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Corey Stoll Reflects on Playing Brutus in ‘Julius Caesar’: ‘Doing the Work of an Artist Has Become a Political Act’

Shakespeare in the Park's production has elicited controversy and phony outrage.

Corey Stoll in The Strain

Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

You’ve no doubt heard a lot about Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Julius Caesar,” but lost amid the canceled sponsorships and phony outrage is the fact that Corey Stoll of “House of Cards” and “Ant-Man” was playing Brutus. As the man who actually betrays the Donald Trump–like Caesar, Stoll is in a unique position to comment on the controversy.

He’s done just that in an insightful essay for Vulture, going out of his way to underscore something that anyone who’s actually read “Julius Caesar” already knows: “The play makes it clear that Caesar’s murder, which occurs midway through the play, is ruinous for Brutus and his co-conspirators, and for democracy itself.”

READ MORE: ‘Julius Caesar’ Isn’t Enough: Why Tasteless Art Will Never Defeat Donald Trump

“A nontrivial percentage of our liberal audience had fantasized about undemocratic regime change in Washington,” he explains. “Acted out to its logical conclusion, that fantasy was hideous, shameful, and self-defeating.” It’s almost like that’s the entire point of the play, not that everyone making their way to the fainting couch would ever admit it.

Stoll says he “exhaled and sobbed” after the final performance, which was interrupted by hecklers. His closing thoughts are especially poignant and deserve to be read in full:

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“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. I’m thankful for all the beautiful defenses of our production written in the last few weeks. But the cliché is true: In politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing. So if you’re making art, by all means question yourself and allow yourself to be influenced by critics of good faith. But don’t allow yourself to be gaslighted or sucked into a bad-faith argument. A play is not a tweet. It can’t be compressed and embedded and it definitely can’t be delivered apologetically. The very act of saying anything more nuanced than ‘us good, them bad’ is under attack, and I’m 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 the rest of his piece here, and then consider reading “Julius Caesar.”

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