“Look at that,” Julie Taymor said, stepping out onto Lafayette Street from the Public Theatre. She was pointing at the sidewalk. “Two gloves on the ground. What is that about?” She kept walking, but the image lingered. When Taymor directs, she begins with an “ideograph”—a symbol that conveys the essence of the piece. For “The Lion King,” it was the circle of life. For “Grounded,” the play that she is now directing at the Public, it was a stream of sand falling onto the helmet of an F-16-fighter pilot. “What you feel by that simplified vision, I hope, is invulnerability,” she said. “Power. Can’t be touched.” The pilot is Anne Hathaway.
“We’ve all swallowed the Kool-Aid,” Taymor went on, crossing the street. “You think, Wow, our boys and girls don’t get killed, because they’re here in Creech Air Force Base, in Nevada.” (Hathaway interviewed female pilots there.) “But if you start to do the research—and I read the Stimson report, which is seventy-five pages—you realize it’s worse now. You cut the head off a hydra and more come.”