A Standing Ovation for The Public Theater’s Controversial Julius Caesar

Plus Voldemort gets his own movie, Russia continues to work against the Ukrainian Literature Library, and more literary news

Never a boring day on the literary front. In today’s roundup, the resemblance between Trump and Caesar is uncanny, Harry Potter fans will have a new storyline to obsess about, and the war between Russia and the Ukrainian Literature Library rages on.

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Public Theater’s Trump-like Caesar gets strong reactions

Dramatic, tyrannical, narcissistic. Sound familiar? Well, the Public Theater certainly thought so when it decided to cast Julius Caesar as a figure resembling our very own POTUS, Donald Trump, in the new Shakespeare in the Park production. Since its debut on May 23rd, the show has stirred up a great deal of controversy from the right wing, pitting a beloved New York arts institution against the President’s fervent supporters. The play features violent scenes of a Trump-like Caesar, complete with dangling red tie, assassinated by a group of women and minorities. The depiction has elicited outrage from right-wing media outlets including Breitbart and Fox News. Despite the criticism (and the withdrawal of sponsors Bank of America and Delta Airlines), the Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis stands behind his provocative choices, sending out an email to theater supporters saying, “Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.” It appears that many are in agreement with Eustis; yesterday’s show received a standing ovation from an approving crowd. If the Public Theater has taught us anything, it’s that to this day, Shakespeare’s iconic play Julius Caesar stands as a testimony to politics, democracy, leadership — and the violence of it all. The play’s last show will be on June 18th, so see it while it’s still hot and hated by conservatives.

[Variety/Gordon Cox]

Voldemort finally gets the limelight in fan-made movie

If there’s anything the literary world knows by now, it’s that Harry Potter fans are dedicated (read: relentless). Unsatisfied with the undeveloped Voldemort/Tom Riddle storyline in Rowling’s hefty seven books, a group of Italian filmmakers have set out to leave no detail or ambiguity unnoticed. Production company Tryangle Films has released a number of teasers on YouTube for the fan-made film “Voldemort: Origins of the Heir,” which have garnered millions of views thanks to passionate Potterheads. While the project looked first to Kickstarter to receive some funding, the campaign was quickly shut down by Warner Bros. Now, it has been revealed that Warner Bros. and Tryangle have an agreement to release the project online, creating it via nonprofit means. The film will be released on YouTube for free, in what may be the ultimate homage to one of literature’s most despicable villains.

[HuffPost/Claire Fallon]

Former director of Ukrainian library sentenced to prison term

For quite some time now, we’ve been hearing about Russia’s apparent vendetta against the Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow. After closing the institution in March, citing the supposed presence of anti-Russian propaganda materials amongst the 52,000 tomes, a Russian court has now convicted former director Natalia G. Sharina to a four-year suspended prison term. She has been charged with purchasing anti-Russian materials aimed to help Ukrainian nationalists undermine Russian authority in Moscow. While the Russian government has promised to preserve the books (but is still moving them to another library), Sharina will serve her time for accusations of ethnic hatred. She has actively denied any guilt, saying “Nobody gave a library director the right, moreover the responsibility, to censor legally published books.” All of this is getting a little too dystopian, if you ask me.

[NY Times/Serge Schmemann]

Down and Out in Post-Communist Slovakia

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