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Bank of America, Delta Air Lines pull sponsorship of Julius Caesar production featuring Trump-like character

Three sponsors of a New York production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" have pulled their support for a free production of the play, because of the portrayal of the central character as a Donald Trump-like personality, who gets knifed to death on stage.

Bank of America and Delta Air Lines withdrew their sponsorship of the Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park show, with immediate effect.

A sign is seen outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park June 12, 2017 where the production of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater is being held in New York.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
A sign is seen outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park June 12, 2017 where the production of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater is being held in New York.

Bank of America said in a statement posted on Twitter and emailed to CNBC: "Bank of America supports art programs worldwide, including an 11-year partnership with The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding of this production."

A statement from Delta Air Lines given to AP called the production "graphic." It said: "No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of Julius Caesar at this summer's Free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines' values. Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste."

Meanwhile, American Express tweeted that it wanted to clarify that it does not condone the group's interpretation of Julius Caesar. AmEx is another sponsor of the Public Theater.

Donald Trump Jr had previously retweeted a post from Fox News about the play, saying: "When does 'art' become political speech & does that change things?"

The Public Theater responded on Monday with a tweet saying it was "deeply grateful for the outpouring of support we have received" over its production of "Julius Caesar."

A statement from Oskar Eustis on the theater's website said: "Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him."

The Public Theater said on the production's page: "Rome's leader, Julius Caesar, is a force unlike any the city has seen. Magnetic, populist, irreverent, he seems bent on absolute power. A small band of patriots, devoted to the country's democratic traditions, must decide how to oppose him. Shakespeare's political masterpiece has never felt more contemporary."

The Public Theater shows Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park free each summer, giving away 100,000 tickets. The Public Theater did not immediately return CNBC's request for comment.

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