Julie Taymor Receives New Dramatists’
Lifetime Achievement Award
By: Isa Goldberg
The story that was told at the New Dramatists luncheon honoring Julie Taymor at the New York Marriott Marquis on Tuesday was less about the financing of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the “behemoth” musical production that’s been the buzz of doomsday commentators in chat rooms and on web sites. The subject of Taymor’s Lifetime Achievement Award was, as it should be, her visionary spirit, her artistic courage, her ferocious ambition and its genesis.
As Todd London, Artistic Director of New Dramatists expressed, Taymor emerged from the vibrant world downtown – the dark little theaters of Off Broadway, the clubs and abandoned warehouses where fledgling creators and their progeny find their home. It was just such a dive where Elliot Goldenthal, Taymor’s composer collaborator and lifetime companion, met the director for the first time. On that stage, Taymor had built a large clay Moses. Nearby Goldenthal describes the ten commandments laying by a swath of material that somehow magically – and then maybe only in his imagination – transformed into some billowing waves. More than theatrical pyrotechnics, no doubt, Goldenthal was describing a state of limerence. Indeed, even her contemporaries, Thomas Schumacher and Anthony Hopkins among many others, say that’s the experience of working with Julie Taymor.
But Goldenthal’s anecdote evokes the Exodus, and the focus of the event was definitely more about Genesis – the act of creation. Biblical references seem to attach themselves to Taymor. (It should be unfashionable to be so fabulous.) As Helen Mirren, star of Taymor’s upcoming movie “The Tempest,” remarked in a video tribute to the director, “What’s next, a one-woman interpretative dance of the bible?”
NOW THERE’S an idea for a small show! Nothing on the scale of Taymor’s operatic productions “Grendel” and the “Magic Flute” or her screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” A one-woman show? It wouldn’t be anything like “The Lion King.” But big things start in small places and that is precisely the message the New Dramatists wanted to get across on Tuesday. “The playwrights sitting at your table share her ingenuity… and risk impoverishment,” Todd London proclaimed. The New Dramatists 61st Anniversary Spring Luncheon celebrated these emerging playwrights.