Kate Shindle, President of Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, released the following statement after news reports that Delta Airlines and Bank of America have pulled sponsorship from the Public Theater's production of Julius Caesar.
“The Public Theater has a long tradition of producing thoughtful work that is in keeping with one of our most important traditions – the free exchange of ideas under the First Amendment.
“Julius Caesar has always been a provocative piece of theatre that asks the audience to think as well as to feel. Many, many modern-dress productions have used contemporary politicians and public figures to drive home the storylines that Shakespeare wove into his play. It's surprising that this has become so deeply offensive to Delta Airlines, considering that in 2012, Delta sponsored a season in Minneapolis in which the Guthrie Theatre staged a 'Julius Caesar' which featured the killing of an Obama-like figure.
“All this pearl clutching really just indicates how profoundly people are missing the point. Julius Caesar is a cautionary tale about the dangers and consequences of a mob mentality against a ruler. The play actually goes out of its way to make the argument that violence and assassination are not the answer to political problems in a democracy.
“Delta and Bank of America may, of course, choose to fund – or not fund – anything they want. But while Delta's motto is to 'keep climbing,' the company's actions this week have taken theatre everywhere down a peg. I hope our 51,000 members will remember this episode when choosing where to put their own hard-earned money.”
Broadway World reported yesterday that in 2012 Delta Airlines sponsored a production of Julius Caesar where an Obama-like figure was cast in the role of Caesar. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported yesterday that the Trump Foundation's first donation in 1987 was to the Public Theater's Shakespeare Fest. In 2017 alone, Julius Caesar has been mounted in nearly a dozen Equity theaters across the country, including in Arkansas, Michigan, Oregon and Colorado.