NYC's Public Theater defends production after sponsors withdraw

A New York theater is standing by its production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” despite two major corporate sponsors withdrawing funding. 

Manhattan-based Public Theater issued a statement Monday on Twitter.

Late Sunday, Bank of America became the second corporate sponsor to take back its funding after the production came under fire for portraying Julius Caesar as a Donald Trump look-alike who is stabbed to death on-stage.

Delta Airlines was the first to pull funding saying the Public Theater’s choices do “Not reflect Delta Airlines’ values.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other defenders included Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, who sarcastically tweeted to both Delta and Band of America: "What a mistake. Actually reading Julius Caesar might help in the future. Your copy is in the mail."

This modern-day Caesar's violent death at the hands of conspirators comes not long after comedian Kathy Griffin was widely condemned for posing for a photograph in which she gripped a bloodied rendering of Trump's head.

Though the Public's version of William Shakespeare's classic play is unchanged from its 400-year-old original, the production portrays Caesar with a gold bathtub and a pouty Slavic wife. Trump's name is never mentioned but backlash was swift.

On Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a Fox News story about the play and wrote, "I wonder how much of this 'art' is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does 'art' become political speech & does that change things?"

"Julius Caesar" ends its run Sunday. The comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" begins in the park on July 11 under the direction of Lear deBessonet.

The National Endowment for the Arts, which Trump once proposed eliminating, said in a statement that while the Public's Shakespeare programing has received its grants in the past, none were awarded for "Julius Caesar" or for funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts' grant for the Public.

Theater-lovers were quick to point out that a national tour of "Julius Caesar" in 2012 by The Acting Company featured a Caesar played by a black actor in a modern business suit who had a resemblance to then-President Barack Obama. Sponsors of the Guthrie Theater apparently had no objections — including Delta — when that show landed in Minneapolis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

© 2017 TEGNA MEDIA


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