The New York Public Theater’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s 400-year-old play, “Julius Caesar” was embroiled in controversy this month, with protests over a choice to costume the titular character as President Donald Trump. This wardrobe decision was controversial because senators plot to stab Caesar to death in the play.
Now that this run of “Julius Caesar” has come to an end, actor Corey Stoll has written a piece for Vulture about what it was like to star in the play. Stoll had the role of Marcus Brutus, a reluctant assassin of Caesar.
Although the play is explicitly about the pitfalls of assassination, Stoll wrote that following through with the play amid the protest eventually felt like a contribution to the “resistance.” These days, that term is loaded to evoke the phrase ”#resist” which refers to a rallying cry against Trump.
“The protesters never shut us down, but we had to fight each night to make sure they did not distort the story we were telling,” wrote Stoll in the piece that was published Friday. “At that moment, watching my castmates hold their performances together, it occurred to me that this is resistance.”
Watch video of two protestors disrupting a performance:
Stoll, who memorably played an eventually murdered politician in the first season of “House of Cards,” said that he had no idea this production would portray Trump so explicitly before signing on to the role.
After four weeks in the rehearsal room, we moved to the theater and I saw Caesar’s Trump-like costume and wig for the first time. I was disappointed by the literal design choice.Corey Stoll
Stoll was frustrated by the choice at first, as he feared involving Trump would overshadow the rest of the performance.
A passage from Stoll’s piece:
When I signed on to play the reluctant assassin Marcus Brutus in this production, I didn’t know Caesar would be an explicit avatar for President Trump. I suspected that an American audience in 2017 might see aspects of him in the character, a democratically elected leader with autocratic tendencies. I did not think anyone would see it as an endorsement of violence against him. The play makes it clear that Caesar’s murder, which occurs midway through the play, is ruinous for Brutus and his co-conspirators, and for democracy itself ...
After four weeks in the rehearsal room, we moved to the theater and I saw Caesar’s Trump-like costume and wig for the first time. I was disappointed by the literal design choice. I had little fear of offending people, but I worried that the nuanced character work we had done in the rehearsal room would get lost in what could seem like a “Saturday Night Live” skit. I was right and wrong.
After the president’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., blamed this production for the actions of the gunman who fired on a baseball team made up of Republican congressmen, Stoll began to fear for his own life.
“Like most Americans, I was saddened and horrified, but when the president’s son and others blamed us for the violence, I became scared,” wrote Stoll.
The production was plagued with disruptions from protestors, but fortunately had none that caused physically critical harm.
Read the whole piece at Vulture.