January 22, 2007

Wave Reviews

Public Radio Host James C. Taylor Critiques Global Theatre

By James Tella, Communications and Public Relations

James Taylor ’97 is the host of Theatre Talk on the Santa Monica-based KCRW public radio station.

For some, attending film school is a chance to delve deeper into their cinematic passion, while for others, like alumnus James Taylor ’97, the discovery of what lies before them is a journey filled with experiences of operatic proportions. Now, 10 years after graduating from USC with a B.A. in production, Taylor is one of Southern California’s most provocative reviewers and commentators on the performing arts.

“I’ve always enjoyed film, theatre, and just the whole art of being entertained, but when I started out, I didn’t really know where my career would lead,” Taylor said. “At USC, I learned that no matter what I was interested in, it was all about taking someone from point A to point B without boring them. It’s about telling a story, and that’s what I’ve always loved to do.”

As host of Theatre Talk on the Santa Monica-based KCRW public radio station, Taylor covers everything from local and professional productions in Los Angeles to shows on the Great White Way, London’s West End, and beyond. His KCRW broadcasts go out every Thursday evening throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as via a host of other stations in Southern California. Audience members can also access his podcasts and written reviews on the station’s Website.

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Taylor credits his USC education, along with the university’s libraries and resources, for helping him discover his passion.

“By requiring only general education courses for my first two years, the film school allowed me to run free and experience everything USC had to offer,” he recalled. “I’ve always been a very curious person, and being so close to the opera and theatre downtown made it so easy to attend class and still enjoy the things I loved. I was even able to receive credit for interning at the Mark Taper Forum. The whole experience was like being in a candy store.”

During his freshman and sophomore years at ’SC, the San Francisco native’s love for plays led him to join productions at the School of Theatre. As an upperclassman, his minor in creative writing and love for an audience led him briefly to offer his services to the Daily Trojan—not as a film reviewer, but as editor of the crime round up. 

“I’d arrange the crime list so that it would slowly build to a crescendo,” he joked. “It was hysterical, but eventually, the editors discovered why I was having so much fun and put an end to it.” After graduation, Taylor began his entertainment career as a film editor, a field he still enjoys today since “belonging to both worlds gives me a reality check so that I’m not trapped in a bubble.”

Taylor’s path in theatrical commentary began with writing reviews for New Times at a time when there were few people his age writing about the performing arts. The experience then led to a stint with the now defunct classical Website andante.com. All along, he drew on his cinematic training to generate straight-forward, insightful observations.

“I know how to put on a show and I understand what a filmmaker is trying to accomplish, so I’m completely honest when it comes to telling people what I think about something I’ve seen,” said Taylor, who directed and edited the short Why Don’t You Dance?, which was featured at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. “Theater is expensive and it’s important to tell folks whether or not they should spend their money on a production.”
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The combination of generating Theatre Talk scripts each week, along with his contributions to the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, and other publications, translates into a hectic schedule for Taylor, but it’s truly a labor of love.

“I’d be attending all these shows even if I wasn’t paid for it,” he laughed. “Though not with the same frequency, of course.”