Delta Airlines and Bank of America pulled out of their sponsorship of New York’s Public Theater on Sunday over a production of “Julius Caesar” that reimagines the main character as President Trump, The New York Daily News reports.
Shortly after Delta, who was a four-year sponsor, made its announcement, Bank of America yanked its support as well.
The Shakespeare in the Park play tells the story of the leader assassinated by Roman senators over the fear that he’s becoming too tyrannical, but rather than the original setting, the production stages Caesar (Gregg Henry) and his wife, Calpurnia, (Tina Benko) with Donald and Melania Trump lookalikes.
Henry, who already played a Trump stand-in on “Scandal” last year, models his Caesar almost perfectly after the man in the Oval Office. He meets his end after being stabbed to death by women and minorities on stage.
Benko, similarly, plays Calpurnia with a thick Slavic accent, much like Melania herself.
The recreation has drawn ire from those who say the show promotes violence against the President. Those critics include the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
“I wonder how much of this ‘art’ is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does ‘art’ become political speech & does that change things?” the younger Trump tweeted Sunday in response to a Fox News article that accused the show of depicting the assassination of the President.
Delta, which donates between $100,000 and $499,000 annually, according to Deadline, pulled its sponsorship Sunday afternoon.
“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,” a company spokesman said in a statement.
“Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste. We have notified them of our decision to end our sponsorship as the official airline of The Public Theater effective immediately.”
Bank of America, one of The Public Theaters’s dozen corporate sponsors, offered similar reasoning.
“Bank of America supports art programs worldwide, including an 11-year partnership with The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park,” a spokeswoman told the Daily News. “The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it.”
The show does include a warning about the violent nature of the assassination. On The Public Theater’s website, artistic director Oskar Eustis said the production should not be taken literally.
“Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means,” he said. “To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.”
In a statement to WPIX 11, he said “anyone seeing our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”
Eustis previously told The News that President Trump was more than welcome to see his shows, including “Hamilton,” which debuted at The Public Theater in February 2015 and moved to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre the following August.
“He’s the President of the United States,” he told The News. “I’m not going to say no to the President to see our show.”
The artistic director said he’d hosted politicians before, including Vice President Mike Pence, who was booed at a production of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical.
The controversy comes just days after comedian Kathy Griffin found herself embroiled in scandal after posing for a photo holding the decapitated head of a fake Trump.
A 2012 retelling of “Julius Caesar” set the play under Barack Obama’s presidency amid “Occupy Rome” protests at the capital. No sponsors pulled out of that production.
“Julius Caesar” previews began in May. The play officially opens Monday and runs through June 18 at the Delacorte Theater.