There is nothing like reading legal papers on a Monday morning to get your blood boiling. Late last week Julie Taymor’s lawyers responded to the part of the Spiderman lawsuit that has not been settled and in those papers there is a lot of information about how her collaborators conspired against her to make changes in the show without telling her and then decided to fire her because by doing that they could have a fall guy and then raise more money to make the show successful.
If you are looking for an unbiased opinion on this case here you should stop reading now. I am and have been on team Julie. For so many reasons but even more so after reading this latest document. I am seething. Lots of people — women and men — have blamed Julie Taymor for everything that went wrong with Spiderman which is still grossing a ton of money each week. Lots of people — women and men — like to call her a “bitch” because she is supposedly difficult. I am done with that. And I am done with the term.
[Momentary digression – I don’t think the term bitch is redeemable. It’s not like “girl.” I know that lots of young women really like the term because it reflects a strong woman and many women wear that proudly. And I love Bitch magazine epsecially for the no shit attitude it takes, but I don’t think that some women using the term in an empowering way will ever take away the horrible way it is used against women. It is used against women — by both men and women — to shut them down, to say they are too strong and the goal is to isolate. I have thought about this a lot and I’m not buying that it has double meaning. It’s too dangerous.]
Back to Taymor – if you are interesting in this case at all you need to read this latest court filing. You need to see how Julie Taymor was set up and how really there was no way for her to create a show that worked when two of the creative team, the people who wrote the music — The Edge and Bono — were not present for rehearsals and for early previews. Now if you are not a theatre person you might not think that is odd. It is beyond odd. Rehearsals and previews are where you see what works and what doesn’t and if two of the most important cogs in the wheel can’t see that, you can’t make the necessary changes.
And I blame the producers. The producers must have known that U2 was going on a tour and that the guys would be gone and said it was ok. All these guys (and it looks like every single person of authority on this production was a guy except for Taymor) are complicit in getting her fired and making her the fall guy for all the issues in the show. Her co-book writer Glenn Berger (who was her friend) worked for over a month of both sides of the fence. He worked with her on book changes at the same time conspired with the set designer and others on Plan X which was done without telling Julie.
My favorite part of the filing is that there was supposed to be a meeting where Julie was told about Plan X and the changes that were being made and Bono arrived at the meeting with several supermodels and he already had been drinking. Really professional.
This is a recounting of the meeting from Glenn Berger email:
[T]he meeting was postponed til 11 p.m., when Bono was going to show up – except he showed up in our room with Christy Turlington and a couple other supermodels, and he had already hada few beers, rendering him useless – so the producers postponed the meeting til the next afternoon – but that meeting never happened – but the producers assured me the new plan was to implement JT’s vision for the next three weeks and, if after polling and focus groups and checking their own guts, if they feel like they don’t have a hit, they’re going to shut down and implement “Plan X” – but JT doesn’t know about that plan.
And about all the accidents. It is so easy to blame Taymor. It is so easy to say that a “crazy woman” created a show that caused her actors to get hurt. According to the filing there was a piece of equipment an “encoder” that had to be installed and once that was the problem was solved.
Despite their knowledge that Taymor had no fault in these accidents, that Taymor had no knowledge of the “encoder” issue that apparently contributed to the first two accidents, and that Taymor had no control over the stage-hand’s neglect in failing to attach the safety tether which contributed to the third accident, the producers did not publicly defend Taymor against uninformed speculation in the press that she was somehow responsible. Following these events, the press surrounding the show began to turn negative.
The lessons of this lawsuit are bigger than Julie Taymor. They are about creativity and how when you are creating you have to trust because when it works it’s great, and when people are conspiring against you, it sucks. It’s about artistic integrity. It’s about rights. Every creative person should be thanking Julie Taymor for standing up for her rights which in turn are everyone’s rights.
And by the way Taymor is now responsible for two of the top grossing shows on Broadway.