Julius Caesar (play)

People mad about the Trump-like ‘Julius Caesar’ are sending death threats to the wrong theater

Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” in New York. (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP)

In the 1990s, during the Internet’s adolescence, someone at Shakespeare & Company, a theater in Lenox, Mass., had the forethought to snap up the Shakespeare.org domain name. It was only about 30 bucks, a sum no one would miss if the whole Internet thing suddenly went bust.

That decision reaped Internet gold over the next two decades. People who searched for “Shakespeare” on their browser for the playwright’s name got an eyeful of the latest offerings from the now-40-year-old company.

Now, company officials believe, that savvy marketing decision is also responsible for the death threats Shakespeare & Company has been getting this month in a politics-laden case of mistaken identity.

A production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” 150 miles away, in New York’s Central Park, has stirred up controversy for its depiction of the title character. Hint: The Caesar character wears a blond wig, a suit and a solid red tie extending far below his waist.

He’s also brutally assassinated onstage, a bloody stabbing scene involving a presidential impersonator that has been criticized for being in poor taste.

The New York company that oversees Shakespeare in the Park has gotten its share of protesters and death threats. Some sponsors have pulled their support and the National Endowment for the Arts also distanced itself from the play. Protesters disrupted the show on Friday night, and a small but steady stream of picketers regularly gather outside the theater. But some of that animosity has been misdirected at Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, which finds itself assailed…

Oskar Eustis on Trump, ‘Julius Caesar’ and the Politics of Theater

The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” opened on Monday night under unusual circumstances: A firestorm of criticism from the right over the use of an actor styled as President Trump to portray Caesar, and then knifed to death as part of the story, led three major corporate donors to distance themselves from the show.

After the opening-night performance, and before the party that followed, Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public and director of the “Julius Caesar” production, sat down in the Delacorte Theater for a few minutes to answer questions about the matter.

[Read why “Julius Caesar” speaks to the politics of today.]

He noted that a few years earlier there had been an American production of the play in which Caesar was Obama-like, and no controversy had ensued. He also sharply criticized The New York Times for publishing a review of the play, which defended the staging, before the official opening. The Times cited the unfolding controversy as a rationale for doing so, but Mr. Eustis argued that the publication had become a tool of the outrage machine.

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What were you trying to tell us about our politics today with this particular staging?

We have faced a transition and a set of electoral choices, which are clearly destabilizing our democratic norms. Now, the question is, How do we respond to that? What do we do about it? And this, if you will, is a progressive’s nightmare vision of that.

For me, the whole thing is an anxiety nightmare parable about our current state, and that’s why it looks the way it looks.

Is Trump Caesar?

Of course not. Julius Caesar is Julius Caesar. What we are doing is what we try and do in every production, which is make the dramatic stakes as real and powerful for contemporary people as we can, in our time and our place.

Did you anticipate the outrage?

No. But all of this stuff is not about my production of “Julius Caesar.” This is about the right-wing hate machine. Those thousands of people who are calling our corporate sponsors to complain about this — none of them have seen the show. They’re not interested in seeing the show. They haven’t read “Julius Caesar.” They are being manipulated by “Fox & Friends” and other news sources, which are deliberately, for their own gain, trying to rile people up and turn them against an imagined enemy, which we are not.

You know by this…

Delta, BofA Drop Support For ‘Julius Caesar’ That Looks Too Much Like Trump

The Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park features a titular character who wears a Donald Trump-like costume and is stabbed to death onstage.

Two major corporate sponsors have pulled their support for a New York City production of Julius Caesar. At issue: The titular role has an unmistakably Trumpian air. And, um, spoiler alert: He gets assassinated.

The Julius Caesar in the The Public Theater’s production “has blond hair, a fondness for long ties and a fashionable wife who speaks with a Slavic accent,” as NPR’s Jeff Lunden reports. Conspirators stab him to death onstage, making for some Kathy Griffin-like gore.

In the funeral scene, according to The New York Timesreview, “Marc Antony exposes not just Caesar’s sliced-up garment, as Shakespeare indicates, but also his bare, wound-ripped flesh.”

Delta and Bank of America both pulled their sponsorship over the production, which has been the target of criticism in recent days from right-leaning outlets such as Breitbart and Fox News as well as from President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.

“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 to Deadline Hollywood.

“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 also terminated support for the production, though it will continue its relationship with the theater. “The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” the bank said in a statement to Deadline. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”

The Times review says the play “takes onstage Trump-trolling to a startling new level.”

On Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a Fox News story that described the production this way: “A New York City…