NEW YORK CITY
April 4, 2011
My appeal begins and remains directed towards theatre practitioners in America. I write in defense of innovation. I write in defense of our patrons and our audience. I write in defense of our predecessors and their achievements. I write in defense of our theaters’ future, of our theatre.
In lieu of Julie Taymor’s latest work, the public outcry from the theatre community, on behalf of the actors and performers, is justified. Unions need to adapt in the changing industry. As do the production companies who are financing and supporting the collective of artists involved. However, what lessons are we really learning from these events? Mistakes occur, yes, but how do we identify and understand the lessons involved?
More than anyone, the theatre community must adapt. That point, sadly, has become evident. We possess an awareness, the capacity to change and evolve in ways most people, including fellow theatre artists, have yet to realize.
The outcry over problems surrounding SPIDERMAN: Turn Off The Dark made sense, but only to a certain point and concerning elements usually kept out of the public’s view. (By this, I mean, how often do you have your tech week open to the press and for the public to watch?) What began as legitimate issues turned into a backlash deliberately fueled by news propaganda and gossip. The critical response went beyond reason. And now, under the full weight of its consequence, what has been achieved?
The resulting events will only negate the efforts and abilities for the visionaries capable of adapting and evolving theatre in the 21st Century.
Failure lies not with Julie Taymor, nor with her production, but with each of us who remain silent. I witnessed the very people who employ a skepticism for theatre critics buy into the critical responses written — often more than twice daily in the New York Times, I must add. People who actually went to SEE the production, and who wrote about it, gave an entirely misleading impression of the experience. I can say this confidently now that I have finally seen the show for myself, this past Friday, April 1st. (I hope to see it again before it closes mid-April for “renovations,” absent the visionary behind the elements that make the show worth the price of admission.) Furthermore, any one interested in effectively implementing multimedia technology with a theatrical design platform? You owe it to yourself to witness this production. Sadly, there are less than 16 performances left.
Yes, I appeal to the theatre community to share accountability for denying Taymor’s production the chance to be realized when it is so close. No one spoke to the reality of the logistical elements necessary for its creation. I ask this question genuinely: Why?
Can we not have consideration for the logical problems it faced? My Goodness, any person who has staged a show, on Broadway or in a community center, at least has an understanding for the way unexpected problems arise. Knowing how the technical elements demanded the complete renovation of the Foxwoods Theater, I cannot fathom the extent of scrutiny over its development issues. Are we not well aware of how many Broadway houses lack the structural and engineering capacity to support a lot of modern technical designs? Let alone, the unprecedented and awesome concepts apropos of the team of designers working with Taymor for this production? It had to be built IN-HOUSE. Developing it elsewhere and then, once it had worked thru all the kinks, importing its staging to Broadway was an impassable obstacle. It boggles my mind to think that we expected this show to be farmed and harvested for Broadway the same way GUYS AND DOLLS or BOOK OF MORMON has been.
Have we allowed ourselves to become so blinded by convention and by antiquated traditions that everything making this show a valuable contribution to the theatrical arts has been ignored? Or are we forgetting what got us here in the first place? André Antoine and Alfred Jarry, Adolphe Appia and Gordon Craig, F.T. Marinetti and the Futurists, Tristan Tzara and the DaDaists; Erwin Piscator, Antonin Artaud, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Frederico García Lorca; and the women like Velska Gert, Vesta Tilly, Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein; and from them, we have the precedents for Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, Samuel Beckett, Pina Bauche, Judith Malina, Merce Cunningham, Peter Schuman, Richard Foreman, Bob Fosse… These are only a few of the names offering a brief glimpse reminding us of what the Editors and Writers for The New York Times either ignorantly or maliciously forget to acknowledge. They do not have to concern themselves about such chicanery because THEY are The New York Times.
Who dares to question them? Who dares to speak up when the Emperor has no clothes?
Strange how meanwhile, The NYT articles will eagerly invoke the names of Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Miller, Williams, etc… We would have none of their preferred, and often referenced, geniuses had it not been for effort and risk.
No one expects our general audience to be well versed in the rich history and precedents from late 19th and 20th century’s theatrical theory and practice. Many, however, possess a solid understanding and wealth of knowledge. Theatre artists know the danger of underestimating their audiences’ intelligence. The news media and press, on the contrary, risk nothing by presuming otherwise and no one holds them accountable. Denying their readers of the relevant information about SPIDERMAN: Turn Off The Dark, and instead, offering selective bits in order to substantiate their critical opinions, to the New York Times, I shout, “CALUMNY!”
Yes, I hold The New York Times accountable for engaging in a pernicious campaign to achieve a biased editorial objective. This has remained evident in the coverage and criticisms of Op/Ed articles published in the print newspaper and online blogs. Furthermore, the cumulative coverage apropos of Taymor and Spiderman, reveals how they dared to presume an ignorance of the readers and theaters’ audience, and did consciously manipulate those who trusted in this “journalism.”