A Lead Actress Departs ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’

Posted: December 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

One of the lead actresses in Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” Natalie Mendoza, who suffered a concussion during the musical’s first preview performance last month, is leaving the production, according to two people who work on the show and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ms. Mendoza’s representatives and the producers of “Spider-Man” have been hammering out an exit agreement for days now, and an official statement is expected as early as Tuesday, the two people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the producers have forbidden public comments given that lawyers and others are still fine-tuning the language to explain Ms. Mendoza’s departure, an artistic loss and embarrassing blow to the production.

Ms. Mendoza’s spokesman, Shea Martin, on Monday declined a request to interview the actress, and also declined to comment on her departure. Ms. Mendoza did not reply to messages sent to her on Monday morning. Her last performance was on Monday, Dec. 20; the production has said that she has been on vocal rest since then, under doctors’ orders. But she was also shaken by a bad accident that occurred mid-performance on Dec. 20 involving her castmate and friend, Christopher Tierney, according to a fellow actor in the musical.
Ms. Mendoza played Arachne, a spider villainess who has a major role in Peter Parker’s becoming Spider-Man and who becomes obsessed with the super-hero. Arachne is a signature creation of the show’s director, Julie Taymor, who said in an interview last month that she conceived of the character several years ago after having a dream about the transformation of a normal teenage boy into a powerful super-human. Much of the Act II story revolves around Arachne, and Ms. Taymor had collaborated closely with Ms. Mendoza on developing a distinctive look and manner for the character. Arachne delivers the musical’s title number and sings on five other songs, including an Act I turning point, “Rise Above,” and the finale, “Love Me or Kill Me.”

The show marked the Broadway debut for Ms. Mendoza, a 30-year-old film and theater actress and musician who is perhaps best known for playing the lead character, Juno, in the 2005 horror movie “The Descent.” Ms. Mendoza’s understudy, America Olivo, is expected to take the role of Arachne; another actress, T.V. Carpio, performed the part on Thursday night and may well become an alternate.

On Sunday, Ms. Mendoza wrote on her Facebook page that she was grateful to be down to two nausea tablets and four painkillers per day to cope with her concussion. “Thank goodness I had such a brilliant neurologist who made sure I recovered properly,” she wrote. “Nice to be almost back to normal…. almost anyway haha! Thanking God for peace, real friends, love and health and healing.”

Last Tuesday, in the aftermath of the injuries sustained by Mr. Tierney, who fell more than 20 feet after his safety harness became untethered, Ms. Mendoza wrote on Twitter: “Please pray with me for my friend Chris, my superhero who quietly inspires me everyday with his spirit. A light in my heart went dim tonight.” She did not appear in the next performance after the accident, on Thursday night, nor in any of the Christmas weekend shows.

In another recent post on Twitter Ms. Mendoza wrote: “Can feel a trip to India coming on & visiting my magic little orphanage Ramana’s Garden in Rishikesh. Raising funds as we speak. Be the change.” She has not written anything about her departure from “Spider-Man.”

A spokesman for the production, Rick Miramontez, said on Monday night that he could not confirm that Ms. Mendoza was leaving. Michael Cohl, the lead producer of the show, declined an interview request on Monday.

Ms. Mendoza sustained the concussion during the show on Nov. 28 when she was struck in the head by a rope holding a piece of equipment while standing offstage. She was seen by two doctors; one of them, a specialist hired by the production, advised her to take time off to recover, the actress’s spokesman said early this month. But Ms. Mendoza insisted that she be allowed to go on at the next performance, three days later, and the producers and director, who knew about the concussion, allowed her to. Mr. Cohl spoke with the specialist before the performance, and a spokesman for the production said that the specialist said it would not be a major problem for Ms. Mendoza to perform as long as she took it easy.

The role of Arachne involves several flying sequences as well, including one in which Ms. Mendoza is spun upside-down, though they are conducted at a slower speed than those involving the character of Spider-Man himself. By the end of the performance on the night she returned, Ms. Mendoza had a headache and nausea; she then took two weeks off to recover.

Ms. Mendoza is one of four actors who have been hurt working on “Spider-Man” since September; before performances began, one dancer broke his wrists after landing incorrectly during a flying stunt, while another actor injured his feet doing the same stunt. And Mr. Tierney remains at Bellevue Hospital Center recovering from his injuries, which included a hairline fracture in his skull, a broken scapula, a broken bone close to his elbow, four broken ribs, a bruised lung and three fractured vertebrae.

“Spider-Man” recently delayed its opening night by four weeks, until Monday, Feb. 7, to provide more time for its creators — Ms. Taymor and U2’s Bono and the Edge — to make changes in the $65 million show before theater critics review it.

Mr. Cohl cited Ms. Mendoza’s two-week absence from the show, as she recovered from the concussion, as among the factors that contributed to the delay of opening night.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s