CHARLOTTE, NC, June 13, 2017 – At first glance, it might appear that the Shakespeare in the Park production of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” is another leftist shock-treatment promoting their complete distaste for President Donald Trump by promulgating his assassination. Close inspection demonstrates there is considerable irony in the production which opened in New York over the weekend.
Built in 1962, Central Park’s Delacorte Theater has been offering free tickets to the public for more than half a century and has long been a popular venue for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
Patrons camp out, often for up to six hours to obtain a maximum allotment of two complimentary tickets for productions featuring well-known directors and actors in prominent roles.
The “Julius Caesar” controversy arises in Act 3, Scene 1 when Caesar is murdered by fellow senators including one of his closest allies, Brutus. In the Central Park version, which is played in contemporary dress, an interpretation frequently used to update 16th century productions, a paunchy blonde business mogul with large hand gestures and expensive suits is brutally assassinated a la Caesar in Shakespeare’s original 1599 rendition.
According to reviews, the modern-day Julius Caesar (Donald Trump) is so completely covered in blood that there can be no question regarding the intent to make the scene as horrifying and gruesome as possible.
FOX News reported on Sunday that the “NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of Trump.” The operative word, of course, is “appears” as if there could be any doubt as to the intent or interpretation.
Depending on which account you read, some found the scene “disgusting and distasteful” while others like CNN’s Fareed Zakaria termed it a “masterpiece.”
But here is where the controversy and the interpretation take a twist that becomes difficult to analyze.
As one theater spokeswoman stated,”Our production of “Julius Caesar” in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play and our production make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.
“We stand completely behind our production (the debate) is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”
The question is how truthful or disingenuous are such reactions given the current political climate in the country.
There can be no question that the violent murder is the focal point of the drama, but is it done because every high school student in the world knows the story and reacts in the same way, or is it, indeed, done with the same intent Shakespeare had some 400 years ago?
Certainly misunderstanding 16th century English and Shakespeare’s poetic language is easy to do in a 20th-century world.
Consider for a moment the Kathy Griffin incident of releasing a photo of her holding Trump’s bloodied head.
Initially, Griffin backed down and apologized for “crossing the line,” but she later made things worse for herself by claiming that Trump had harassed her in the past and this was a form of payback. It was an excuse that not even the mainstream press could buy into.
Once again controversy has polarized an already overly divided country.
Both Bank of America and Delta Airlines quickly announced they would no longer provide funding for the production.
One-time actor, George Brunner, responded saying “We live in a bullshit world. If you want to promote the arts and you believe in the freedom of expression, then you don’t withdraw your support.”
One the one hand that is true, but the other side legitimately asks, “How do you evaluate the quality of anything in a contemporary world where everything goes?”
Should we return to an era where everyone spoke in hushed tones to the extent of being overly discreet? Or is it better to be completely and brutally honest, so long as we know what the truth really is?
Uncovering the truth in recent years has been one of the most difficult challenges we face.
“Julius Caesar” has gone beyond the point of no return. The country needs to stop whining and get on with solving the overwhelming problems we face rather than wringing our hands over non-issues.
In this instance, “Julius Caesar” is just another glaring sign of the times.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)