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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ Trump As Julius Caesar Production”

It was a pleasure to see eloquent and thoughtful teacher/blogger Curmie back commenting after a hiatus, and his timing could not have been better, as the controversy over the nightly assassination of a Julius Caesar who appears to be President Trump’s twin has become even more relevant since an anti-Trump zealots started picking off Republican Congressmen with his rifle.

Curmie is a theater professional with keen perspective on artistic freedom and a proven facility with ethical analysis. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The “Shakespeare in the Park” Trump As “Julius Caesar” Production:

Not surprisingly, I suppose, I’ve been thinking a lot about this story lately—enough to post about it twice on my own blog. Not having seen the production, I can’t say for certain that it does or doesn’t do X or Y. But I wonder if what we’re dealing with here is a variation on the theme of the Second Niggardly Principle.

[Ethics Alarms note: “When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”]

A couple of points first. Drama, especially in the West, has always been political. I would argue (although I suspect the majority of my fellow theatre historians would disagree) that the Dionysian Festival, generally regarded as the birthplace of formal theatre (although there was almost certainly theatrical activity of some kind before that) was created less to honor Dionysus—a rather obscure demi-god worshipped primarily in Asia Minor—than to consolidate the political power of the tyrant Peisistratus.

Whether or not this is the case, it is unquestionably true that the Dionysia was used as a site for political speeches (e.g., Pericles’ funeral oration), and that the plays themselves commented on contemporary events (e.g., the Oresteia on the reforms of Ephialtes three years earlier, or Oedipus Tyrannos on the plague). Old Comedy—the plays that would have been contemporaneous with the work of the great Athenian tragedians—was explicitly political, often vulgar, and uniformly iconoclastic. These comic critiques of the powerful were seen by the state as an important part of the cultural life, much as the Feast of Fools became a staple of the medieval calendar. Similarly, Americans knew we were going to be all right after 9/11 when David Letterman started telling Bush jokes again. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The “Shakespeare in the Park” Trump As “Julius Caesar” Production

In  New York City, Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park festival this summer begins with  a version of “Julius Caesar“, in which Caesar is played by an actor made up and costumed to look like the current President of the United States, and Calpurnia (Caesar’s wife) is portrayed as a runway model with a Slavic accent. Some of the costumes include Anonymous masks and the infamous pussy hats. When Caesar/Trump is assassinated in the Senate, the murderers are women and minorities.

Oooo! Subtle!

The production has been in previews since May 23, and opens tonight at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Criticism of the concept,  theater and its financial supporters has been roiling all week, and many have compared the play to  Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head stunt.  Fox News reported that it “appears to depict President Trump being brutally stabbed to death by women and minorities.” Well, yes, that’s right. Now some prominent corporate sponsors have publicly withdrawn their financial support, including Delta and Bank of America.

Delta’s statement:

“No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of ‘Julius Caesar’ at this summer’s free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines’ values,” Delta said in a statement on Sunday night. Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste. We have notified them of our decision to end our sponsorship as the official airline of the Public Theater effective immediately.”

Bank of America:

“The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding for this production.”

Other sponsors, such as Time Warner and the New York Times, have stood fast. Said the Times:

”As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media, we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they chose.”

Ethics Observations:

[Do remember that I am a professional stage director, previously the artistic director of a professional theater for 20 years, and that I dealt with donors, individual, corporate, non-profit and government, all that time.] Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Trump Sons’ Influence Peddling Story

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To catch you up: Celebrity gossip website TMZ  hyped the launch of new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric based on what it called a “draft” of a soon to be released event brochure. The non-profit was offering, we were told, access to the new President during inauguration weekend  in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities.  Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event on  January 21, the day after inauguration, were to receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team, ”as well as tickets to other events” and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”

The Center for Public Integrity was on this like a shot…and so was the news media. I received a link in an e-mail from someone who archly noted that “You seem to be interested in influence peddling,” a reference to my many posts about the real purpose behind the Clinton Foundation, “so perhaps you will find this of interest [Unsaid but understood: “…you Donald Trump enabling, racist, fascist bastard!”] In the link, TIME took the hand-off from the Center, and got a series of quotes from critics, like Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization.“This is problematic on so many levels,” Larry said.  “This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president.”

Noble cautioned that the details of the event and its association with the new nonprofit listing the Trump brothers as directors were still unclear. “It’s really hard to identify all the problems when they’re so vague,” he said.

True. As of today, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are no longer listed as directors of a that non-profit. Papers removing their names from the Opening Day were processed by the state of Texas,  a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state told CNN Money.

Never mind!

Observations: Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Current State Of 2016 Presidential Campaign Before Hurling Myself Out The Window, PART 2

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[When I arrived at this morning’s destination, a law firm in Northern Virginia, I found myself in a huge nightmarish underground parking garage, with inadequate signage, that was beneath four large office buildings. Once I drove beyond my desired elevator looking for an unreserved parking space, I found myself totally lost and disoriented. Everywhere I turned signs indicated that I was beneath the wrong building, and there were no apparent arrows pointing back to where I had come from. I was in there for a half an hour, going in circles.  When I asked for help from other drivers, they just shrugged and said that it was a confusing garage, or that they were lost too. Eventually, I parked the car between two rows, called security to say that I was trapped with my hazard lights on, and needed assistance.Eventually someone arrived  to lead me back to where I wanted to be. I now realize that this is  an excellent metaphor for the plight of the ethical, responsible voter in this train wreck election. The lights keep blinking, but nobody’s coming.]

To continue where I left off in Part I.:

9. The fact that all of the accusations against Trump might be true does not mean that Trump’s counter-accusation that this is a coordinated assault by the Democrats and the Clinton Campaign isn’t also true. The timing is suspicious. Democrats have apparently decided that they can’t win Presidential elections by running fair and transparent campaigns; there have to be sudden revelations of mysterious origins or impetus: Bush’s DWI arrest in 2000, Dan Rather’s faked National Guard letter in 2004, the Romney “47% ” tape in 2012, and now this. Not only are elections no longer decided on the issues and the positions, skills and demonstrated abilities of the candidates, the party that has denied that character matters is the main purveyor of character-based “October surprises.”

10. I have been waiting for the “Hillary Clinton Same-Sex Lover” October surprise from Trump and the Republicans. I’m pretty sure she’s out there. If she doesn’t surface now, it will mean one of these are true:

…The GOP and Trump are  too inept to find her.

…They found her or them, but are afraid of “backlash,’ which makes no sense at all. If you are willing to run Donald Trump for President, backlash is no longer an issue.

…Hillary treats her lovers well, and none are willing to betray her.

….They hate Trump more than they love money or notoriety

…They are afraid for their lives.

I suppose that it is possible that she doesn’t exist, but I  doubt it. This is one of a variety of long-term Washington whispers that are almost always based on fact. No, of course it shouldn’t make a difference at the polls; it would just be one more piece of evidence of what we know already: Hillary is a self-fueled fabrication whose public persona and positions are more lies than fact. However, if you supporter her, you are already at peace with that…..in other words, corrupted. Continue reading

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