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.
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 Now some prominent corporate sponsors have publicly withdrawn their financial support, including Delta and Bank of America.
“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.”
[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