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June 13 2017

College Professors Complain About Sponsors Pulling Out of Trump-Assassination 'Julius Caesar'

by Charlotte Allen

Who wouldn't object to a play that graphically depicted a sitting U.S. president being stabbed to death on the Senate floor?

College professors, that's who.

Yesterday I blogged to praise Delta Airlines and the Bank of America for pulling their sponsorship of New York City's Shakespeare in the Park over a production of Julius Caesar that depicted a brutal onstage assassination of a President Trump lookalike.

Watch the video here (trigger warning: it's not for the faint of heart)--and you'll see why. You don't have to like Trump to be disturbed by the spectacle of the prolonged and gruesome murder. Yes, yes, Shakespeare in the Park has a right to portray every stage villain in the Bard's First Folio as an obnoxious portly guy with a too-long tie, a yellow comb-over, and a wife with a phony Slavic accent, but that doesn't mean that American businesses have to subsidize that sort of thing.

But you're not a professor.

Here's the story, from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

While the production faces conservative and corporate backlash for depicting the assassination of a Trumplike title character, scholars critical of the backlash said it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the play.

Because conservatives and corporations aren't as smart as you are, Herr Doktor Scholar.

And even worse:

But more important they said, it portends ill for public faith in the arts during the Trump era.

Translation: What would happen if we couldn't get the taxpayers to pay for our indulging our pet Trump-bashing fantasies? Indeed:

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was among many critics of the production to tweet his concerns about the play, asking how much of the production was funded by tax dollars.

This type of instant reaction shows a troubling level of cultural illiteracy, [University of Illinois emeritus theater professor Peter] Davis said.

"It does demonstrate that people simply don’t know or haven’t read the play and they are simply jumping on some very superficial elements to the play that don’t represent the actual meaning and significance behind it," Davis said.

In fact, the National Endowment for the Arts quickly announced that it hadn't awarded any funds this year for the Public Theater, the New York City organization responsible for the performance. This, too, troubles the professoriate:

For Charlotte Canning, a drama professor at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the more concerning parts of the situation was the NEA’s statement distancing itself from the controversy....

[T]he NEA’s statement reminded her of the culture wars, when artists didn’t always support one another, and Ms. Canning said she would have liked to see the arts endowment stand behind one of the country’s most prestigious and historic theater companies.

"If a gigantic organization like the Public does what you would think is a fairly safe choice of a play by Shakespeare, using an interpretation that’s been done before, is put at such risk, what’s going to happen to these smaller groups and these smaller organizations?" Ms. Canning said.

Translation: Audiences should get a chance to see Trump whacked onstage in Peoria as well as New York City.

Again, theater impresarios have a right to produce Julius Caesar any way they like (although it's dimes to donuts that you'd never see a Barack Obama or Bill Clinton assassinated onstage). But the idea that someone else besides theater-goers themselves ought to pay for this sort of self-indulsgence would occur only to a college professor.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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