I went to New York last weekend and saw Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which is also known to some as “Spider-Man the Musical.” I have a secret, Marginalians. I’m a huge Spider-Man fan. I followed the production history of this show. I knew what I was getting into, but… WOW. This was BAD.
Don’t get me wrong. SPIDER-MAN flew over my head! He even got a bit of his webbing on me. (Can we all say in a geek chorus now? Awkwaaaaard. Oh, and the “geek chorus” line is actually a joke about the chorus of geeks that told the story of Spider-Man, trying to find the greatest story of him ever, and that’s what the musical was originally about… But, that died when Julie Taymor was fired, and the chorus was cut from the show.)
BUT, what was left, what wasn’t cut, was a spider goddess.
From, like, Greek myths.
I kid you not.
Also, I think she and Spider-Man had sex when he was floating over his bed in a dream and she was hovering over him from the web upon which she was suspended. Of course, they sang about it. There was also a number that introduced the Sinister Six, some huge villains of Spider-Man’s, and then a number that dispatched them in a manner that was quicker than their origin song. They had no purpose, really, to the forward movement of the story.
That was a long intro to my point, but I think you needed all of those examples.
Potential students have been emailing me or meeting with me, asking me, “Okay, do I really need to go to school to learn how to write?” Some would say yes, some would say no. For me, the answer is yes. I need the community to help kick my butt into shape. I need people to look over my work, and I over theirs, and together, we can talk about narrative shape and what is necessary and what isn’t. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark went through many drafts…and it should have gone through many more. It was uneven, clunky, introduced characters that didn’t progress the story forward, didn’t make any coherent sense at times, and had a random goddess that was really only still in the show because a hefty bit of the $75 million dollar price-tag went into creating the amazing costume and dance numbers involving her.
I heard a phrase in another English program that went like this: “Sometimes, you have to murder your darlings.” This means sometimes, you have to know when something you like or something you think is pretty in your work just needs to go. It has no place in that piece. Seeing this show made me appreciate my program even more, as I’ve been able to better see which of my darlings need to go. I wish all potential students could see something as uneven and frustrating as this play. Then, I think they’d have an answer to if writing can be taught (and it is literally the writing of this musical with which I have a problem).
What do you think, readers? Can writing be taught? And, if you’ve seen Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, what are your thoughts? Add to my margins. (Oh, also, I totally enjoyed the show. As my friend said after the final curtain fell, “As far as shit shows go, that one was pretty fun!”)