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Shakespeare Companies Suffer Backlash After ‘Julius Caesar’ Controversy


by Hady Mawajdeh 26 Jun 2017

The uproar over the New York Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar has spread to other cities. And it appears to be only because they are companies with the word “Shakespeare” in their name. Staff at Shakespeare Dallas have received death threats, even though the company isn’t performing Shakespeare at the moment.

Shakespeare Dallas is currently performing an adaption of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” Learn more here.

Here’s a clip from Fox News last week.

That got some folks in the Texas area riled up. And in turn, they began reaching out to Raphael Parry. He’s the artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas.

“We started receiving emails – like, a drove of them started flowing into our mailbox,” says Parry. And at first they were, you know, I hate you; I hate what you’re doing in your production. So we were a bit confused because we hadn’t even had a public performance yet.”

 

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Parry’s company was set to perform “The Merry Wives Of Windsor” the next day. That’s a Shakespeare comedy. Anyways, shortly after the first few emails, more people began contacting Parry and his staff. And the emails got nasty. Here’s an excerpt of one:

“You truly are a bunch of freaks and bottom suckers. We should send all you freaks to ISIS. They would eliminate your stint on this earth with real knives.”

Some of the emails are more graphic than that, and honestly, some of them are just silly. But this still stunned the staff at Shakespeare Dallas.

“It was just totally violent and disturbing and shocking because they didn’t even have the right company,” says Jessica Helton. Helton is Shakespeare Dallas’ program and media manager.

Photo from "Quixote." Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

Photo from “Quixote.” Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

Shakespeare Dallas isn’t the only company dealing with the fallout from the New York Public Theater’s production. Parry’s been contacted by companies across the country. Here’s his best guess why, at least for Texas.

“If you type ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ into Google, we pop up. Geographically, in probably a three or four-state area, ‘Shakespeare Dallas’ pops up as ‘Shakespeare in the Park,'” says Parry.

It hasn’t had a negative effect on attendance. In fact, the company says it might have had a positive effect. Last night’s preview of “Quixote,” which is a modern interpretation of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” – not Shakespeare – had more than 300 attendees.

Jared Cobb was in the audience with this family. He says you have to be conscious of the dangers when threats are made. But he felt safe enough to come out and support local theater. Besides, Texas is an open-carry state, and his father told me that he had his gun nearby.

“The probability that somebody’s going to come into an open park full of Texans and try something – anything – is very unlikely,” Cobb says. “And if they would do something like that, it’d be very ill-advised (laughter).”

Audience members enjoying the show and not worried about the threats. Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

Audience members enjoying the show and not worried about the threats. Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

Most of the people I spoke with said they hadn’t even heard about the hullabaloo. But Robert Cantu seemed to sum up their thoughts.

“It’s a non-controversy in that it is so ludicrous that they would confuse it. Anyway, I guess you can’t fix stupid,” says Cantu.

You probably can’t. But you can try to make sure that your messages get sent to the right people.

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