Twenty Questions About the Public Theater’s Trump-Themed Julius Caesar

Featuring a new interview with Oskar Eustis, director of the Public Theater’s Summer 2016 Trump-themed Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park, this chapter asks and answers twenty questions. These questions dovetail into the argument that, at a time when a consequential social problem became acute, literature worked as it’s supposed to. The Public Theater’s Julius Caesar created a venue to have a proxy conversation about the viability of violence against the President of the United States. It provided a space in which to think and talk through the issue which was one step removed from the gritty reality of the problem. It allowed people to question their attitudes toward a particular situation by asking them to formulate a generalizable principal for the question at hand. The production acknowledged the fantasies of radical political violence that many on the Left had been harboring, but it also refused to let them fester in silence behind closed doors. In doing so, the Public Theater’s Julius Caesar led audiences and commentators not to imitate the harmful act it represented, but to purge themselves of passions that are harmful to society. In other words, tragedy worked as planned: in observing the fictional representation of thoughts and actions that cause harm to society, audiences found release from the pull to actually do those things. At a time when tensions were running high, art proved its ability to both provoke and enlighten.