Delta Yanks Support for NYC’s Public Theater Over Trumplike ‘Caesar’

  • Carrier ends official-airline role at New York institution
  • Assassinated title character staged to resemble U.S. president

Delta Air Lines Inc. and Bank of America Corp. revoked sponsorship of New York’s famed Public Theater because its summer production of “Julius Caesar” is staged with an assassinated title character who resembles Donald Trump.

In separate statements, the two U.S. firms criticized the way that the Shakespearean tragedy’s lead character -- in a suit and tie, sporting a blond mane -- was portrayed.

“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 spokeswoman Ashton Morrow said in an emailed statement. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.” Delta told The Public Theater it’s ending its official-airline sponsorship immediately.

Bank of America is also withdrawing funding, a spokeswoman said in an email, adding that the Public Theater had chosen to present Julius Caesar in a way "that was intended to provoke and offend."

‘Trolling’ Trump

The characters in the play, which runs through June 18, wear modern dress. “Its 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,” the New York Times wrote in a review. The lead is stabbed and bloodied onstage.

Public Theater officials didn’t immediately respond to a query for comment left outside regular business hours. Last week, the Associated Press quoted the organization’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, as saying that anyone who sees the play “will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”

“Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means,” he wrote in a separate note on the Public Theater’s website. “To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.”

Delta disclosed its decision just hours before Broadway’s actors, directors and other stars gathered for the annual Tony Awards ceremony. It’s the second time in two weeks that murderous imagery of the U.S. president has caused an uproar. Comedian Kathy Griffin was fired from jobs at CNN and elsewhere after posting a picture of herself holding a fake severed head of Trump.

Shakespeare in the Park

Plays at the Public’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park are a rite of summer in New York, with would-be attendees lining up by dawn or even camping overnight to procure free tickets.

The statements by Delta and Bank of America followed calls on Twitter for sponsors to pull out. “Do u condone the current Trump assassination version of the play,” one poster tweeted at Bank of America.

Delta and other U.S. airlines have appealed to the Trump administration for support on key policy issues recently. Trump has called for privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system; Delta hasn’t expressed a public position on the latest proposal. Delta, American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. have also been lobbying the administration to curb the U.S. expansion of three Middle Eastern airlines that they say they unfairly accept subsidies from their governments.

— With assistance by Sylvia Wier, and Michael Sasso

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