Julie Taymor wanted to do more than create masks, design costumes and choreograph. After all, she had created and run her own theatre company during her four years in Indonesia. Still, she had to take on some work for hire to get by, so she agreed to do some masks for a fledgling group called Theatre for a New Audience.
Taymor said she thought the show was awful but was impressed by TFANA's founder, Jeffrey Horowitz, so she agreed to work with him again on an abridged A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Now it was Horowitz's turn to be impressed. So he cajoled Taymor into trying her hand at directing Shakespeare. In 1986, Taymor tackled The Tempest. The production, which featured bunraku puppetry and music by Taymor's partner Elliot Goldenthal, earned rave reviews, jump-starting both TFANA and Taymor's career.
Nearly three decades later, Taymor is world famous, most notably for The Lion King and her troubled tenure on Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. She has also directed operas to acclaim as well films like "Titus," Frida," "Across the Universe" and, most recently, "The Tempest."
Consumed by such major projects, Taymor has not directed Shakespeare for the stage in nearly 20 years. But her love of his writing and her affection for Horowitz and TFANA are finally bringing her back to the Bard this fall — she is coming full circle in a sense, directing A Midsummer Night's Dream as the inaugural production for TFANA's first permanent home in Brooklyn's BAM cultural district. It's also a returning to roots for Taymor because Midsummer is the first play she remembers seeing, and she even played Hermia in Midsummer in camp at around age seven; the child who played Puck "was a bully who tortured me," she recalled.)
"She is such an adventurous artist, she always finds new ways to tell stories," said Horowitz, adding that he also wanted to honor Taymor by having her open the new house because she and Goldenthal lent invaluable assistance in the fundraising campaign; Goldenthal is writing the music for Midsummer.
That adventurous spirit has been intersecting with Taymor's theatrical vision since childhood. At the age of nine, Taymor was riding on her own from the suburbs into Boston for rehearsals with the Boston Children's Theatre.
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