With Taymor and Swiss Miss, a new villain in the show
O: When the audience leaves Spider-Man, how do you want them to feel?
JT: I want the audience to feel spiritually moved, excited, and exhilarated by possibility. Touched by the hero epic, which tells you that you must sacrifice in order to have it all. That we can't be content to think only about ourselves, that there is a much greater destiny and a greater world out there. It's huge stuff, especially for teenagers and young people. And I know there are plenty of people who will come who don't like rock music, so Bono and Edge have done a variety of music. It can't be so loud that it sends everybody running. My mother has to like it—she's 89.
O: So you're going for 89-year-olds and 8-year-olds. Now let me ask you this: Do you think most people have what you have—this ability to step outside yourself and see other worlds?
JT: Well, I think that's what artists do, isn't it? You know, I'm not religious in an organized way, but I kind of understand the power of where religion comes from, because art comes out of that same kind of fervor. The first artists were shamans and priests. And contemporary art, including rock music, has some of that same power—which is why many cultures ban the arts, because they know they have the power to influence and inspire.
O: Do you think that our reality-TV culture is making us more banal in our expectations?
JT: Materialistic, banal, everything. We should be able to have beautiful poetry in our lives. We should be able to—
O: —evoke the spectacular.
JT: Yes. There's a reason Spider-Man and Avatar are out there, and are always going to be there—those fairy-tale, big, mythic things. Because we have a desire to access another part of ourselves. We want that feeling of awe.
O: That's exactly the right description. It's awe.
JT: It's why we hold on to rituals; it's why we go to weddings. There's something that elevates. That's what I want to happen when you walk into this theater. Which is not to say I'm not terrified that I've overconceived it—you know, Oh God, is there too much? When I see how much trouble it is to transform from one scene to another one, I'm like, What was I thinking? Am I out of my mind?
O: You don't take "no" easily, do you?
JT: Oh, I take it—but not because something's just too much trouble. I take no when something truly can't be done or when it surpasses the money.
O: I told you as I came in today that I feel so proud of you. Do you feel proud of yourself?
JT: Not yet
O: Come on. Just a little?
JT: You know what I'm proud of? The women. In so many stories, it's always about the guy. But the Arachne character we're creating is going to blow people away. And there's a number—"Deeply Furious"—where the women come out and just take the stage. The whole first act is almost entirely female power and energy.
O: There's a woman infusion.
JT: There is. I feel proud that I have assembled a team of such great artists and technicians. But proud of the show yet? The proof is in the pudding. I set a very high bar, and if there's anything I don't like, I get very antsy. So I'll come home and Elliot will say, "Okay, which was it tonight? Are you excited or are you depressed?" But in the end, all that goes out the window. Because, to be honest, it's just a play. And ultimately I'm just doing my best.
We Hear You!