Two high-profile sponsors have pulled funding from a US production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that features a ‘Trump-like’ figure.
In a free ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ production of the classic play by the non-profit Public Theater, Caesar is presented as a blonde-haired man wearing a suit, red tie and American flag pin.
Similarities between the character Calpurnia (Caesar’s wife) and First Lady Melania Trump have also been highlighted, with Reuters describing that character as having a “Slavic accent” and dressing in “designer fashions”.
Controversy has been raised over the assassination scene in the new production, clips of which can be seen in the below video:
Criticism of the production was led by the US president’s own son:
I wonder how much of this “art” is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does “art” become political speech & does that change things? https://t.co/JfOmLLBJCn
In a statement posted on Twitter, Delta Airlines said: “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.
“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.”
A spokesperson stated: “The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
In his note on the current production, artistic director Oskar Eustis explained: “Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.”
Previous productions of the play – which is believed to have been written in 1599 – have also drawn attention to modern political parallels.
In one review of a 2012 production by The Acting Company, Noah Millman observes: “Director Rob Melrose has set his Caesar at our precise historical moment, in Obama’s Washington, DC. The capital is rocked by ‘Occupy Rome’ protests.
“His Caesar (the suavely confident Bjorn DuPaty) is a tall, charismatic African-American politician; he doesn’t look or sound much like Obama (he more closely recalls Michael Jordan), but the audience is unquestionably going to read him as an Obama stand-in nonetheless.”