Sponsors Flee as NYC Theater Portrays Trump as Slain Caesar

Delta, Bank of America yank sponsorship of NYC's Public Theater
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2017 6:36 AM CDT
Caesar Seems to Show Killing of Trump, and Outrage Follows
In this May 21, 2017, file photo provided by The Public Theater, Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in...   (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP)

Beware the ides of March ... or the withdrawal of six-figure sponsorships. Delta Air Lines and Bank of America on Sunday night pulled their sponsorship of New York’s Public Theater over its production of Julius Caesar. The issue: In this reimagining, it's a President Trump lookalike (Gregg Henry) who plays the title character—and is ultimately stabbed to death by a group of women and minorities. Similarly, Tina Benko plays Caesar's wife with what the New York Daily News calls a "thick Slavic accent." More on the timeline and the fallout:

  • NBC New York sums up the play thusly: "In a production that may as well have been renamed Donald Trump, the conquering hero ... puts a hand on the crotch of his Slavic wife, picks on a 'reporter' planted in the audience, posts to social media and bathes in a golden tub."
  • The play is set to open Monday in Central Park, having been in previews since May 23. The New York Times reports that criticism has been building over the last week, and reached a "fever pitch" Sunday thanks to coverage by Fox News.
  • Donald Trump Jr. retweeted that Fox link Sunday morning, appending this: "I wonder how much of this 'art' is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does 'art' become political speech & does that change things?"

  • Four-year sponsor Delta backed out first, saying the "artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste." Deadline reports its support was worth $100,000 to $499,000 a year. Eleven-year backer Bank of America exited next, saying in part, "Had this intention [to provoke and offend] been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it."
  • The Times cites this online note from director Oskar Eustis, which it says "makes clear" the play is a cautionary tale, not an endorsement of taking out political leaders.
  • Deadline's take in its review: "It may not be as crude as the assassination of Kim Jong-un in The Interview, but the timing is not so good in the wake of l’affair Kathy Griffin."
(More theater stories.)

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