Turn Off the Mediocrity

I’ve been following—with great personal interest—the spectacle that is the troubled production of Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway.

As a certified comic book geek with an obsession with all things musical (see Glee), I was looking forward to seeing Taymor pull off this almost impossible feat. (I scoffed when I first heard that Sam Raimi was creating a live action Spider-Man movie. I was agog with delight when I saw the web crawler for the first time in real life in 2002—and not rendered as part of a 70s cartoon—swing from skyscraper to skyscraper on the big screen. I saw that first Spider-Man movie three times.)

Critics have generally panned Taymor’s show (still in its previews after delaying its opening for an umpteenth time), and pressure from the show’s producers forced Taymor’s ouster as the show’s director. Philip William McKinley, who directed The Boy from Oz has been brought in to take over, and the show is going through some major re-writes at the hands of a superhero veteran, playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has also written for Marvel comics.

There’s an interesting article on Time.com by Richard Zoglin that asserts that Taymor and the show were punished for ambition, succumbing to the weight of extraordinarily high expectations and attacks by a rabid pack of New York theater critics.

I tend to agree with Zoglin. While there are many things that I think are patently wrong with the show as conceived by Taymor (and admittedly, I haven’t seen it yet and have only read a lot of online reports), I think there’s something to be said for shooting for the moon.

Whatever this Spider-Man fiasco teaches us—and I still plan to see it sometime soon—I hope it doesn’t dissuade us creative types from eschewing the safe and familiar.

It’s warm and gooey in our comfort zones, and the world beyond our fences always seems dark, dreary, or (gulp) unknown. But it’s when we step into that unknown that we make the most amazing discoveries—about ourselves, each other, and our world.

At the end of the day I’d rather see someone try the impossible and fail than see someone succeed at mediocrity.


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