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Guthrie Theater, West LegalEdcenter to Offer Unique Continuing Legal Education Courses

Date: March 3, 2008
Press Contact: Kevin Hunt

Innovative program uses live performance, lecture and panel discussion to explore bias

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.

Registration Information

To enroll in the live CLE at the Guthrie in the Dowling Studio on March 25 at 3:30 p.m., call the Guthrie Box Office at 612-377-2224. The fee is $200. The course will be followed by a complimentary wine and cheese reception to celebrate the launch of this partnership.

To register for the live Webcast simply visit, search for the program and continue through the checkout process.

This course will apply for accreditation for two (2.0) credits of Elimination of Bias in the legal profession and in the practice of law.

Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie Theater, founded in 1963, is an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training. The Guthrie is dedicated to producing the great works of dramatic literature, developing the work of contemporary playwrights and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. Led by Director Joe Dowling since 1995, the Guthrie is located at 818 South 2nd Street (at Chicago Avenue), in downtown Minneapolis. To purchase tickets or season subscriptions call the Guthrie Theater Box Office between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily at 612.377.2224 or toll-free 877.44.STAGE. For more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit

West LegalEdcenter
West LegalEdcenter is a Thomson West business. The West LegalEdcenter library contains more than 22,000 hours of continuing legal education, spanning all learning levels and covering every practice area. Our up-to-the-minute programming keeps pace with rapid changes in the law and with easy, online access, you can view programming on the Web wherever you are – from home, from the office or while traveling. West LegalEdcenter is CLE that’s all about you. For more information about West LegalEdcenter, visit

Thomson West
Headquartered in Eagan, Minn., Thomson West is the foremost provider of integrated information solutions to the U.S. legal market. Thomson West is a business within The Thomson Corporation (NYSE: TOC; TSX: TOC) and was formed when West Publishing and Thomson Legal Publishing merged in June 1996. For more information, please visit the Thomson West Web site at

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