Over the weekend, New York City’s Public Theater came under intense fire in response to its production of Julius Caesar for its annual Shakespeare in the Park festival, which begins today. See, to modernize the play a bit and make it more relevant, they made the Caesar character a Trump look-a-like, and—millennia-old spoiler alert!—Caesar gets stabbed to death. As you would imagine, this did not go down well with some people.
(Interesting how Fox emphasizes that “women and minorities” are the culprits.) The flames were further stoked by Trump’s own Vincent Crabbe, Donald Trump Jr..
Oddly enough, there didn’t seem to be as much conservative uproar when a theater’s production of Julius Caesar modeled their ill-fated titular character after Barack Obama.
In response, yesterday, Delta Airlines—a company which has had to repeatedly apologize for incidents of racism on its planes—announced it was pulling sponsorship from the Public Theater in a series of tweets.
Bank of America—a company that funds private prisons and preyed on millions during the run-up to the financial crisis—also pulled its support from the play, though it said it would continue its relationship with the theater.
Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director at the Public Theater and Director of the production released a statement of his own, doubling-down on his decision. He writes:
Julius Caesar is about how fragile democracy is. The institutions that we have grown up with, that we have inherited from the struggle of many generations of our ancestors, can be swept away in no time at all.
Indeed, the worries about the potential demise of democracy certainly does feel particularly timely right now, when the president may or may not have participated in the obstruction of justice. I think the more offensive thing here might be the suggestion that Trump has a fraction of Caesar’s military brilliance or even a working knowledge of language. Truly offensive.
Update, 3:00 PM: The National Endowment for the Arts released a statement clarifying that, while it has previously supposed the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park productions, it didn’t have shit to do with this year’s.
It also overlaid a pretty wild disclaimer over its website. Behold, a government agency cowers!
Also, it turns out Delta Airlines actually sponsored a 2012 production of Julius Caesar at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater that also portrayed Caesar as Obama (because casting real politicians in Shakespearean plays is truly nothing new). Interesting.