Sunday night was Broadway’s biggest night, as the annual Tony Awards for excellence in theater were being presented at Radio City Music Hall.
Also unfolding in New York on this night was news that Delta Airlines and Bank of America dropped varying degrees of sponsorship of the Public Theater over its current production of “Julius Caesar.” Part of the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Parks series, the classic has been revamped, using Donald and Melania Trump look-a-likes for the characters of Julius Caesar and his wife, Calpurnia. The Manhattan-based theater company’s production features a portrayal of Julius Caesar as a Donald Trump look-alike in a business suit who gets knifed to death on stage.
Atlanta-based Delta released a statement on Sunday saying it was pulling its sponsorship from The Public Theater “effective immediately.”
“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,” the statement said. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”
Later Sunday night, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America said it was withdrawing its funding for the production.
“The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend,” the bank said in a tweet. “Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
Performances at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater began in late May, just days before comedian Kathy Griffin was widely condemned for a video in which she gripped a bloodied rendering of Trump’s head.
Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director who also directed the play, said earlier in a statement that “anyone seeing our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”
Messages seeking comment from The Public Theater weren’t immediately returned.
“Julius Caesar” tells a fictionalized story of a powerful, popular Roman leader who is assassinated by senators who fear he is becoming a tyrant. It is set in ancient Rome, but many productions have costumed the characters in modern dress to give it a present-day connection.
The Public Theater is also where “Hamilton” made its Off Broadway debut in February 2015, transferring to Broadway six months later. “Fun Home” received its world premiere via the iconic New York troupe in 2013.
Contributing: Miriam Di Nunzio