The Public Theater fiercely defended the controversial production of “Julius Caesar” featuring a President Trump-inspired title character who gets assassinated — one day after major sponsors Bank of America and Delta pulled their support over the politically charged subject matter.
In a statement, the theater acknowledged that the Central Park production is indeed polarizing — which is the purpose of great art.
“The play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions,” a statement reads. “Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”
Delta, Bank of America hypocrites over ‘Julius Caesar’ Trump
The producers added that this particular production of “Julius Caesar” — which has been running since May 23, but officially opens Monday — is being misinterpreted.
“(It) in no way advocates violence towards anyone,” the statement continued. “Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.”
The Public Theater’s staunch defense was echoed by New York theatergoers, who condemned Bank of America and Delta for pulling out of the production.
“I’m very disappointed at a couple of big donors that decided not to fund it,” said an Upper West Side resident named Leslie, who didn’t give her last name. “It’s art, what do they expect?”
Delta, Bank of America pull sponsorship of ‘Julius Caesar’ production over Trump-like portrayal
Another named Allen Rubenstein, 75, slammed the corporations’ actions as “censorship,” while a Williamsburg student named George Edwards called their decisions “ridiculous.”
“It’s not even a negative portrayal if you actually look at what’s happening,” said Edwards, 24, before continuing with one of Trump’s favorite put-downs. “It’s just sad that they feel they have to pull their funding from things like this because of the pressure from conservative media outlets.”
It is unclear why Bank of America and Delta waited until Sunday evening to pull out of a show that has been running for weeks — but several conservative media outlets started condemning the work, and its “Trump” killing, late last week.
The Public Theater boasts 14 sponsors on its website, though not all of them are specifically funding the “Julius Caesar” production.
Trump meets bloody end in risqué ‘Julius Caesar’ reimagining
Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis didn’t return a request for comment about the controversy. But he has spoken at length in earlier interviews about why he chose to make Caesar a Trump-esque character in Shakespeare’s ultimate power play.
Gregg Henry’s portrayal of Caesar includes poofy blond hair, an oversized tie, a power suit and plenty of talking with his hands. His character’s wife, Calpurnia, speaks with a Slovenian accent, much like the real First Lady, Melania Trump.
It’s not the first time a sitting president has been parodied in a New York City production of “Julius Caesar” in recent years. The Acting Company produced a version starring a President Obama lookalike in 2012 that ran at the Baruch Performing Arts Center — but that play inspired very little backlash and did not lose any funding from donors.
“Julius Caesar” is an overtly political work — even in its original form — that centers on a power-hungry ruler who is killed by conspirators who claim they are trying to save the republic from a dictator. But it leads to civil war and the return to power of Caesar’s allies.
Anderson Cooper hopes Kathy Griffin ‘bounces back’
And while none of the park-goers Monday find The Public Theater’s version offensive to Trump, one believes its offensive to Caesar.
“I think it’s an insult to Caesar’s legacy,” Tamarquis Luna, 45, said. “Trump cannot compare to Caesar because Caesar created institutions that still exist today.”
Send a Letter to the Editor