Delta Airlines yanked their sponsorship of Shakespeare in the Park because they were doing theatre.
Two major US corporations have ended their sponsorship of a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which the Roman leader mimics Donald Trump.
In the New York-based production, Julius Caesar is depicted as a blond-haired businessman in a blue suit.
The production company, Public Theater, said the character was a contemporary Caesar “bent on absolute power”.
One of the sponsors, Delta Air Lines, said the producers had “crossed the line on the standards of good taste”.
In the Shakespearean tragedy, which is staged in New York’s Central Park, Caesar is assassinated in a lengthy scene in which he fights off his attackers before succumbing to multiple stab wounds.
The lead character’s wife in the play, Calpurnia, is depicted wearing designer outfits and speaking with an apparent Slavic accent.
In announcing the production earlier this year, Public Theater described its portrayal of the Roman leader as “magnetic, populist and irreverent”.
On its website, the company states that the play is about “how fragile democracy is,” adding that it highlights how the “institutions that we have grown up with can be swept away in no time at all”.
Delta said on Monday that the “graphic staging of Julius Caesar” at the Free Shakespeare in the Park event “does not reflect” the airline’s values.
I haven’t seen the production so I can’t render a critic’s point of view, and as a rule I’m not wild about staging Shakespeare with a contemporary theme unless it truly adds to the telling of the story as opposed to making a political statement. Getting the vapors over a staging of “Julius Caesar” and calling the assassination scene “graphic” is a little too cautious; the scene is supposed to be graphic. But apparently Delta and BofA were worried about backlash from a White House that thinks “Gilligan’s Island” was a documentary.
Theatre is supposed to startle the sensibilities, or at the very least make you think. So perhaps that’s why the sponsors got upset; the Trump people are trying to ban thinking.
PS: In 2012, the New York Acting Company did a production of the same play with Caesar modeled on Barack Obama. Remember the outcry about that? Yeah, me neither.