How Lili Taylor, Actress and Birder, Spends Her Sundays


Lili Taylor likes birds. She has even taken to toting around a five-pound pair of bins (Audubon Society slang for binoculars) nearly everywhere.

These days, the actress is also toting around a binder that contains a 53-page monologue she’s performing about American privilege, “The Fever.” Written and originally performed 30 years ago by the playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, the show is playing through Oct. 24 at the Minetta Lane Theater and will be available on Audible next year.

“It’s timely,” Ms. Taylor said. “Even more so than when Wally last narrated it back in ’07 as the crash was heating up. We’re all wading around in a different sort of uncomfortableness now.”

Moments of comfort do, of course, occur for Ms. Taylor, like the dog blessing (a sort of canine christening) she recently learned about while strolling through her Brooklyn neighborhood. She promptly took the family pet, a Shih Tzu-Chihuahua named Oreo, to the sacred gathering. “The Reverend was young and excited and committed — a lovely reminder of what’s still possible in this ever-changing city.”

Ms. Taylor, 54, lives in Cobble Hill with her husband, the writer Nick Flynn, 61, their daughter, Maeve, 13, and Oreo.

SERIOUS COFFEE I start out with espresso at 6:30 or 8. Maybe I’ll add some oat milk to it later on — around my fourth cup. Yep, that’s where I’m at. I have a Pavoni, which is a wild-looking Italian machine with a big lever and a small margin of error. Experts would say there’s things wrong with my cups of coffee; but that’s OK. Nonconnoisseurs are impressed. It’s my second eBay Pavoni — paid about $600. It’s serious.

WATCHING When I’m home rather than out filming on location in New Mexico or something, come 11 a.m., I am so at Maeve’s soccer game, yelling and reveling in the regularness with the other parents. Before heading to the loud field, though, I open the screen on my bedroom window and sit on the radiator cover quietly. I can look out the window for a long time on Sundays. If I look long enough, all these surprises start happening. Like the other weekend, an ovenbird and seven Northern Flickers and a couple unusual catbirds stopped in to fuel up on my red chokeberries and high-bush berries.

DON’T CANCEL! I am concerned people might think I’m a pervert. Yep, my fear has been that somebody is going to post on Nextdoor and say, “That chick who’s always wearing black and leaning out her window — it’s time to cancel her.” So I really try and keep my Zeiss bins angled in such a way that communicates: “I am not looking in your window! I’m just that girl who likes birds.”

KEEPING THE PEACE When I moved my Squirrel Buster bird feeder a couple Sundays ago, an irate woman came out of the building adjacent mine and just started screaming to my first-floor neighbor, “How dare she put that feeder there. We have to keep this area clean!” It can come down so fast. I don’t want to give birds — or anybody else — a bad name.

BIRD AMBASSADOR When Audubon realized I was into birds, they put me on their board. It’s exciting for actors to get asked to do something so official. And the Audubon people get a kick out of me because I don’t understand half of what they’re talking about. But they had me speak with Representative John Katko about the infrastructure bill last month because, in a way now, I’m an ambassador for birds.

THE PARK After my mandatory afternoon nap, I walk to Fare and Folk on Henry Street, picking up yet another coffee en route. For me, the park is the intersection of people and wildlife: I can watch the blue jay that’s upset about something; the two people smoking a joint and looking really blasted. Who are they? What’s going on? Just musing.

BACK ONSTAGE I work on Sundays. At the moment, it’s “The Fever” matinee in the Village. If I’m running a bit late, I’ll ride Maeve’s bike to Borough Hall to catch the train. What I like about this play is it asks questions to which there are no easy answers. Questions like: “How do my actions impact the housekeeper in Guatemala or that roadside fruit vendor in Liberia or whatever?”

DOMESTIC TASKS One day a couple of years ago I realized I didn’t feel like cooking anymore. Just didn’t have it in me. So, Nick has been great — he cooked chicken with prunes and apricots the other Sunday. After dinner I’ll write out Maeve’s schedule for the next week on the white eraser board on the fridge, which I like to do. Now that Maeve is 13, she retreats into her room faster. So, after we’ve had our little five minutes together, I’m back by my bedroom window reviewing “The Fever” script.

BEDTIME I try to get into bed by 10:30; but I don’t go to sleep until after midnight. I’m in a “Jane Eyre” mode. Can’t leave it — that’s just where I’m at. There are like seven scenes with Rochester I’ve been replaying and replaying for over a month. Brontë is quite erotic, I think — the tension is so well-crafted.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Lili Taylor on Twitter or Instagram @lilitaylor.