New York Public Theater's controversial Julius Caesar production received a standing ovation on opening night on Monday
Director Oskar Eustis defended the play onstage ahead of the performance
Production was hit with right-leaning criticism and funding cuts over the lead character's resemblance to Donald Trump
Some accused the theater of promoting violence against the President given Caesar is knifed to death on the senate floor in the play
Theater has received nearly $30m in federal, state and city grants since 2009
New York Public Theater's controversial production of Julius Caesar - which shows a Donald Trump lookalike being stabbed to death - received a standing ovation on its opening night.
Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of Public Theater and director of the Julius Caesar play, took to the stage in Central Park ahead of the performance on Monday night to defend his Shakespeare production after it was hit with right-leaning criticism and funding cuts.
Eustis told the Shakespeare in the Park crowd - including the likes of Alec Baldwin and Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller - the Public Theater did not advocate violence as a solution to political problems, especially assassination.
'(The play) warns about what happens when you try to preserve democracy by non-democratic means. Again, spoiler alert: it doesn't end up too good,' Eustis said.
'But at the same time, one of the dangers that is unleashed by that is the danger of a large crowd of people manipulated by their emotions, taken over by leaders who urge them to do things that are not only against their interest but destroy the very institutions that are there to serve and protect them.
'This warning is a warning that is in this show and we're really happy to be playing that story for you tonight.
'Like drama, democracy depends on the conflict of different points of view. Nobody owns the truth. We all own the culture.'
The President's son Donald Trump Jr. questioned on Twitter on Sunday how much of the 'art' was funded by taxpayers.
Data released on Tuesday by OpenTheBooks.com
shows that nearly $30 million in federal, state and city grants has funded the New York Shakespeare Festival - the parent company to Public Theater - since 2009.
The production, which has been in previews since May 23, has faced intense criticism over the lead character's resemblance to Trump as some accused the theater of promoting violence against the President.
At the start of the third act of the re-imagined Shakespeare play, Roman dictator Julius Caesar is knifed to death on the senate floor by senators who fear he is becoming a tyrant.
Greg Henry and Tina Benko were cast as the leading pair of Caesar and his wife Calpurnia who has a similar Slavic accent to that of Melania Trump.
The main character in the play has reddish-blonde hair, wears a suit, and sports a tie that hangs a few inches below his belt.
Delta Airlines and Bank of America both pulled corporate funding for the Public Theater at the weekend after mounting criticism over the brutal assassination scene.
'No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of Julius Caesar at this summer's Free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines' values,' a Delta spokesperson said in a statement.
Bank of America tweeted a statement Sunday night saying it was also withdrawing its funding for the production.
It said the theater 'chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend'.
A statement on the Public Theater's website addressed the funding cuts but said it stands completely behind their Julius Caesar production.
'We understand and respect the right of our sponsors and supporters to allocate their funding in line with their own values,' it read.
'We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions.
'Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.
'Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare's play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.
'For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.'