Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations

Bridging the Gap: Drew Hayden Taylor, Native Canadian Playwright in His Times

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Ronald Shields


In his relatively short career, Drew Hayden Taylor has amassed a significant level of popular and critical success, becoming the most widely produced Native playwright in the world. Despite nearly twenty years of successful works for the theatre, little extended academic discussion has emerged to contextualize Taylor’s work and career. This dissertation addresses this gap by focusing on Drew Hayden Taylor as a writer whose theatrical work strives to bridge the distance between Natives and Non-Natives. Taylor does so in part by humorously demystifying the perceptions of Native people. Taylor’s approaches to humor and demystification reflect his own approaches to cultural identity and his expressions of that identity. Initially this dissertation will focus briefly upon historical elements which served to silence Native peoples while initiating and enforcing the gap of misunderstanding between Natives and non-Natives. Following this discussion, this dissertation examines significant moments which have shaped the re-emergence of the Native voice and encouraged the formation of the Contemporary Native Theatre in Canada. Finally, this dissertation will analyze Taylor’s methodology of humorous demystification of Native peoples and stories on the stage. Of primary focus in this discussion is Taylor’s use of a distinctly Native aesthetic as a means of constructing his works for the theatre, despite surface appearances of primarily western influence. To provide evidence of this Native aesthetic, Taylor’s work and aesthetic goals, as expressed by Taylor, will be explored critically: First through a post-colonial critical framework and then through a Native-centered critical structure. Following these discussions, this study will focus on a textual analysis of several of Taylor’s works for the theatre. These analyses demonstrate the manner in which Taylor actively works to demystify perceptions of Natives by utilizing Native sensibilities of humor, character, story, and setting. This dissertation supplies answers to questions such as: What are the historical elements that serve to foster Taylor’s emergence as a leading voice in Canadian Native theatre? What are Taylor’s personal aesthetic goals for his theatrical work, and do these goals arise from primarily a Western or Native influenced perspective?