Founder and Executive Director, Black Ensemble Theater Company
ackie Taylor was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the Cabrini Green housing project. She rose from modest roots to become a distinguished director, producer, actress, singer, playwright and theater founder. As the Founder of the 39 year old Black Ensemble Theater (BE), she has created a strong institution committed to eradicating racism. BE is recognized throughout the nation for its outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs.
Jackie Taylor has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, including The Marvin Gaye Story, The Jackie Wilson Story, All In Love Is Fair, The Other Cinderella, I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass), Don’t Make Me Over (The Story of Dionne Warwick), Don’t Shed A Tear (The Billie Holiday Story), Somebody Say Amen, At Last: A Tribute To Etta James, Precious Lord Take My Hand; among a myriad of other acclaimed productions.
A phenomenal actress and performer in her own right, Taylor has had featured roles in several major films, including Cooley High, Hoodlum, Barbershop 2, The Father Clements Story, Losing Isiah and To Sir With Love: Part 2. Ms. Taylor also has numerous television and theater credits to her name. She has worked with such greats as Sidney Poitier, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Williams, Bill Dukes, Glynn Thurman and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs just to name a few.
Jackie Taylor recently earned her Master’s degree in Education and received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from DePaul University. An outstanding teacher, Jackie has worked for the Chicago Board of Education, the Illinois Arts Council and Urban Gateways. Through the years, Ms. Taylor has taught every grade level from Kindergarten through major universities.
Taylor serves as the president of the African American Arts Alliance and is on the board of the Betty Shabazz International Schools. The City of Chicago honored her by naming a street after her, Jackie Taylor Street. The former Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, declared March 27, 2009 Jackie Taylor day in Illinois. Taylor has received numerous awards for her work. She has been named one of the top 50 Performers by New City 2014 publication. She was named a Chicago Defender 2013 Women of Excellence Honoree and was included in New City Stage Magazine’s 2013 List of the 50 People Who Really Perform in Chicago. In 2012, Jackie was honored by Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine as one of 100 women to watch and a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. Other honors include a Special Jeff Award for her cultural contributions, a League of Chicago Theater Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the Top 10 in the Arts in the Chicago Sun-Times’ 100 Most Powerful Women; “Producer of the Year” by the National Black Theater Festival and a “Phenomenal Women Award” by Expo for Today’s Black Women. Nationally, she and her work have been featured in Jet, Variety, the New York Times, The Washington Post and Essence.
On September 10, 2010, Ms. Taylor broke ground on the new 20 million dollar Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center which opened on November 18, 2011. Her most prized accomplishments are being the mother of daughter, of Tynea Wright and niece Lexus Dunbar. And an outstanding Grammy to her grandson Tayden McGowan!