As It Happens

Audience member 'baffled' as protester crashes N.Y. production of Julius Caesar

Right-wing activists interrupted the performance during the assassination scene, claiming Caesar's representation as U.S. President Donald Trump incites violence.
A still from The Public Theater's production of Julius Caesar. (©2016 Joan Marcus)

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For some conservatives, a new production of Julius Caesar goes too far in its depiction of the Roman general as a Donald Trump-like figure.

On Friday night, two right-wing activists — including Laura Loomer from Canada's Rebel Media — interrupted the performance, yelling, "Stop the normalization of political violence against the right" and other slogans.

Loomer stopped the show during Caesar's assassination scene. She was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, and later released. The performance went on.

Samantha Rehr was in the audience. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens co-host Carol Off.

Carol Off: Can you describe the scene when the protesters showed up?

Samantha Rehr: Before the show started, there was one protester with a sign. He was in a blocked off area and he had a sign that said, 'boo the cast' and it was sort of just funny. Everyone was passing by and sort of laughing. 

But during the show ... Caesar is assassinated, the conspirators in the senate one by one stab him and it's a very graphic image with a lot of blood and it's actually quite hard to watch. As soon as that was done, there was suddenly this woman on the stage. She had come up from the audience. She was shouting about violence against conservatives, stop the violence against conservatives.

What was funny was that in this production, and the way this production is staged, they have actors playing protesters, so at the beginning of the show there was a woman who came out of the audience all dressed in black and she was protesting Caesar. And so for a moment the audience didn't know what to believe. 

And then the audience caught on and began booing and then another man popped up in the audience and was calling everyone Nazis and saying you're all Goebbels.

CO: The woman that got up on stage ... she is part of a media kind of group here in Canada called Rebel Media, and they claim the play was political altered to feature the assassination of U.S. President Donald Trump, that it was a snuff show. ..What would you say to these claims?

SR: I absolutely disagree that it glamorized the assassination of a politician. All you have to do is watch the play, or read the play. The play essentially, it takes that first act to lead up to the assassination and then you see the assassination and it's a very gruesome image.

And then the rest of the play discusses the fallout from that event and each of these conspirators meets their demise. The country falls into chaos and civil war and nothing good comes from the assassination of this politician.

What it is essentially saying is that no matter your political stance, no matter who is in power, violence is not the answer.

CO: Now, did anything else happen? Did the play proceed to the tragic end with no more incidents? 

SR: Yes, the play completely went on, except what was amazing was that we experienced this melding together of life and art, because we had these real protesters show up, and then later on in the play, there were, again, actors planted in the audience and all of a sudden ...when Brutus was giving his speech, protesters pop up from the audience and begin yelling at the stage and people were so confused, they didn't know what to believe.

Some of the same people who had yelled at the first protester began yelling at the new protesters not even realizing they were actors.

And there were police, real police, with real bulletproof vests, that crossed in front of the stage at the end of the assassination scene ... while actors dressed as police entered the stage. We had fake police and real police, fake protesters and real protesters, and the audience was just like, baffled. You could just feel this energy in the room. It was thrilling to be there. 


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Laura Edwards.