Guthrie Theater, West LegalEd Center to Offer Courses

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The Guthrie Theater and West LegalEdcenter have joined forces in a unique collaboration to provide theater-based Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses to legal professionals in Minnesota and beyond. The first of these CLE courses, on Elimination of Bias, will be offered both in person at the Guthrie in Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 25, as well as through West LegalEdcenter’s live Webcast and on-demand video. The debut CLE, titled “Merchants of Faith: Bias in the Litigation of Religious Belief,” marks the first of what will be an ongoing series of CLE courses offered through this collaboration. West LegalEdcenter is part of Thomson West, within The Thomson Corporation (NYSE: TOC; TSX: TOC).

This program introduces a new paradigm for continuing legal education – the first of its kind in the country to join a major professional theater and a powerhouse CLE provider in creating content. “At the Guthrie, we know the power of dramatic literature and performance to illuminate social and ethical issues,” Guthrie Director Joe Dowling said. “With education being one of the key tenets of our mission, we’re thrilled to be using one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays to develop this new relationship with West LegalEdcenter.”

“Performance adds such a powerful dimension to the learning experience, and there are so many parallels between theater and the law such as conflict, language and imagery,” noted Mike Suchsland, president, West Education Group. “We’re delighted to work with the Guthrie to bring these elements together to provide new insights into the critical legal issues that impact peoples’ lives.”

Panelists invited to appear at the premiere course on March 25 include Martin Cole, director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility; Andrew Wade, the former head of voice at the Royal Shakespeare Company; and Dr. Barry Cytron, rabbi for Adath Jeshurun Congregation.

Professional actors appearing will include Raye Birk, currently onstage in the Guthrie’s production of Third, as well as Matthew Amendt and Michelle O’Neill, currently appearing in Peer Gynt at the Guthrie. Moderator Chris Carlson has also appeared on the Guthrie stage, most recently in The Pillowman.

CLE Content Inspired by Shakespeare
“Merchants of Faith: Bias in the Litigation of Religious Belief” employs live performance by professional Guthrie actors, lecture and discussion to explore the ethical issues facing attorneys when faith is central to litigation. Selected scenes from The Merchant of Venice, in which Shakespeare pits Christian and Jewish faiths as central to the litigant’s contract claim, will be performed by actors. Shakespeare’s play and the actual 1594 trial on which it is based provide a fascinating insight into the history of anti-Semitism. In addition, the course will feature a brief dramatization of some contemporary immigration cases in which judges and government attorneys struggle with their religious subjectivity in examining the merits of Chinese asylum applicants claiming persecution based on religious belief.

Using each scene as a springboard for discussion, moderated by immigration attorney and professional actor Chris Carlson, this course explores the obligation of attorneys and judges to refrain from discriminating or harassing a person on the basis of religion.

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