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Outrage over Trumpian 'Julius Caesar' is exactly what Shakespeare tried to warn us about.

Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' carries an important message about democracy, perhaps more relevant than ever before.

Outrage over Trumpian 'Julius Caesar' is exactly what Shakespeare tried to warn us about.
Gregg Henry plays a very Trumpian Caesar in the Public Theater's latest show. Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater.

"NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of Trump," read the headline of a June 11 Fox News article.

You've probably heard of the provocateur behind this show. His name: William Shakespeare. The play in question: "Julius Caesar," a 17th-century classic.

This particular performance was put on by New York's Public Theater, and as many productions of "Julius Caesar" tend to do, gave it a modern setting — showing just how wonderfully timeless Shakespeare can be. That is, togas were replaced with suits and a certain Roman emperor was replaced with a brash, blond-haired billionaire/president.


In response, hordes of angry people took to social media, chastising the show's sponsors for promoting such a distasteful and harmful display. Within hours, Delta and Bank of America had both issued statements distancing themselves from the production.

In response, Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis took the stage with a message for the performance's critics.

The message of the show, Eustis explained before Monday's performance, is that violence is not the answer when it comes to enacting political change.

"Anybody who watches this play tonight — and I am sorry there is going to be a couple of spoiler alerts here — will know that neither Shakespeare nor the Public Theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems."

"This play warns what happens when you try to preserve democracy by non-democratic means, and again, spoiler alert, it doesn't end up too good," Eustis told the crowd.

Eustis also directly addressed the people who were moved to anger, protest, and boycott the performance, reminding them of the context of the play's central message:

"One of the dangers of that is the danger of a large crowd of people, manipulated by their emotions, taken over by leaders who urge them to do things that not only against their interest, but destroy the very institutions that are there to serve and protect them.

This warning is a warning that's in this show, and we're really happy to be playing that story tonight."

These types of modern productions of "Julius Caesar" are pretty common — regardless of who is in office.

A few years back, The Acting Company put on a production of "Julius Caesar" starring a Barack-Obama-like version of the show's titular character.

While there may or may not have been a handful of people upset by the production, most seemed to understand that the play was not an endorsement of political violence against President Obama — just as this newest version isn't an endorsement of violence against President Donald Trump.

Just as Eustis warned: Let's all take care to avoid joining the "large crowd of people, manipulated by their emotions, taken over by leaders who urge them to do things that not only against their interest, but destroy the very institutions that are there to serve and protect them."

The theater, which even Trump has called "a safe and special place," is for all of us, regardless of our politics.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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