Unbowed ‘Julius Caesar’ director urges artists ‘take risks’

NEW YORK — The theater director who endured death threats and lost corporate sponsors after staging a Donald Trump-inspired version of “Julius Caesar” has a message to any artist fearful of facing a backlash — don’t flinch.

“We can’t allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed. We can’t allow ourselves to feel we’re completely isolated. We’re not,” Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, told The Associated Press.

“We’re speaking for the majority of the country and we need to draw strength from that and step out and take the risks that will really fulfill the arts’ historic function.”

Eustis sparked controversy when he chose to portray Caesar as an ego-driven populist with fluffy blond hair, a gold bathtub and a leggy Slovenian wife for his free Shakespeare in the Park summer production.

While Trump’s name was never mentioned, the backlash was swift after photos and video appeared online of the Trumpian Caesar dying in a bloody group stabbing in Act 3, as has happened onstage for some 400 years.

Some screamed that the production condoned the assassination of Trump, even though the play clearly warns those who commit political violence even for noble reasons about the futility of their actions. Several protesters stormed the stage and police are investigating threatening phone calls made to Eustis’ family. “I thought we might provoke some response but what I thought is we’d provoke response to our production, and what we got was not a response to our production but a response to a completely slanted, biased reporting on a photograph and video tapes of our production,” said Eustis.