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Actor who played assassin of Trump-like Caesar tells of cast ‘exhaustion and fear’

Corey Stoll, who took role of Marcus Brutus in New York production of Julius Caesar targeted by rightwing protesters, exhaled and sobbed after final show

Corey Stoll, the actor who played the assassin Marcus Brutus in a New York production of Julius Caesar that was repeatedly interrupted by pro-Donald Trump protesters, has written of the fear such actions engendered among a cast left exhausted and nervous by the time of the final show, in Central Park last Sunday.

Writing for Vulture, Stoll decried this new world where art is willfully misinterpreted to score points and to distract.

The Public Theater production, which featured a central character dressed to look like Trump, was first interrupted by protester Laura Loomer, who shouted that this is political violence against the right. The incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing conspiracy theorist, who stood up and told the crowd: You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels.

Stoll, who said he was initially worried the decision to depict Caesar as Trump would make the play like a Saturday Night Live skit, pointed to the surreality of the moment when he wrote: I swear I thought he said gerbils.

A subsequent show was however marked by a man rushing the stage shouting liberal hate kills. Police charged Loomer, Javanni Valle of Brooklyn and Long Island man Salvatore Cipolla with trespass.

Stoll said threats to the production heightened after the Republican congressman Steve Scalise was shot at baseball practice in Virginia an act that was seemingly blamed on the Julius Caesar controversy by Donald Trump Jr.

Of the more than 150 mass shootings so far this year, Stoll wrote, this was the first that appeared to be aimed at a politician. Like most Americans, I was saddened and horrified, but when the presidents son and others blamed us for the violence, I became scared.

The brutality of the assassination in the play and its disastrous consequences showed liberal audience members that violent regime change was hideous, shameful, and self-defeating, Stoll wrote.

Nonetheless, the cast came to feel as if we were acting in two plays simultaneously the one we had rehearsed and the one thrust upon us. The protesters never shut us down, but we had to fight each night to make sure they did not distort the story we were telling. At that moment, watching my cast mates hold their performances together, it occurred to me that this is resistance.

The actor, who has starred in the Netflix series House of Cards and the Marvel film Ant-Man, said initial audience displeasure was expressed with shouts and a man unfurling a Trump 2020 flag. At first I flinched, thinking the worst, Stoll wrote of the man with the flag. But he just stood there smiling proudly. Relieved, I smiled back.

The interruptions escalated when Loomer took to the stage, although Stoll said the actors were met with a thunderous standing ovation when they decided to simply continue the play.

In our last two performances, the security increased again, and the moment before the assassination became meta-theatrical, he wrote. As the conspirators covertly moved in on Caesar, I wondered how many eyes were on us, at the same time, waiting for their own cue?

By the final show, Stoll said, the cast was exhausted and nervous and security again had to deal with a protester, who attempted to invade the stage and shouted Im sick of your bullshit!. Stoll said that after the show he exhaled and sobbed backstage.

In this new world where art is willfully misinterpreted to score points and to distract, simply doing the work of an artist has become a political act, he wrote. A play is not a tweet. It cant be compressed and embedded and it definitely cant be delivered apologetically.

The very act of saying anything more nuanced than us good, them bad is under attack, and Im proud to stand with artists who do. May we continue to stand behind our work, and, when interrupted, pick it right back up from liberty and freedom.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jun/24/corey-stoll-trump-julius-caesar-play-new-york

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