The uproar this week over the President Trump-inspired staging of "Julius Caesar" by New York's Public Theater brought to mind a 2012 production of the Shakespeare classic — also staged in modern dress but featuring a President Obama look-alike as the would-be tyrant who is stabbed to death. Co-produced by the Guthrie Theater, it toured the nation without incident. Delta Air Lines (a long-standing Guthrie sponsor) and Bank of America have pulled their support from the Public, whose artistic director, Minnesota native Oskar Eustis, directed the play. Guthrie artistic director Joseph Haj worries that the incident will have a chilling effect: "Corporate sponsors have been vitally important to the health of the American theater. But there's also been a firewall. I've never had a conversation with a sponsor that has been around the art-making itself." As for Eustis, he was in Red Wing on Tuesday, delivering a long-planned speech to a Minnesota Presenters Network conference at the Sheldon Theatre. While he didn't address the controversy directly, he did allude to it "in the context of a larger discussion about the simultaneous emergence of democracy and theater in Athens," said Sheldon executive director Bonnie Schock. "He posited the two as inseparable notions, dependent on one another, [and] that true democracy needs dialogue." Eustis also spoke of "radical empathy" — exposing yourself to other viewpoints — as a way of building a society where citizens better understand each other.ROHAN PRESTON
Kindness gets around
If you've found a cut-paper boomerang in a Minneapolis' Little Free Library, it was no accident. When writer Kate DiCamillo returned from a trip last week, her mail included an envelope from schoolkids in Bali, Indonesia. Inside were six "kindness boomerangs," inscribed with the words 'What Goes Around Comes Around." The children asked her to send the boomerangs out into the world. "And since the world is very much in need of kindness," DiCamillo said on Facebook, "I put on my shoes and took a long I-can't-believe-I'm-home walk around the neighborhood," putting the boomerangs into Little Free Libraries,
A mining lament
Woody Guthrie never made it to the Boundary Waters, but his spirit flows through "There Is Only Us," a song and video by an all-star Minnesota cast protesting the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine on the edge of the state's great wilderness. "One seed, one tree / There is only us / One stream, one sea / There is only us" goes the song, inspired by Miguel Rivera, a Lakota teacher and written by folk vet Timothy Frantzich with John Munson and Dan Wilson of Semisonic. They took part in a Guthrie-style singalong with Lucy Michelle, Jillian Rae, Hippo Campus' Whistler Allen, Noah Levy, Leslie Ball and many more in advance of a rally against the mine at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the State Capitol rotunda.
RIP, New Epic
In May, adventurous Twin Cities troupe New Epic Theater had to cancel "Medea" when actors blew the whistle on an electrical hazard. Now the two-year-old company is calling it quits. Founder Joseph Stodola blames the financial hit it took from the cancellation, which resulted in $18,000 in debt. The company had raised more than $10,000 for the production through Kickstarter. Half of that amount has been turned into "tax-deductible hardship donations" by the contributors. Stodola is trying to settle the rest. "We're in uncharted territory and trying to figure it out," he said. Stodola, 27, hopes to continue to do theater, but admits he is chastened. "I'm a young artist early in my career and this has been a really difficult experience," he said. "As an artist, I learned my limits."R.P.
H.C. in VR
After breaking through the alternative reality of the Bonnaroo fest last weekend, Twin Cities rockers Hippo Campus entered the brave new world of virtual reality in a video released this week for their song "Western Kids." The already animated young quartet collaborated with former Pixar technical director Najeeb Tarazi on the video, which shows them floating around a "Tron"-like realm. It's a fitting idea for a song that's partly about today's youth not so literally being sucked into their phones. The guys will be back July 8 to play the Bayfront amphitheater in Duluth with Poliça and Low.C.R.
Find more coverage of the arts at startribune.com/artcetera and follow us on Twitter @entertain_mn.