“We are her family,” Theatre Communications Group’s Philip Himberg cautioned the audience of several hundred members. “Please respect that she’s with her family.” Saturday afternoon, director Julie Taymor headlined the national conference’s Closing Keynote in a highly-anticipated conversation with scholar Roger Copeland. There were no photos or video allowed, but Taymor used the event to tell her side of the biggest theater story of the year, maybe the decade. She finished to a standing ovation.
Taymor is clearly battle-weary from her long slog with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which was almost uniformly skewered by the press before she was kicked off the production. But today she took direct aim at blogs, Twitter, and other social media that’s so enjoyed broadcasting her woes.
“It puts us under a lot of pressure,” she told the nodding crowd. “When you’re trying to create new work and break down [old forms] and experiment, an immediate answer from the audience is never good …The audience doesn’t know how to talk about it immediately.”
The flood of insta-critics presents a real challenge for artists: a barrage of unedited, unmediated opinions that can appear at any moment. But it’s misguided and futile to suggest they shouldn’t be allowed to share their opinions (as considered or shortsighted as they may be) using the communication tools of our time.
As journalists, we’re learning we have to make our work stand apart from the unaffiliated competition. It’s noisy. But the noise also gives us a pretty strong incentive to make our work better. In the case of Twitter vs. Artist, it remains the artist’s decision how to react. She can either ignore those tweets, or find a way to benefit from them.
At one point in the Keynote conversation, Copeland slammed New York Times critic Ben Brantley, who wrote that Spider-Man was “so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair.” But Taymor suggested it was time to move on. And they did.
And I tweeted it.