US Shakespeare theatres receive death threats over Trump-like Caesar

Theatre companies across country targeted for abuse following controversial New York production


US theatre companies with "Shakespeare" in their names say they have been targeted with abusive and threatening messages following right-wing outrage over a New York production of Julius Caesar.

The Washington Post reports that the Massachusetts-based Shakespeare & Company was sent a letter saying: "F*** you, hope you all who did this play about Trump are the first do die when ISIS COMES TO YOU f****** sumbags," while the Boston Globe says Shakespeare Dallas in Texas has received more than 80 misdirected abusive messages, including threats of rape and death along with the suggestion that the company be "sent to Isis to be killed with real knives".

Raphael Parry, artistic director at Shakespeare Dallas, told the newspaper he blamed Google’s analytics for prioritising local search results for theatres.

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"They’re just doing a general Google search," he said. "When you Google 'Shakespeare in the Park' in the Texas region, our name pops up first, and they just go to town."

Anger among Trump supporters has grown following his depiction as Julius Caesar in the annual Shakespeare in the Park in New York.

The production references contemporary politics, imagining Caesar as a Trump-like figure complete with a Slavic-accented wife.

Right-wing media sites have reacted angrily to the depiction. A headline in Breitbart read: "'Trump' Stabbed to Death in Central Park Performance of Julius Caesar", while Fox News Insider titled its article: "NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of Trump."

A recent performance was disrupted by two protesters who objected to the bloody scene in which the title character is knifed to death, reports the New York Times.

The outcry has also led several sponsors, including Delta Airlines, to withdraw their support from the production.

Trump-like Julius Caesar: Five facts about controversial New York production

12 June

A new production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in New York has come under attack for its portrayal of a Donald Trump-like character in the title role of the doomed Roman leader.

In the show, staged by the non-profit Public Theatre for the regular free summer Shakespeare in the Park event, Gregg Henry plays Caesar as an obnoxious, blond-haired businessman who is stabbed to death by his fellow senators because they fear his hunger for power.

The interpretation has led to two major US corporations boycotting the production.

Here's what you need to know.

Caesar really does look like Trump

This isn't a case of mistaken identity - Henry's Caesar does resemble the US President - in fact, the New York Times review says 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".

Does it go too far?

According to reports, audiences have been shocked when Caesar is stabbed, but it is mostly conservative commentators who have expressed outrage over the show.

A Breitbart article headlined: "'Trump' Stabbed to Death in Central Park Performance of 'Julius Caesar'" quotes audience member Laura Schaeffer saying she found the show "shocking and distasteful". Meanwhile, in Fox Insider, Fox & Friends hosts said it was "not a subtle statement" to portray the murder of a US president.

Donald Trump Jr has also questioned funding for the show:

See more

Delta and Bank of America have withdrawn support

Two major sponsors, Delta Air Lines and Bank of America, have withdrawn their sponsorship of the production, with the BBC reporting that Delta had said the producers had "crossed the line on the standards of good taste". Both companies have been supportive of Shakespeare in the Park for the past several years.

Not everyone hates the show

According to the production's leading actor, Julius Caesar contains important parallels to today's political environment.

In an interview with Backstage, Henry said director Oskar Eustis's vision was "very much to show us a warning that Shakespeare had" and that the play was about "the way you fight that tyrant". Eustis himself, in a statement to the Associated Press said "anyone seeing our production of 'Julius Caesar' will realise it in no way advocates violence towards anyone".

A string of violent Trump parodies

There has been a series of controversies over Trump parodies with violent overtones over the last few weeks. Comedian Kathy Griffin was fired by CNN after appearing to hold up a severed Trump head, while the Daily Telegraph reports that rap star Snoop Dogg shot a clown dressed like the President in a video, prompting an angry tweet from Trump criticising the rapper's "failing career" and asking what the response would have been if he had pretended to shoot Barack Obama.

Entertainment Weekly, however, says this isn't the first time Julius Caesar has drawn on the White House for inspiration. In 2012, a version by New York-based The Acting Company featured an Obama-like version of the Roman leader.

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