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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons from Spiderman

Somebody - this somebody, actually - recently told me that you can think of Twitter as being invited to a giant cocktail party with just about everyone you can imagine. That is, you have the opportunity to say whatever you want to anyone. (Like Ellen Degeneres for example). And sure, they might not respond. But they might.

Now, loathe as I am to perpetuate the Spidey media/blogosphere feeding frenzy, I did happen across this article in the Times this evening stating that (big surprise) the opening is delayed yet again. Part of the reason for the delay, says the Times, is to re-write portions of the second act.

Reflecting the view of some audience members who have criticized the show on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, Ms. Taymor and the producers have concluded that Act II has storytelling problems that need to be fixed.

This sort of reminds me of the whole Steve Martin debacle at the 92nd St. Y a couple weeks ago. (Which I, by the way, thought was reprehensible and a total abuse of the very Twitter-power I'm now writing about.)

In both instances we have certain powers-that-be taking the temperature of their public and immediately adjusting their sails. In one instance (92nd St. Y) it was a colossal and embarrassing failure. In the other... well, I'm not sure.

On one hand, look: we all know Spiderman probably sucks. I really don't want to admit it; why SHOULD I automatically believe that the show, just because it's such an ambitious commercial endeavor, will be bad? "Ambitious" should be a good thing, right? But call it a feeling, it probably sucks.

So isn't it kind of cool that Taymor & Co. can look at our Twitter feeds and our blog posts and actually *find out* what it is about the show that's twisting our knickers? That they can actually hear (in a manner of speaking) all the bitching that would normally go on in our living rooms and the Starbucks across the street and respond to it?

It's like when my dad would watch football when I was growing up and he would constantly shout at the screen things like, "Oh, that's a TERRIBLE call!" Or, "Are you kidding me? Don't go with that play!" And I would say, "You know they can't hear you, right?"

So this is like if whichever coach or ref that was the subject of my dad's ire actually tilted his head toward the camera and said, "What's that, Steve? You know, you may be on to something. We'll go with that."

Who knows? Maybe pretty soon they'll all be checking their Twitter feeds on their Blackberries from the sidelines and doing just that.

But then the other side of the discussion is: who said the general public is so smart anyway? Public opinion is important, but do we really want the masses making ALL the decisions? Alexander Hamilton knew that when he helped establish the electoral college, an outdated but valid idea. And also, to put it simply, to many cooks spoil the broth. It's the same that question Mariah McCarthy raised in her recent 2amt blog post about the effectiveness of workshops and play development. Too many voices fused together into one giant homogenized tidal wave of opinion can rush over a play like a river over stone, leaving it very pretty but devoid of all sharp edges.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, all these new social media sites give us the opportunity to voice our opinions like never before and maybe actually be heard. It's a staggering power. But - as Spiderman himself will tell you - with great power comes great responsibility.

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