The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
The Worst Theatrical Slaughter Since Abe Walked Into Ford's

Elizabeth Grunewald | 22 Dec 2010 15:28
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Oh, Julie Taymor. You have vision, I'll give you that. The Lion King didn't change my life or anything, but it was a genuine spectacle, and Titus was gorgeous enough for me to want to see it, even knowing full well what would transpire. I'm looking forward to seeing The Tempest, but I will not be seeing Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The premise is curious enough to pique my interest, but the show is hemorrhaging both money and people, and from the first-person accounts I've read, the show isn't so brilliant as to overcome these setbacks.

Julie, you've lost a lot of people a lot of money. This won't run long enough to recoup its investment, and it sounds like you're two steps away from having a dead actor on the stage. You've made your point, and we know you're mad and full of ideas and enjoy reinvention. We get it. Seriously, though, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark needs to quit while it's relatively ahead and fatality-free.

I spent some time as an actor, and know how crazy it is. I played Nazis, aliens, Helen of Troy in a camouflage bikini, and in the process, I had the crap beaten out of me. I never broke a bone, but I came awfully close, and if you add crazy setpieces (swimming pool built into the stage) or stunts (lifts and throws and jumps, oh my) into the equation, things can get dicey. So I made as many jokes about it as anyone, and I'll admit I giggled today when I read DRUNKHULK's tweet "SOMEONE NEED TELL SPIDER-MAN BROADWAY ACTORS THAT BREAK LEG IS ONLY EXPRESSION!" I stifled it pretty fast, though, because Christopher Tierney is still in the hospital with broken ribs and internal bleeding. Sure, Natalie Mendoza is okay enough to tweet about Tierney's accident, but let's not forget she herself received a concussion while standing offstage during a run. Before that, one actor broke his foot, and another both his wrists when a sling-shot aerial stunt went awry.

Stop for a moment and imagine having two broken wrists, or a torso full of broken ribs. Forgive the cheese, but an actor's body is his or her instrument, and when it's broken, they can't work. Spider-Man is chewing up actors and spitting them out, and their peers are beginning to get vocal about it. Alice Ripley, Tony winner for Next To Normal, also took to Twitter, "shouting," "SPIDERMAN [sic] SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF ITSELF. THIIS [sic] IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE AND EMBARRASSING TO WORKING ACTORS EVERYWHERE...DOES SOMEONE HAVE TO DIE? WHERE IS THE LINE FOR THE DECISION MAKERS, I AM CURIOUS." The Hollywood Reporter has amassed many of these outcries, citing among them Mark Kudisch (9 to 5, Assassins), who sagely commented, "I wish employment for all my friends. But I wish them safety and security in their employment even more."

You can't have a show without actors, Julie. Try as you might to persuade the audience that your monumental moving sets and high-flying aerial stunts are vital to the show's success, you can't deny these injury statistics are truly out of the ordinary. What's it worth to you? Like Ripley said, where are you going to draw the line before you tone things down or give it up?

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