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Bank of America and Delta Air Lines are pulling their support from New York City’s Public Theater over their latest production of Julius Caesar. Set to open Monday in Central Park as part of their Shakespeare in the Park series, the production features a Trump-like Caesar who is stabbed to death during the show’s finale.
“Continuing the work of its visionary founder, Joseph Papp, The Public Theater is dedicated to developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people,” says their website.
“Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today The Public engages audiences in a variety of venues – beginning with Free Shakespeare in the Park.”
The website for Julius Caesar reads:
Magnetic, populist, irreverent, he seems bent on absolute power. A small band of patriots, devoted to the country’s democratic traditions, must decide how to oppose him. Shakespeare’s political masterpiece has never felt more contemporary.
Delta Air Lines ended it’s four-year run as the official airline of the Public Theater because of the work. “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 company said in a statement.
“Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste,” they added. “We have notified them of our decision to end our sponsorship as the official airline of The Public Theater effective immediately.”
Bank of America followed, stating they would be pulling their funding from the production but will remain a sponsor of other Public Theater initiatives.
“Bank of America supports arts programs worldwide, including an 11-year partnership with The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park,” the company said in a statement on Twitter on Sunday.
“The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” Bank of America continued. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding for this production.”
Other corporate sponsors of the Public Theater have also faced calls on social media to denounce the play or end their relationship with the Public.
A spokeswoman for The New York Times said the company would not change course. In a statement, the company said: ”As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media, we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they chose.”
Gregg Henry, the actor playing the Trumpian Caesar explained to Backstage the importance of casting Trump in this artistic light.
“I think the correlations between Julius Caesar and our current president are, you know, not exact in many, many, many ways,” Henry said. “Julius Caesar was a general of great import in the world and an innovator and a great leader in many ways. But he became drunk with ego, drunk with power, drunk with ambition and the belief that he and he alone must rule the world.”
So you can take from our present politics and president certain things he said in the campaign and certain things he said since he’s been in office in terms of his outlook and in terms of his philosophy if you will. For instance, his mention of “I’m the only person who can do it,” which he said several times during the campaign. And so the idea for me was to try and do some things that will represent and show you—and I have great costumes and wigs that show you that this could be Trump. But I’m also trying to bring in the larger knowledge of tyrants. It’s sort of a “tyrant’s’ greatest hits” in [the way I play] the speeches and in the nature of the ego and belief that one man is more important, is above the law, is the law. Those tyrannical beliefs in terms of how to deal with power. Hopefully, I’m able to sort of show what’s happening with this president, tweak this president for kind of what he is in a lot of ways and also show the dangers of dealing with a tyrant or possible tyrant in our country.