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Donald Trump Jr. asked, the NEA answered: No funds went to Public Theater's 'Julius Caesar'

In the midst of the social media-firestorm surrounding the Public Theater’s staging of “Julius Caesar” featuring the brutal stabbing of an orange-haired dictator, Donald Trump Jr. asked two questions Sunday on Twitter.

The same day, the National Endowment for the Arts had its answer.

A statement posted on the embattled agency’s website read: “The National Endowment for the Arts makes grants to nonprofit organizations for specific projects. In the past, the New York Shakespeare Festival has received project-based NEA grants to support performances of Shakespeare in the Park by the Public Theater. However, no NEA funds have been awarded to support this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of ‘Julius Caesar’ and there are no NEA funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts’ grant to Public Theater or its performances.”

The NEA distanced itself from the controversy in a year when the endowment’s very existence was threatened by the budget blueprint from President Donald Trump’s administration for 2018. Although funding for the agency was extended through the end of September, its future is still uncertain.

The clamor over “Julius Caesar” is affecting Delta Air Lines and Bank of America. Amid threats of a boycott, the businesses withdrew their sponsorship of the Public, a move that resulted in calls for a boycott from those on the other side of the debate. In the current, political environment, it seems, there is no winning.

The Public answered the second question in the younger Trump’s tweet with a statement that read:

“We stand completely behind our production of Julius Caesar. 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. Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare's play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.”

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

Twitter: @jessicagelt

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