New York's Shakespeare in the Park is facing criticism for staging a production of "Julius Caesar" that features President Donald Trump as the protagonist.
The play traditionally follows the story of Roman politician Julius Caesar, who was betrayed and brutally murdered by his political allies who believed their leader was verging on dictatorship. New York Public Theater's production, which is scheduled to premiere June 12, reimagines Shakespeare's production by replacing Caesar and his wife, Calpurnia, with Donald and Melania Trump, respectively, according to the New York Daily News.
Caesar, played by Gregg Henry, wears the blue suit and red tie typical of the president. Actress Tina Benko portrays Calpurnia with a Slavic accent similar to the first lady. At the play's end, the Trumpian Caesar is stabbed to death by a group of women and minorities.
The production has already caused backlash, including from Trump's son.
"I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?" tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
Major sponsors are also pulling out as donors in reaction to the production. Delta and Bank of America have both withdrawn their financial support.
"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," said Delta, which contributes between $100,000 and $499,000 to the New York Public Theater annually.
"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 released a similar statement, saying that “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."
The New York Times reports that the spokeswoman for the Public Theater has declined to comment on the situation. The play's director, Oskar Eustis, has posted a statement online, saying that his production is not meant to endorse the assassination of any political leaders.
"'Julius Caesar' can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means," he wrote. "To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him."