Shakespeare in the Park’s Trump-like ‘Julius Caesar’ is losing sponsors

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Pope Francis

Julius Caesar is not my favorite Shakespeare play. I would love to see Othello redone as a modern story, with modern set design and really great actors. But that’s not happening. What’s happening is that the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park is doing Julius Caesar, and they’ve modernized it so that “Caesar” is a Donald Trump-like figure. And we all know what happens in the play, right? I mean… does anyone need a spoiler? Julius Caesar was stabbed and murdered by senators on the Ides of March. So now there’s an uproar about how “New York liberals” are “advocating” the “assassination” of the “president.” And Shakespeare in the Park’s sponsors are dropping out.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Bank of America (BAC) pulled their support following criticism on social media. The play has come under fire from Fox News and one of Trump’s sons.

“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,” the airline said in a tweeted statement. “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, which noted in its statement that it has had an “11-year partnership with The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park,” announced that it was pulling funding from the production.

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

Before Sunday, the Public Theater was sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, including the Time Warner Foundation, a nonprofit group supported by CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. The play, which has been in previews at New York’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park and officially opens on Monday, is a contemporary take on the Shakespearean masterpiece. It features a Julius Caesar who has blonde hair and dresses in a suit and long tie rather than a toga. The Shakespeare in the Park production, which is produced by New York’s Public Theater, includes American imagery, iconography and has Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, speak in a Slavic accent very much like first lady Melania Trump.

Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” referred to the production on Sunday as “a disgusting New York City play depicting the president brutally assassinated.” Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son, tweeted about the controversy on Sunday, saying, “I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?” And last week, right-wing news site Brietbart posted an article with the headline, “‘Trump’ Stabbed to Death in Central Park Performance of ‘Julius Caesar.’”

Jesse Green, the New York Times’ co-chief theater critic, wrote in his review that “even a cursory reading of the play, the kind that many American teenagers give it in high school” does not advocate assassination. In fact, he writes that the killing is an “unmitigated disaster for Rome, no matter how patriotic the intentions.” However, Green says that the production may leave some theatergoers, including those “who loathe Mr. Trump,” to wonder if it has “gone too far.”

[From CNN]

Next up, Fox News will blast my old high school for their staging of Romeo and Juliet because it glamorizes teen suicide. Don’t let Don Trump Jr. see Hamlet either – he might get some ideas about Gertrude/Ivana/Melania and Hope Hicks/Ophelia. I mean, on one side, I can actually see the point of the Fox News people: the Public Theater knew exactly what they were doing with this staging and modernization, and they were actively looking for controversy. On the other side, for the love of God, everybody reads Julius Caesar in high school. Julius Caesar was assassinated! You can’t edit that sh-t out of the play. “Friends, Russians, fake news outlets…”

Katy Perry plays BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend 2017

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33 Responses to “Shakespeare in the Park’s Trump-like ‘Julius Caesar’ is losing sponsors”

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  1. Incredulous says:

    Sidelining and denigrating science, intellectuals and the arts, where have I seen that before?

    • What?! says:

      And I am surprised by this uproar as I would have thought Trump and his crew not to have finished anything where the ending would have been a surprise – perhaps they read Shakespeare for dummies at some point?

      • nemera77 says:

        Trump doesn’t read. I highly doubt his die hard supporters read either. They just listen to shows that say this is bad and they just run with it. Have you ever listened to them when they are being interviewed to say why they support him. When you do everything become clearer.

  2. nemera77 says:

    Did they do one with Obama before??? Trump and his followers are so thin skinned. Goodness

  3. TeamAwesome says:

    Trump wishes he was as competent as Julius Caesar. Also, he probably wants to know why all the uproar about salad dressing.

    This has been done with an Obama 2012 era casting as well. Art is political, but this almost feels TOO obvious to me.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      Yeah this is insult to poor Caesar (even though he is portrayed in the play in a bit of an clueless manner already which I don’t get in the real historical figure, it’s not that easy to be aware of conspiracies).

      But this is an interesting way to reinvent old material. I am not really fan of just modernizing settings to make some generic statement of how it is just like today (which usually seem like attempts on saving with costume and set budgets). But this play kind of suits for it.

  4. Nebby says:

    Ugh these people are so whiny, some might even say “snowflakes”…

  5. Alex says:

    Oh but conservatives LOVED the Obama version. Delta and BOA will come to regret the decision as we’ve seen with everything deplorables boycott never suffer. Hamilton, three starbucks boycotts, etc
    I’ll be donating to the Public theater today. And I already loathe delta and boa so that’s not an issue for me

  6. WendyNerd says:

    They did another rendition several years ago with Obama as Caesar, ffs! It’s tradition!

  7. MaybeTomorrow says:

    Uggghhh…..remember when we were handwringing the Franco – ROgin idiot film about assasinatimg the NOrth Korea dictator? It was a bad idea, a stupid movie, and bound to be controversial and lead to bad international relations…..but yeah, we believed in their free speech. But free speech comes with dealing with consequences.

    So yes…..go ahead and modernize JC and make him Trump. Be controversial and garner headlines. All press is good, right? But be prepared to be criticized and lose sponsors who don’t want their brand associated with a satirized classic depicting the murder of the current POTUS. Can you blame them?

    As is always said — you have free speech, but you aren’t free from repercussions. What the heck did They expect ? They expected this and they got it. Boohoo. NOT.

  8. grabbyhands says:

    The amount of pearl clutching over this! Bad enough the number of people who don’t understand what Shakespeare was actually saying. Worse are the number of morons who seem to be under the impression that the Public kind of either made the play up now or added the assasination just to make 45 look bad.

  9. t.fanty says:

    Two years ago there was another NYC Caesar with a tall, slim, African American Caesar, in a suit. It was undeniably Obama. I don’t remember the outrage then.

    Plus, this is JC. I’ve never seen it not political. Damn snowflakes.

    Joe Papp would have had something to say about this.

  10. Va Va Kaboom says:

    Junior’s attempt to be thought-provoking had me literally cringing. Art, pushing boundaries and political speech have always been closely linked, moron. Not to mention the play he’s referring to is Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser ffs!

  11. Sigh says:

    Might help if anyone in Trump’s camp or Delta or whomever, I don’t know, actually read Julius Caesar?

    On second thought, no. We wouldn’t hear the end of it if they actually understood what Shakespeare was saying…

    • third ginger says:

      They can’t understand satire, so my guess is they would struggle with Elizabethan Tragedy. God help us!

      • Sigh says:

        Yeah, me thinks they would struggle mightily with a tragic hero, no actual villain-villains (well Cassius) and men getting handled/killed by not listening to their wives…

  12. Keaton says:

    Well Delta and Bank of America have lost me as a customer forever. They certainly have the right to withdraw their funding but this is a really dangerous stupid precedent. I’m definitely donating to the Public Theater.

  13. Who ARE These People? says:

    Bank of America has long been sleazy. Big GOP donor, financing Dakota Pipeline, big role in 2008 financial crisis. Good time for account holders to consider a switch.

    I never took a Shakespeare class and am looking forward to catching up on this thread later because it’ll be so educational.

  14. Escaped Convent says:

    “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”

    • t.fanty says:

      “Cowards die a thousand times before their deaths. The valiant never taste death but once.”

  15. third ginger says:

    Sam Adams, a SLATE editor, had a hilarious tweet, “Wait until FOX finds out there ‘s a Shakespeare play about a vindictive, delusional old man and his scheming adult children.”

  16. Tan says:

    The outrage probably is because the satire drama of modernized JC comes too close to the reality.

    No one in their nightmare thought Obama was slowly becoming a power grabbing tyrant

    No one thought that people will take the drama more seriously than it is by actually inciting an assassination attempt

    But because the current situation is basically a tinderbox, any spark can light up something huge and uncontainable.

    On some level maybe the organisers should have exercised a little more common sense

    Anyway the sponsors that left are no big deal. They will get better sponsors hopefully and even the ones that left might want to come crawling back.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      Yes this is kind of true. The play seems fitting and was done before with Obama but maybe with Trump is just too controversial since there is so much conflict.

  17. lower case lois says:

    Actually, the updating of Shakespeare plays to be staged in Modern format is not new. I just saw King Lear and it was staged in the future. Shakespeare wrote for the masses. If we say that Shakespeare plays are universal, than limiting them to a certain settings argues the opposite, If you have ever seen Julies Caesar or read the play one of the main themes is what do you do when you suspect the leader of the nation might turn into a tyrant someday. I think the play probably reflects the fear and sadness that many Americans still feel from the election.

  18. adastraperaspera says:

    For me, the problem is that the GOP’s gutting of arts funding means that productions must now rely on the whims of corporate patrons. So messaging in the piece is forced to to sync up with the messaging of the mighty CEO and his minions. Reminds me of Michelangelo being compelled to paint the Sistine Chapel, when he wanted to be sculpting instead. In a culture beholden to any type of authoritarians, Art is shackled.

  19. KatieBo says:

    The Public Theatre is the home of ‘Hamilton’- they’re doing fine ($3m+/week in Hamilton revenue alone) and don’t need the sponsor money so this isn’t going to hurt them. All these companies are doing is giving them more press.

  20. Juls says:

    The reflection of Trump’s face on the side of the car in the header pic: Is……is that his soul showing through?

  21. JennaR says:

    To be honest, I’m only offended because they’re comparing Trump to Julius Ceasar.

    • Ange says:

      Yeah, Julius Caesar was way smarter and a much better statesman. He did sport a combover though…..

  22. LA Elle says:

    Can I admit I’m conflicted? On the one hand, I was outraged when the Right did this sort of stuff with Obama. On the other hand, Trump is a different sort of president and the outrage over this (combined with Sony’s announcing “clean” movies) feels like the start of a new age of censorship that being led by corporations and people who don’t know history.

    There’s also a difference between offense to offend and using art as a commentary on current affairs. The majority of the attacks on Obama always felt like the former to me while this feels like the latter – I mean, just look at some of the plays Shakespeare and his brethren wrote as a commentary on Elizabethean and Jacobean politics, particularly The Malcontent.

    Also, I certainly hope Delta and Bank of America will be as upset over Trump’s policies actually killing Americans as compared to hypothetically killing someone.

  23. Sorry, no dignity in that says:

    Both Bank of America as well as Delta Airlines do support Trump. Both companies are owned by the establishment who apparently does no longer oppose to president Trump. It means the establishment has made arrangements with Trump.