Entertainment Industry Reacts to Sponsors Withdrawing Funding From Trump-Like ‘Julius Caesar’

Julius Caesar Trump
Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP

Two major sponsors, Bank of America and Delta Airlines, have withdrawn funding from the Public Theater over a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” that clearly invokes the Trump administration — and the entertainment industry responded with vocal support of the Public amid concerns about free speech.

“Now I know where not to bank & who not to fly with,” tweeted Beau Willimon, the “House of Cards” creator who got his start as a playwright. “Actions like this create a culture of fear. We must support free expression, not punish.” He then initiated an online campaign to donate to the Public, the venerable New York nonprofit that has been the breeding ground for influential Broadway shows, including “Hamilton” and “A Chorus Line.”

Actors Carrie Coon and Denis O’Hare, two TV faces who have strong ties to the stage, were also among those going public with their support of the Public. “Thanks to the Public Theater, we have ‘A Chorus Line,’ ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Fun Home,’ and ‘Hair,'” tweeted John Cohen, a producer of “Despicable Me” and “The Angry Birds Movie.” “Those are four great reasons to support.”

The production, directed by Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis, clearly equates the title character with the president (and Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, with Melania Trump), and, in keeping with the storyline of the play, depicts Caesar being assassinated. In the wake of critical coverage in right-leaning news outlets including Breitbart and Fox News, Bank of America and Delta pulled their support.

Bank of America, which has been a major donor to the Public for 11 years (and gets significant credit for keeping Shakespeare in the Park free for most audience members), withdrew funding from the production itself, but not from the overall activities of the Public,

“The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” Bank of America said in a statement. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding for this production.”

Delta, on the other hand, said publicly it would revoke its support from the Public Theater entirely. “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,” Delta said in a statement. “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.”

So far, the Public Theater itself has remained silent in the face of the controversy. The production of “Julius Caesar,” starring Gregg Henry as the Trump-like Caesar, opens tonight.

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  1. Earnest Taylor says:

    It does very little good to withdraw support from this one production. Those in charge of the Theater will do it again. I choose to refuse to use BankAmerica in any way because they continue to support the theater that has chosen to produce such a production is anti America and border on threatening the President of the United States.

  2. Toman Sawyer says:

    This type thing is causing the baseball field shooting that we had yesterday. There is no denying it !!!!

  3. azarkhan says:

    Ahhh poor scumbag leftists, you got your little feelings hurt.

  4. DSFits says:

    What other corp. sponsor’s are still suporting this? Getting really tired of all the hate being thrown around and ignored.

  5. I’ve been an American Express cardmember since 1971. I just got off the phone with them after expressing my displeasure at their funding of thinly disguised trash like this. Maybe when American Express’s mail starts filling up with envelopes full of cut up credit cards they might rethink their position.

  6. Jel says:

    All sponsors should pull out and channels those finds into training people in their own industry. Let the millionaire actors sponsor this play acting. And, stop taking it out of my wallet.

    • Steve says:

      Civilized societies support the arts.

      • azarkhan says:

        Uhmm, Steve, the play is crap. Civilized people know the difference between art and crap.

      • mcgwynne says:

        Art does not condone nor create vicarious murder and assassination experiences.
        It was very disheartening to see people giving a standing ovation without knowing subconsciously they were enjoying an effigy of a political leader they hate being murdered.

        Using Shakespeare as a shill and pretending it’s art is the lowest form of self-deception not seen since the 1930’s German propaganda that sought to equate Jews with vermin.
        Congratulations Liberals and Progressives you have reenergized the evils of the Third Reich AND Stalin’s Communists and put them together in one toxic package.

      • blisterpeanuts says:

        This isn’t art. It’s thinly disguised politics.

      • Thomas McRill says:

        civilized societies support civilized art, plain and simple. Not trash

  7. Jan johnston says:

    I support B of A and Delta. I want a list of any sponsors that are still in. I’m a deplorable you know… can’t wait to see public response that is the silent majority on this.

  8. Equipment guy says:

    Now I know who to fly out of Detroit to LAX in September. Thanks Delta for having some balls. And if it happened during Obama’s term I would expect the same wise decision by Delta or BofA.

    • mcgwynne says:

      Been with BofA for twenty years.
      Gonna stay and update my Delta card as well.

      Confound the Devil by taking his money.

    • Steve says:

      It DID happen during Obama’s term, in a major repertory theater whose name escapes me at the moment. No one said anything. And that’s appropriate, because Julius Caesar is not a pro-assassination play. Once he’s killed, everything goes wrong.

      So, yeah. The fake outrage is faker than usual. And what this really shows is that we need more arts education in our schools. Since Betsy DeVos is in office, i won’t hold my breath.

      • mcgwynne says:

        Too bad you can’t remember Steve. If it really happened I’d think it would be impossible to forget!
        Hmmm, well since you opine that things go all “wrong” after the assassination I guess we shouldn’t worry.

      • Steve says:

        @Anna Michaela: thank you for basing your criticism on artistic ideas rather than on right-wing bromides and gratuitous rage. You may well be right. If I were directing this play (caveat: I haven’t directed in twenty years and I never directed Shakespeare), my inclination would be not to be as time-specific as this production or the 2012 Guthrie production. On the other hand, I have great respect for Oskar Eustis; I used to see shows he directed in San Francisco in the 80s at the marvelous Eureka Theater. So, honestly, I don’t know if this would work for me or not. (Although having the excellent Corey Stoll as Brutus sounds great.)

        @bneale: Unfortunately, most of the criticism of this production has been like yours rather than like Anna’s. For that reason, I doubt that I care to engage on this topic further.

      • Steve, I do agree with you that it did happen during Obama’s term (at the Guthrie), and, if you’re like me, you think it’s ham-handed and on-the-nose to ever do a production like this about the current administration, when a timeless play could be more subtle and more effective (instead of, as in the cases of both the Obama and Trump versions, intending to be faux-edgy), but another problem with the Trump analogy is that using Trump as your Caesar doesn’t even fit with the play – a lot of what happens after the assassination just doesn’t work well in the context of a president who is not universally loved or even liked and that pretty much gives the lie to the allegations of the artistic team that they’re trying to say something timely and relevant, instead of inflammatory and preaching-to-the-choir, by shoehorning Trump in.

      • bneale says:

        You don’t even have the guts to admit the point of the play is to show the assassination of Donald Trump which you and your fellow leftists would love to see come true. What a bunch of violent p r i c k s you are.

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