Returning to Her Roots — Tony Winner Julie Taymor Revisits Shakespeare With A Midsummer Night's Dream at TFANA

By Stuart Miller
22 Nov 2013

"That journey got into my blood," she said. Her parents encouraged that sensibility, so by the time she entered college she had already spent time in Sri Lanka and India and had studied mime in Paris. "I learned how to physicalize language there. It was good training," she said. She also participated in political theatre in Boston, which taught her about creating plays with a company instead of from a script.

At Oberlin Univeristy, she didn't study theatre, however. "I majored in folklore and mythology, so instead of texts or scripts, I was studying about shamanism and the origins of theatre," she said, though she did work with theatre legends Joseph Chaikin and Herbert Blau.

A fellowship took her to Japan and Indonesia to study experimental puppetry and visual theatre. "I was supposed to stay three months but I stayed four years," she said. "I didn't have a grand plan, I just was suddenly creating plays with Indonesians who didn't speak English and we were touring throughout the country. I had my own theatre company with actors ranging in age from 18 to 60... we created everything from scratch."

Although she got tired of "always being a foreigner" and now lives in New York with Goldenthal, she never lost her desire to journey to new horizons. She directed opera both because it offered something new and because the work would take her to Japan and then Russia and Italy. "I loved exploring the different cultures and different countries," she said, pointing to the difficulty of persuading Italian performers to sing The Magic Flute in German as the kind of challenge she relishes.

"I love challenging myself," she said, pointing out that when Hollywood came calling with family fare after her blockbuster Broadway success with The Lion King, she instead chose to make a movie of one of Shakespeare's least famous and bloodiest plays with "Titus." "Sometimes I do it more than I need to, but it just happens that way."

She doesn't really want to discuss what proved to be her greatest challenge, Spider-Man, saying she's extremely proud of the work she did as director of the show, but that she has put the entire experience behind her.