BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After two companies dropped their sponsorship of the production, New York’s Public Theater is standing by its controversial production of “Julius Caesar,” in which the title character, a Trump lookalike, is assassinated on stage.
“We stand completely behind our production of ‘Julius Caesar,'” the nonprofit theater company wrote in a statement obtained by ABC News. “We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”
The statement went on to say, “Our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.”
Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship of the production over the weekend following an outcry over the production on Twitter.
In a statement on Sunday, Delta Air Lines said it was pulling its sponsorship from The Public Theater “effective immediately.”
“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 statement said. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”
Later, on Twitter, Bank of America said it was withdrawing its funding for the production.
“The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” the bank said in a tweet. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
In the Public Theater’s version of Shakespeare’s classic play, Caesar, played by Gregg Henry, is portrayed as a Trump lookalike with a gold bathtub and a wife with a Slavic accent, reminiscent of Melania Trump.
In the play’s third act, Caesar is knifed to death on stage by a group of women and minorities.
Among those speaking out against the play were Trump’s sons.
“I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Sunday in response to a Fox News story about the play.
Eric Trump praised Delta and Bank of America for dropping its sponsorship.
But not everyone praised the two companies for their decision.
Beau Willimon, the creator of “House of Cards,” declared he will no longer fly Delta.
He also urged to others to donate to the Public Theater in light of the lost sponsors.
“Fargo” and “The Leftovers” actress Carrie Coon was among those who heeded Willimon’s call.
Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts was pulled into the fracas, and released its own statement that it had nothing to do with the Public Theater’s production.
“In the past, the New York Shakespeare Festival has received project-based NEA grants to support performances of Shakespeare in the Park by the Public Theater. However, no NEA funds have been awarded to support this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of ‘Julius Caesar’ and there are no NEA funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts’ grant to Public Theater or its performances,” the statement read.
The Public Theater’s “Julius Caesar” began in previews May 23 and is scheduled to run until June 18.
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