People enraged by a controversial, Trump-themed production of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, ‘Julius Caesar’ are taking it out on the wrong Shakespeare – Shakespeare Dallas, reports former Dallas theater critic Jeremy Gerard in Deadline magazine.
Currently being staged by Shakespeare in the Park – one of the annual productions put on by the Public Theater in New York City’s Central Park – the modern-dress ‘Julius Caesar’ that’s causing temperatures to rise depicts a President Trump-like Roman emperor. This Julius Caesar has a blond pompadour, wears red ties and lounges in a golden bath; meanwhile, his young, super-model wife speaks with a Slavic accent. And, of course, Julius Caesar gets assassinated by a cabal of knife-wielding senators – who are eager to topple the tyrant and restore the republic.
The New York production led Delta Airlines and Bank of America to pull their funding from the Public Theater – prompting a ‘thank-you’ tweet from the President. But it’s also led people to send ‘dozens and dozens’ of angry, even life-threatening emails to Shakespeare Dallas, which is entirely innocent of any political provocation. The 46-year-old Dallas company is currently presenting ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and playwright Octavio Solis’ adaptation of ‘Don Quixote.’ According to Deadline, Shakespeare Dallas is not the only company to receive death threats. Other free, outdoor, summer theater companies have as well – even ones not staging Shakespeare.
Deadline quotes Shakespeare Dallas’ artistic director Raphael Parry as saying, “Some were just telling us ‘I will write to your sponsors to pull your funding,’ or to go to hell. But others said they hoped we’d all be sent to ISIS and killed with real knives.” Given the recent shooting at a Congressional baseball game, Parry said he’s not taking any chances: He’s forwarding all threats to the FBI.
Critics and scholars, by the way, have argued for centuries whether the audience’s sympathies should lie with Caesar or his friend and murderer, Brutus. Assassinating a head of state on stage made a very dangerous political statement in the Elizabethan age, and besides, at the time, Julius Caesar was considered one of the great ‘worthies,’ a wise man whose words young students of Latin would memorize. On the other hand, the doubt-filled Brutus clearly anticipates later, tragic heroes like Hamlet.
Top photo from shutterstock.