by Tina Dupuy
This originally appeared in The New York Daily News
I had the pleasure of seeing the Public Theater’s production of “Julius Caesar” in Central Park this year. Several companies have pulled out of sponsorship due to the decision to dress Caesar as the current President of the United States.
The Public’s depiction of President Trump as Caesar is nothing shocking or new. Every American President has been depicted at some point as Shakespeare’s Caesar. It’s a political play.
What’s shocking and new is an American President with autocratic instincts and tendencies. The Public Theater would be remiss if they failed to put on this requiem for the Roman Republic at the moment Americans face an impending constitutional crisis. After all, it is called the Public Theater; it’s in the public’s interest to see Julius Caesar through a contemporary lens.
Those who’ve given voice to or feigned outrage are candidly in denial, pretending if we just try hard enough this will all be fine. They believe that our traditions and mores are somehow intact now just as they were on Nov. 7, 2016.
Even though the man in the Oval Office has happily and publicly accepted the help of a hostile foreign nation during his bid for the presidency. Even though he’s an admitted sexual predator who lies constantly.
We’re still holding public discourse to pre-Trump standards. We’re punishing comedians and public figures for being rude while Trump tweets that America’s free press is the enemy of the people.
Like all narcissists, President Bully Puppet can only dish it but not take it. So he sees art as a threat. Whether it’s the cast of “Hamilton” politely lobbying the vice president to see them as human or Meryl Streep speaking on behalf of the disabled reporter the President mimicked, art and artists are a menace to this administration.
Fascism and art only meet when art is a commodity. Otherwise fascism hates art. It’s messy, and it has the power to inspire — perhaps incite. Art communicates through the medium of truth: It’s anathema to a man whose favorite drawing is his own signature.
I was giddy when I won lottery tickets to see the production of “Julius Caesar” at the Delacorte Theater.
I’d forgotten Caesar dies at the beginning of the play. Who dies at the end? Everybody else.
The allegory of “Caesar” isn’t that tyrants will ultimately be destroyed’ it’s that tyrants destroy everything. The vacuum following Caesar’s death consumes the entire cast. The bodies of dead protesters clad in “resist” armbands and iconic pink pussy hats chillingly carpet the Delacorte.
Senators are shot; co-conspirators commit suicide. What truly dies in the end is representative government.
Shakespeare’s play isn’t about the man known as Caesar. He has few lines and is on stage longer as a corpse than a namesake. It’s about the tragic end of a storied democratic experiment. Caesar’s end is the harbinger of totalitarianism.
My only lament with the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar is the run is limited. Every American should see it. Any companies pulling their support do so in cowardice. And as Caesar says, “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”