- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - The Latest on The Public Theater’s production of “Julius Caesar,” featuring a Donald Trump-like main character killed onstage (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

The director of a New York City production of “Julius Caesar” that portrays the assassinated title character looking like Donald Trump in a business suit is defending the play.

Oskar Eustis delivered a statement before Monday night’s performance, which he urged audience members to record on their cellphones.

Eustis says that neither Shakespeare nor the city’s nonprofit Public Theater could “possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems, and certainly not assassination.”

Controversy over the work has prompted Delta Air Lines and Bank of America to pull their sponsorship of the show that’s being performed as part of Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park.

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7:10 p.m.

New York City’s comptroller has come to the defense of the city’s respected Public Theater after it caused an outcry over its production of “Julius Caesar” portraying the assassinated title character looking like Donald Trump in a business suit.

Scott M. Stringer has bought copies of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and mailed them with letters to the heads of Delta Air Lines and Bank of America, which pulled their sponsorship of the show.

Stringer says in his letters: “Art matters. The First Amendment matters. Expression matters.” The letters go on the say the decision to withdraw support “sends the wrong message” and “undermines the very vibrancy of the cause you chose to support in the first place.”

The theater said Monday it stands behind its production.

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3:33 p.m.

The Public Theater says in a statement Monday that it stands “completely behind” its production of “Julius Caesar” which portrays the assassinated title character looking like Donald Trump in a business suit.

The nonprofit theater that prides itself on its innovative and challenging work says it is aware that the play has “provoked heated discussion” among audiences, sponsors and supporters.

“We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.”

Controversy over the work has prompted Delta Air Lines and Bank of America to pull their sponsorship of the show that is being performed as part of Shakespeare in the Park in New York’s Central Park.

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2:07 p.m.

The knives are out for a new edgy production of “Julius Caesar” that’s cutting a little too close to home for some fans of the White House.

Delta Air Lines and Bank of America have pulled their sponsorship of The Public Theater’s version of “Julius Caesar” that portrays a Donald Trump-like dictator in a business suit who gets knifed to death onstage.

Though the Public’s version of Shakespeare’s classic play is unchanged from its 400-year-old original, the production portrays Caesar with a gold bathtub and a pouty Slavic wife. Trump’s name is never mentioned but backlash was swift.

But New York University’s Laurence Maslon thinks any loss of funding will be compensated for by donations from people worried about the apparent threat to artistic freedom.

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