If you have ever questioned the relevancy of Shakespeare to the 21st century, The Public Theater in New York provides an answer.
What began as objection to a production of Julius Caesar in which Caesar is purposely portrayed as a Donald Trump-like figure quickly escalated to an attack on all Shakespearean theatres.
At The Public Theater, the trouble began when two audience members interrupted the performance by standing up and shouting at the performers on stage. They were escorted from the theatre. In the days that followed, Shakespeare theatres across the country were on the receiving end of death threats and threats of rape. In Massachusetts, the year-around Shakespeare festival that is Shakespeare and Company received more than 40 threats of violence. In Texas, Shakespeare Dallas received more than 80. Shakespeare and Company's artistic director, Allyn Burrows, told The Washington Post, “If you’re an arts institution and you want to create conversations, it’s going to come in all forms. And don’t be horrified if people have emotional reactions to stuff. That’s where we’re at.”
Oskar Eustis, artistic director for The Public Theater, told a pre-show audience that, “Neither Shakespeare nor the Public Theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems, and certainly not assassination. This play, on the contrary, warns about what happens when you try to preserve democracy by nondemocratic means.”
Here at home, Music Theatre Wichita is producing Hairspray on stage from July 12 to July 16 at Century II. Hairspray won eight Tony awards, including Best Musical.