"Mischief, thou art afoot" in Central Park, as a controversial production of Shakespeare in the Park's "Julius Caesar" cost The Public Theater a valuable airline sponsorship on Sunday.
Delta Air Lines announced via a series of tweets that it would be pulling its sponsorship of The Public Theater "effective immediately" because the company put on a production of "Julius Caesar" in which the central character mirrors President Donald Trump — until he is stabbed falling on stage with a blood-covered chest. The airline had sponsored The Public Theater for the past four years.
"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," the airline said in its tweeted statement. "Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste."
Another sponsor, Bank of America, inserted a statement in the edition of Playbill distributed during Sunday night's Tony Awards in New York reading: "While Bank of America values the right to artistic expression, they do not condone this summer's interpretation of 'Julius Caesar' and its depiction of political violence in a modern context."
The New York Times quoted a spokeswoman for the bank as saying it was withdrawing its support for "Julius Caesar" but not for other Shakespeare in the Park productions.
On Monday morning, Eric Trump thanked Delta and Bank of America.
The Times and American Express are also sponsors of the theater. American Express tweeted Monday morning that it did "not condone the interpretation" of the play.
This year, Shakespeare in the Park's production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park is a modern retelling, depicting Caesar as a reddish-blond businessman wearing a suit affixed with an American flag pin. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, is well-dressed and speaks in a thick Eastern European accent, much like First Lady Melania Trump.
But supporters of the president Trump claimed outrage over Caesar's murder in Act III of the 418-year-old play. They suggested that it glorified the death of the sitting president.
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater and the show's director, pushed back at the allegations.
"Anyone seeing our production of Julius Caesar will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone," Eustis said in a statement. "Shakespeare's play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods pay a terrible price and destroy their republic. For over 400 years, Shakespeare's play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park."
The play features Gregg Henry as Caesar, Tina Benko as Calpurnia, John Douglas Thompson as Cassius and Corey Stoll as Brutus. And despite Delta's pulling its sponsorship, The Public Theater seems to assume that "death, a necessary end, will come when it will come." The free show, meanwhile, isn't here long. It will continue only through June 18.