The Times

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…

Google Uses Kids To Promote Its Brand In The Classroom

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I’m not writing about the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, Marvel or Harry Potter. This blog is about how high-tech companies like Google use kids and schools to grab market shares and promote their brands and the negative consequences. On May 14, 2017, a front-page article in the New York Times reported on “How Google Took Over The USA Classroom.” According to the article, “Google, a unit of the $652 billion Alphabet, is the latest big contender in a decades-old battle among tech companies to hook students as future customers.”

Access to the world through Google Classroom.

The report focused on one particular school in Chicago. “The sixth graders at Newton Bateman, a public elementary school here with a classic red brick facade, know the Google drill. In a social-science class last year, the students each grabbed a Google-powered laptop. They opened Google Classroom, an app where teachers make assignments. Then they clicked on Google Docs, a writing program, and began composing essays… Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest school district in the United States, with about 381,000 students, is at the forefront of a profound shift in American education: the Googlification of the classroom.

Google has been out-pacing its rivals at Apple and Microsoft in school sales by bypassing district leadership and promoting its products directly to teachers. It has also been using data it collects from students and teachers using its products to enhance its ability to provide better serves – which means sell them more stuff.

In case you mistakenly think this is all being done to improve instruction and benefit children preparing them for…

From Silicon Alley OG to New York Times CTO (and MB 2017)

An unusual challenge: Grow the value of a customer base that’s been hit with a windstorm of record-breaking engagement.

The savvy solution: The most transformative technology to come along in years: artificial intelligence.

For Nick Rockwell, CTO of the New York Times — and a featured speaker at MB 2017 coming up July 11-12 — AI is foundational to his game plan to blow up the digital Times until it blots out the sky. His team is leveraging analytics and machine learning to create the kind of personalization strategies that can grow an audience hungry for more.

It all started during last year’s presidential election, when a screaming, tantrum-throwing orangutan raced against arguably the most qualified candidate to ever throw their hat in the presidential ring. The public was horrified, fascinated, terrified — and hooked. In the wake of the new normal, readership of The New York Times skyrocketed.

Though the electoral winner makes continuous claims that the media giant is “failing,” the numbers tell a different story. During the last three months of 2016, the Times gained 276,000 net digital-only subscribers — or more digital subscriptions in three months than in all of 2013 and 2014 combined. Digital advertising revenue, which makes up about 42 percent of the Times’s total revenue, rose 10.9 percent to $77.6 million in the quarter.

And Nick Rockwell, the minty-fresh brand-new CTO of the New York Times, was handed unprecedented success, but also one of the…

Jimmy Fallon Talks Trump Hair-Ruffling: “I Almost Did it to Minimize Him”

Courtesy of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

The ‘Tonight Show’ host opens up about the polarizing moment in his interview with the future president and how the backlash left him “devastated” and regretting not addressing it on his show.

Jimmy Fallon has opened up about his much-maligned playful interview with Donald Trump last fall, during which the Tonight Show host rumpled the future president’s hair.

Fallon’s behavior was swiftly criticized as normalizing a divisive candidate prone to making shocking statements and using hateful rhetoric.

Speaking to The New York Times in an extended profile, Fallon seems disappointed by the response to the incident and reveals he thinks he should have addressed the backlash on his show.

“They have a right to be mad,” Fallon says. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

“I didn’t do it to humanize him,” Fallon explains. “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’”

The swift backlash once the interview aired, however, led Fallon to avoid Twitter and online news.

“I’m a people pleaser,” he tells the Times. “If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset. So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”

Still, Fallon didn’t address the controversy on-air and acknowledges that he “should have.”

“I didn’t talk about it, and I should have…

The New York Times Will Offer A Special Section For Kids This Weekend

Tiny journalism enthusiasts, rejoice!

The New York Times announced on Thursday that it will be offering a special section for kids on Mother’s Day. Offering a mix of stories related to news, arts, science, travel sports, opinion, and food, it will appear in the Sunday, May 14 edition of the print newspaper.

The New York Times

According to the press release announcing the the special section, “Readers will not only have fun, but will learn some new tricks, including how to write a newspaper story; how to win an argument with your parents; how to make the best homemade slime imaginable (written by…

The University of Tennessee Offers a Dolly Parton-Themed History Class

Dolly Parton’s life is a true rags-to-riches story: Raised in poverty in rural Tennessee, she beat the odds and rose to international stardom as a country musician, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Now, The New York Times reports that the Southern star’s down-home roots are the focus of an honors history course offered at the University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville.

Called “Dolly’s America,” the seminar uses Parton’s personal journey as a lens through which to examine modern Appalachian culture. The singer grew up in Sevier County, about 30 miles outside of Knoxville, and the class looks at how a “‘hillbilly’ girl from Appalachia grew up to become an international one-word sensation,” according to the course description on the university’s website.

Materials include Dolly…

Some Scientists Are Skeptical of the March for Science

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On Earth Day, April 22, millions of people plan to hit the streets of Washington, D.C. and cities worldwide to March for Science.

The organizers of the march frame it as a reproach against “an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery.” Lead organizer Jonathan Berman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, described it like this to the New York Times:

“Yes, this is a protest, but it’s not a political protest… The people making decisions are in Washington, and they are the people we are trying to reach with the message: You should listen to evidence.”

Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Bill Nye, one of several public leaders for the march, said:

“People are denying the facts of science in the world’s most influential economy. We’re marching to remind everybody of how much science serves you, a person, as a citizen in our society.”

But despite the good intentions of organizers, some scientists are questioning whether the march will do more harm than good.

A lack of consensus

The March for Science got off to a rocky start, and almost all the bad noise came from within the scientific community itself. Soon after the march was announced in January, an organizer sent out a tweet that some scientists considered overtly political.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker responded with a tweet that said the march “compromises its goals with anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric.” Organizers soon deleted the tweet, issued an apology, and revised their mission statement, though they never mentioned Pinker.

Pinker wasn’t alone in thinking the organizers were using highly politicized language.

“I was pretty appalled,” said evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne to the New Republic. “Their mission statement was like, all the buzzwords of the regressive left. It wasn’t a march about science, it was a march about identity politics. And at that point, I couldn’t support it.”

Meanwhile, other scientists criticized the march for failing to be inclusive. After it was announced that Bill Nye would be the march’s first honorary co-chair, complaints arose about how organizers weren’t committed to diversity.

“I love Bill Nye,” said Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina who was invited to join the march’s board in February after she criticized its approach to diversity, to BuzzFeed News. “But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.”

Regardless of questions of…