Angry at Trump-like Caesar, emailers insult wrong theater

The Associated Press

In this May 21, 2017, file photo provided by The Public Theater, Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Donald Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar in New York. Teagle F. Bougere, center right, plays as Casca, and Elizabeth Marvel, right, as Marc Anthony. Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., said vicious emails it’s gotten from people angry about a production of “Julius Caesar” in which a Donald Trump-like character gets assassinated are misdirected since it had nothing to do with the play in New York. The theater is using the mistake as a teachable moment. 

Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP

BOSTON — A Massachusetts Shakespeare company has found itself on the receiving end of some vicious emails from people angry about a production of “Julius Caesar” in which a Donald Trump-like character gets assassinated.

The problem is that Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox had nothing to do with The Public Theater of New York’s production that ended last weekend.

“They’re hostile, they’re abusive, and they wished us ill will,” said Allyn Burrows, artistic director at Shakespeare & Co.

“Your play depicting the murder of our President is nothing but pure hatred,” one email said. “You are vial (sic) despicable excuses for human beings. I wish you all the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.”

Another read: “What exactly were you idiots thinking about producing a play that depicts the killing of our President? Does anyone over there have an ounce of morality, decency, and or common sense?”

Many were peppered with expletives, but some were a bit more polite.

The emails, several dozen in all, started arriving earlier this month when Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship of the New York version of “Julius Caesar,” in which the lead had fluffy blond hair and wore a suit with a long red tie that hung below the beltline.

Burrows attributes the nasty emails to hasty internet searches.

“We have the Shakespeare.org domain name, so if you Google Shakespeare we’re pretty much at the top,” he said. Several other Shakespeare theaters companies around the nation have reported receiving similar messages.

Shakespeare & Co. has not reported the nasty notes to police, but instead sent the angry emailers a dignified response.

“Thank you for engaging us in conversation,” it says. “We support the arts and freedom of expression. We understand not everyone will agree with certain interpretations of music, art, dance, or drama, but that is where important debate can emerge.”

The reply goes on to explain that the emailers had the wrong Shakespeare theater and provides a link to a synopsis of “Julius Caesar,” a play about the perils of unbridled ambitions.

No one has bothered to apologize, Burrows said.

There are two lessons to be learned, he said.

The first is about the level of animosity in American politics.

“It just speaks directly to the polarization there is in political discussion, and there is such a sadness to it,” he said.

The other is the power of William Shakespeare 400 years after his death.

“We’re thankful that Shakespeare is still a hot property because we’re feeding off that,” he said.

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