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Plumage from Pegasus
by Paul Di Filippo

The Smell of the Griefpaint, the Roar of the Cowed

"Conceived by Tony-winning director Julie Taymor and U2's Bono and the Edge... 'Spider-Man' has been more than eight years in the making. It has been plagued by delays, money woes and [four] accidents. Its official opening has been postponed twice."
—Hillel Italie, "Broadway's 'Spider-Man' running into obstacles," Associated Press, December 21, 2010
"In a press conference marking her untimely departure from Broadway's 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,' Julie Taymor promised that she would emerge unbowed from the expensive and deadly fiasco and continue to seek to adapt great works of imaginative literature to the stage, so long as she could find financial backing. 'I truly believe,' said the sparkling, stylish and wild-eyed impressario, 'that the future of Broadway lies in vast, lurid spectacles derived from comics, science fiction and fantasy properties, preferably corporate-controlled. With original music. By pop stars.'"
—Halal Izzardly, "Broadway's 'Spider-Man' ends disastrous run," Associated Press, April 1, 2012

 
Playbill, September 2013

JULIE Taymor recounts her original inspiration for bringing "Standing on Zanzibar: Scanalyze My Hashtag" to the stage.

"After reading a detailed synopsis of this Hugo-winning novel prepared by my assistants, I realized, 'Wow, we are actually living now in the world John Brynner predicted!' So the total relevance of this project simply compelled me to translate Bronner's vision to Broadway. Plus, his confused widow let the rights go for cheap."

Taymor's production is notable for several innovative adaptations.

First, all the comfortable, stadium-style seating in the Shubert Theater has been ripped up and replaced with rickety wooden stools jammed into the smallest possible space, and surrounded by razor wire. Taymor explains: "This is intended to simulate in the audience the overcrowding that is an essential theme in Branner's novel. The viewer's experience of the action on the stage will be greatly enhanced by the intrusion into their private space of their fellow desperate and uncomfortable global citizens." Those theater-goers should be plenty hungry too, as their arrival is dictated several hours before the actual raising of the curtain, with street doors locked promptly at eight P.M. and latecomers—even those with reserved tickets—turned away.

Likewise, Taymor intends to mimic the experimental "multimedia" construction of the original book by having many simultaneous nodes of action on the stage, with overlapping dialogue, while giant flatscreen monitors display long passages of text essential to understanding the plot.

Finally, a continual mist of human pheromones will bathe the audience, as they cringe from the uncompromising sonic assault of the original soundtrack composed and performed by a reunited Throbbing Gristle.

"Jon Brinner's solution to human rivalry," Taymor enthusiastically riffs, "was for all of us to quit scrubbing and get funky! So put away your deodorant and come on down to the Shubert for a night of immersive Third World reality!"

 
Playbill, January 2016

"There has never been a satisfactory cinematic version of Frank Herbert's 'Dune,'" Julie Taymor opines, as she sips continually from the reservoir of her personal director's stillsuit in the baking conditions inside the Nederlander Theatre. "That's why we felt that it was time for the primitive millennia-old technologies and traditions of live drama to tackle what all the multimillion-dollar CGI of Hollywood has failed to capture, and do Herbert's concepts up right! So we proudly set out to produce 'Annelids of Arrakis: Spice Up Your Life.'"

With that admirable goal in mind, Taymor has converted the interior of the venerable Nederlander into an artificial desert world where the thermostat is set at a constant 110 degrees Farenheit, and sand gets into simply everything. Heating bills alone for the production are easily equivalent to the lead actor's salary.

And what a surprising yet brilliant choice Taymor has made to play Paul Atreides! "I wanted a blend of innocence and decadence, naiveté and cunning, prepubescence and jaded lechery. Who better to portray that combination than Justin Bieber? Now that he's twenty-two years old, Justin is ready to stretch himself. And the fact that he doesn't look one whit older than he did at age sixteen only enhances that desirable sense of cognitive estrangement." Taymor credits two staff physicians—the men who tended so assiduously to Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson—with preserving Bieber's signature looks.

The classic tale of Paul's ascent to mutant godhood will play out to new music from the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, 50 Cent, and a host of other pop stars, who will also take on acting parts. "I was so inspired by the presence of Sting in the David Lynch film of 'Dune' that I determined that every member of my cast should be a singer also. Fergie does a wonderful job as Lady Jessica, while Rihanna is a marvelous Chani. Mr. Cent is utterly convincing as Duncan Idaho. And considering that so much of the story relies on Baron Harkonnen, I was absolutely thrilled to convince Aretha Franklin to come out of retirement for that role."

And what can the audience expect when they enter the magically transformed theater?

"Each viewer will be securely strapped into a special saddle on our mechanical sandworms, which will whoosh constantly about the set, offering shifting vantage points from which to observe the action. Ticketholders can fill out their liability-release forms online, well in advance of each performance."

 
Playbill, December 2020

Discussing the vast expenses connected with bringing Robert Forward's "Starquake on Dragon's Egg: Song of the Cheela" to the stage of the Neil Simon Theater, a slightly discombobulated, stressed, and panicky Julie Taymor still makes the effort to lavish praise on the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider who collaborated in this grandest of all her theatrical ventures.

"I really don't know of any other source on the planet for large quantities of compressed matter with all its quantum bonds broken, other than the folks at CERN. There was simply no alternative way for us to recreate the immense gravity of the Cheela's homeworld on stage. Although we haven't been able to achieve the exact conditions specified by Forward—sixty-seven billion Earth gravities, I believe—we have managed to create a suitably deadly local region of warped spacetime requiring all actors and techies to wear the latest robotic exoskeletons from Shenyang Industries. This model replaces the lamentably unsuitable one from General Motors that resulted in the mass deaths of the entire original troupe. Thank God for understudies!"

As the Flaming Lips rehearse in the background (frontman Wayne Coyne earlier remarked jauntily, "Julie makes me look sane!"), Taymor glances nervously over her shoulder at the stage, where the actors in their alien cyber-costumes move with excruciating precision, lest any more broken limbs result, or quantum tunneling mishaps produce unpredictable bursts of timelike infinity.

"According to the CERN boffins," says Taymor with a ghoulish lilt to her voice, "the only thing we have to worry about is the tendency of the unstable compressed matter to edge past a critical threshhold and collapse spontaneously into an actual neutron star or even a black hole. There's not enough mass here for the resulting itsy bitsy singularity to destroy the planet, but it would certainly wipe out Manhattan. And then where would postmodern theater be?"

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