The Public Theater, the longtime New York nonprofit currently taking fire for its Free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar,” has responded to the outcry by refusing to back down.
“We stand completely behind our production of ‘Julius Caesar,'” the theater said of the show, which makes overt references to the Trump administration in its modern-day depiction of Shakespeare’s story. “We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors, and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”
The statement continued, “Our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in no way advocates violence towards anyone,” referencing the controversial moment in the play when the Trump-like Caesar is assassinated. “Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.”
The production has been in previews for nearly four weeks, but only recently saw funders pull out after “Julius Caesar” was criticized in right-leaning news outlets. The opening night of the production, scheduled for Monday, remains on track.
The Public Theater is a venerable New York institution that began with the creation of the Shakespeare in the Park program and eventually expanded to a multi-stage Off Broadway venue that has birthed Broadway successes including “Hamilton” and “A Chorus Line.”