with an Indigenous theatre company, the De-Ba-Jeh-Mu-Jig Theatre Group on Ontario's Manitoulin Island, under the mentorship of director Larry Lewis. He began his exploration in three plays from that period. Toronto at Dreamer's Rock (1989) places three Indigenous youth from the past, present, and future on an ancient site of vision quests. There they struggle to understand how Indigenous identity can survive under the pressure of the settler culture. The Bootlegger Blues (1990) was Taylor's response to a challenge from Lewis to write a comedy about Indigenous life. Someday (1991) is a bittersweet story of the reunion of an Indigenous mother and the grownup child who had been forcibly taken away from her by the authorities to be adopted by a white family.
Taylor has had a long association with Canada's premier urban Indigenous theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts Inc (Toronto), serving as playwright-in-residence from 1988 to 1989 and as artistic director from 1994 to 1997. His plays have been widely produced in Canada, the United States, Germany, and Italy. They have received several awards, including the Chalmers Award for Toronto at Dreamer's Rock in 1992 and the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth in 1996. He has published Fearless Warriors, a collection of short stories, and four collections of humorous writings under the running title Funny, You Don't Look Like One. Since 1997 he has organized the Whetung Storytellers Festival and the Whetung Music Festival at the Curve Lake First Nation.
Taylor has also worked on over 17 documentaries about the Indigenous experience, including Redskins, Tricksters and Puppy Stew (2000), a documentary on Indigenous humour for the National Film Board of Canada, which he wrote and directed. In 2007 Taylor co-created the television comedy series Mixed Blessings. He also wrote a made-for-television movie based on his play In a World Created by a Drunken God (2006). The play was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, while the movie was nominated for three Gemini Awards.
Taylor’s first novel, The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel, was published in 2007 by Annick Press. A teen novel about an Ojibway vampire, the work was nominated for a number of awards. His novel Motorcycles & Sweetgrass (2010) was nominated for a Governor General’s Award for fiction. Taylor also compiled and edited the anthologies Me Funny (2005) and Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality (2008). In 2010 Talon Books published a collection of Taylor’s articles and essays under the title News: Postcards from the Four Directions. The following year saw the publication of his comedic play Dead White Writer on the Floor (2011).
Taylor's writings are a significant part of the Indigenous cultural renaissance that has been gathering momentum since the 1980s. In 2004 he was appointed by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Ontario to the Minister's Advisory Council for Arts and Culture, and in 2009 he received the Canada Council Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award. Taylor also serves on the jury for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, a writing and visual arts competition for youth of Indigenous descent. He has been the writer-in-residence at the University of Michigan, University of Western Ontario, the University of Luneburg (Germany), and Ryerson University. He has travelled widely throughout North America and overseas, lecturing on native theatre in Canada at conferences, running workshops, and reading from his work at authors' festivals.
Awards and Honours
Chalmers Award (1992) for Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock
Canadian Authors Association Literary Award (1992) for The Bootlegger Blues
Dora Mavor Moore Award (1996) for Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth
Nominated for Governor General’s Award (2006) for In a World Created by a Drunken God
Nominated for Rand McNally Best Aboriginal Book of the Year (2007) for The Night Wanderer
Independent Publisher Book Award (2008) for The Night Wanderer
Nominated for Governor General’s Award (2010) for Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award (2009)