Julie Taymor

One of the most cerebral and experimental of theatrical directors and designers, whose fusion of folklore, puppetry and intellectually demanding themes made her a favorite of those with a taste for the cutting edge, Julie Taymor worked almost exclusively in the world of the not-for-profit theater before bringing her downtown sensibility uptown as director of "The Lion King" (1997), Disney's remarkable marriage of art and commerce at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theater. The media giant's deep pockets enabled her to experiment with new kinds of puppetry - to sculpt, to build and to test - resulting in what The New York Times called "the most memorable, moving and original theatrical extravaganza in years." Disney did not compromise Taymor's distinctive Indonesian-influenced minimalist style of mixing live actors, puppets, shadows and masks, which earned her two Tony Awards (for directing and costumes) and her first exposure to mainstream audiences, drawing comparisons to such legends as Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett and Harold Prince.