Kathy Griffin came under fire recently for holding up a bloody, severed head meant to resemble Donald Trump. Now, a New York production of Shakespeare in the Park is facing similar scrutiny. The production of "Julius Caesar" features the likeness of Donald Trump in the role of the soon-to-be-assassinated emperor. Following the online backlash, several sponsors have withdrawn their support to the theater.

'Donald Trump' plays Julius Caesar

We know how the renowned play goes. Julius Caesar is betrayed by his friend Brutus and ultimately dies in his hands as he utters, "Et tu, Brute?" Now, replace Julius Caesar with Donald Trump in this story.

Suddenly, a spectacle of art turns into a political controversy. This New York play is performed at the Public Theatre. The play is adapted to modern times: suits predominate, and the scenery reminds the audience of New York.

The defining moment in the Caesar play is the death of the leader. This time around, the defining moment of this New York production is the death of a leader that clearly resembles current US President Donald Trump. As a result, criticism poured in the online world. People denounced the immorality that is to show the world an assassination of the president. “The depiction of a petulant, blondish Caesar in a blue suit, complete with gold bathtub and a pouty Slavic wife, takes onstage Trump-trolling to a startling new level,” wrote Jesse Green of The New York Times.

We are living in an era where the liberal arts and media fearlessly step over the line to express their discontent with the current state of affairs. No other president in the history of the US has suffered such exaggerated scrutiny and disrespect. It is one thing to dislike Trump and another to 'decapitate' or 'kill'' him in front of a large audience for the mere sake of making a point.

Sponsors cutting ties with Public Theatre

One of the sponsors who has decided to break its financial relationship with New York's Public Theatre is Delta Air Lines. “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,” their statement read on Sunday.

Bank of America followed in Delta's footsteps and expressed its decision to cut ties with the production of "Julius Caesar." The play's apparent intent to provoke and offend through the use of Trump's image played a role in the decision. However, the financial support of the Public Theatre would remain intact.

Other corporations who have long established bonds with New York's Public Theatre have rather refused to end their relationship with the theatre. For example, a spokeswoman for The New York Times turned to the notion of freedom of speech to defend the theatrical program's liberty and ability to stage the production of their choosing.

Further reactions

Oskar Eustis, director of the play, tried to relieve some of the tension by shedding light on a different message behind the play.

Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means,” said Eustis in a note published online.

On the other hand, one of Donald Trump's older sons did not hesitate to react to the politicization of art in the Public Theatre with the following tweet:

Donald Trump leaves no one indifferent. However, does this justify the abusive messages that have been directed at him by people of the arts and media? The Public Theatre used Donald Trump's image to politicize its message. A Trump-inspired 'Julius Caesar' play detaches itself from the sacred world of Shakespeare and rather looks to trigger a different response among the modern day US audience. On the other hand, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?