Julie Taymor Calls ‘Spider-Man’ Producers’ Reliance on Focus Groups ‘Scary’

Making her first public comments since leaving the troubled $70 million Broadway musical she created, Taymor issues tacit criticism. “Shakespeare would have been appalled, she said


Had Shakespeare been around to see the producers of Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” use focus groups to re-work their production, he would have been “appalled.”

So said Julie Taymor, creator off “Turn Off the Dark,” who was making her first public comments about the $70 million production since exiting it in March.

Speaking to about 1,000 attendees, as well as reporters from outlets like The New York Times, at a Los Angeles conference for live-theater leaders, an event produced annually by the Theater Communications Group, Taymor blasted the troubled Broadway show.

Taymor, a Tony Award-winning director of “The Lion King” and other Broadway shows, called “Spider-Man” “much simpler” than the version she created before her March firing.

However, she was critical at how her replacements used audience feedback to get there.

“It’s very scary if people are going more towards that, to have audiences tell you how to make a show,” she said. “Shakespeare would have been appalled. Forget about it. It would be impossible to have these works come out because there’s always something that people don’t like.

Taymor also bemoaned the effect of instant reviews occurring on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, which accelerated negative perception of the experimental “Turn Off the Dark” before it could find its footing.

“Twitter and Facebook and blogging just trump you,” she said. “It’s very hard to create; it’s incredibly difficult to be under a shot glass and a microscope like that.

“When you’re trying to create new work and you’re trying to break new ground and experiment, which seems an incredibly crazy thing to do in a Broadway environment, the immediate answers that audiences give are never going to be good,” Taymor added.

“It’s just in the nature of things that when you’re doing something very new, audiences don’t know how necessarily to talk about it immediately,” she continued. “Which in my world, and in your world, is a good thing. You want people to absorb, they should be entertained, they should have a great time, but they should also be stimulated enough that when they go home or talk to their kids, they are actually digesting, thinking, talking about it.”