Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrew their sponsorship of New York City's nonprofit Public Theater yesterday over a new Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar that features a President Trump-like figure in the role of Caesar, who gets bloodily murdered on-stage.
Delta said in a statement, "Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste," and a Bank of America spokesman told the New York Daily News, "The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in a way that was intended to provoke and offend."
In the new production, Caesar is presented as a Trump figure in looks -- including with a long necktie -- as well as in behavior, and his wife, Calpurnia, is Melania Trump-like with a Slavic accent. Caesar-Trump is shown being stabbed to death by the Roman senators on stage in a bloody scene.
Artistic director Oskar Eustis says on the Public Theater's website that the production shouldn't be taken literally, stating, "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." He told local station WPIX 11, "Anyone seeing our production of Julius Caesar will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone."
The Daily News reports that Julius Caesar was similarly modernized in a 2012 production at the Baruch Performing Arts Center with then-President Barack Obama portrayed in the title role of the Roman ruler who gets assassinated. The newspaper said there was no backlash from sponsors to that production.