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Press Releases

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lectures Complement 'The Merchant of Venice' Performance

SALISBURY, MD---Homosexuality and anti-Semitism in Shakespeare? Complementing its upcoming performances of the Bard’s The Merchant of Venice, Salisbury University’s Bobbi Biron Theatre Department hosts four lectures on how these themes emerge in the play and includes an extra performance for SU students. Two post-performance discussions take place after the Thursday shows as well. Two lectures by Dr. T. Ross Leasure, SU English faculty, are 7-7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, in Fulton Hall, Room 111 and Thursday, March 10, in Fulton Hall’s Black Box theatre. Titled “Antonio’s Silence and the Critic’s Comfort: Homophobia and the Merchant,” Leasure’s presentation focuses on Antonio's supposed affection for Bassanio and that affection's attendant fear and shame as they have been elicited by the play from certain of its critics. Leasure earned his doctorate in English from Cornell University with a specialization in medieval and early modern British literature. While at Cornell, he worked closely with venerated scholar Ellis Hanson, the editor for Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film. He has done extensive research in Queer theory and has published works such as “Milton’s Queer Choice: Comus as Castlehaven” and “William Burton’s Belial: Anatomizing Milton’s Lesser Demon” in Milton Quarterly. Leasure currently teaches a course in Gay and Lesbian literary studies at SU in addition to courses on medieval and early modern studies, and he is working on analyses of the films Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Lot in Sodom. The third presentation, by Dr. Jonathan Friedman of West Chester University, PA, is titled “The Merchant of Venice:  A Plea for Tolerance?”  Friedman seeks to put the play in the broader context of European anti-Semitism during the 16th century and to highlight the various elements of medieval Jew-hatred that permeates the text of the play.  He considers the play a culmination of anti-Semitic thought and sentiment rather than the dawn of a new age of Christian goodwill towards Jews. Friedman’s lecture is 1 p.m. Sunday, March 13, in Fulton Hall, Room 111. Friedman is the director of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Chester University His Ph.D. is in modern German and Jewish histories. He has worked as advising historian for both the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, Steven Spielberg’s oral history project, in Los Angeles, CA. A fourth lecture, addressing both the homosexual undertones and the anti-Semitic sentiments in the play, is 7 p.m. Saturday, March 12 in Fulton Hall, Room 111. Dr. Paul Pfeiffer, director of the performance, gives the presentation titled “The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare’s Cry for Tolerance.” In addition, a special performance for SU students is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in Fulton Hall’s Black Box theatre. The performance is free for students and is closed to the public. The lectures and post-performance discussions are free and the public is invited. Admission to the lectures does not assure admittance to the play. To reserve tickets for the performance call the SU Box Office at 410-543-6228.

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