Theater Director Probes Humanism Julie Taymor's Bold Stagings Explore the Struggle to Overcome Destiny

By Christopher Reardon, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 1992 | Go to article overview

Theater Director Probes Humanism Julie Taymor's Bold Stagings Explore the Struggle to Overcome Destiny


Christopher Reardon, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


SURROUNDED by the horrific masks and skeletal sculptures that crowd her lower Manhattan loft, Julie Taymor could scarcely look more out of place. What on earth, a visitor must wonder, compels such a soft-spoken person to dwell among this beastly menagerie, and wake each morning beneath the gaze of a mammoth Moses with gnarled twigs sprouting from his brow?

While these artifacts serve as a reminder of the stage and screen productions for which she created them, the 39-year-old theater director offers a characteristically more serious answer: Their anguished expressions reflect the human condition.

For Ms. Taymor, who grew up in a wealthy suburb of Boston but has traveled widely in the developing world, being human means acknowledging fate in order to rise above it. This paradoxical struggle recurs throughout her portfolio, which she unabashedly describes as a collection of "horrendous stories with incredible violence in them...."

She explored this struggle most recently in a production of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex" at the newly established Saito Kihen Festival in Matsumoto, Japan. The opera, conducted by Seiji Ozawa and featuring Philip Langridge and Jessye Norman as Oedipus and Jocasta, was a coup for Taymor, who won two Obie awards for her off-Broadway plays but had never before directed an opera.

Peter Gelb, who produces TV broadcasts for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, says he had no reservations about hiring Taymor. "I was excited that she had not directed one before," says Gelb. "What opera needs desperately is a fresh outlook, someone who can give it a more visual and theatrical interpretation. Julie has a vivid, painterly imagination that clearly fits the bill."

Taymor's staging presents a striking visual counterpart to Stravinsky's spirited score. Where, for example, the composer renders melodically the inevitable intersecting of genealogical lines, Taymor employs a pair of silken red ropes.

An early scene uses one of these tethers as the umbilical cord from which the infant Oedipus is lowered onto the stage. The ropes later serve as the tangled blood lines connecting Oedipus with his parents. Taymor uses these emblems to the very end, the noose by which Jocasta hangs herself and the bloody tears that stream from Oedipus's self-blinded eyes.

Her heroes seldom have it easy. But grisly as Oedipus's decisive act may be, Taymor admires him for choosing to suffer his fate, rather than flee it as Jocasta has done. Even as Oedipus blinds himself, she says, he sees for the first time who he is. The performance concludes with one of Taymor's distinctive elemental rites of purification, here a torrent of rain to cleanse the kingdom of plague.

Behind her gruesome masks and magnificent set designs, Taymor presents a much simpler face. Whether relaxing at home or editing film in the studio, she dresses comfortably in tennis shoes and jeans with a cotton shirt or sweater. She wears her straight brown hair in an easy, shoulder-length cut.

It is perhaps a testimony to her candor that a copy of "Opera Plots Made Easy" lies conspicuously on the kitchen table, while her several awards are relegated to a far and shadowy corner.

She took up acting at the age of 10, but it was after traveling to Sri Lanka five years later that Taymor began to relate theater to the human condition. She put off college for a year to study masks and mime with Jacques Le Coq in Paris and anthropology with Margaret Mead in New York. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Theater Director Probes Humanism Julie Taymor's Bold Stagings Explore the Struggle to Overcome Destiny
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.