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Special Event  |  Buffalo Humanities Festival

Saturday, September 26, 2015, 11 am–4 pm

Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium  

Are we bound by gender? With presentations, performances, and conversations, the 2015 Buffalo Humanities Festival will attempt to answer that question by going beyond the traditional oppositions of male/female and gay/straight. Some experts claim that we live in a “post-gender” era, with stay-at-home dads, female CEOs, and transgendered characters on TV. Yet history, literature, music, and the arts suggest that the story of gender is more complicated – and more interesting – than we often take it to be. Join us from September 23rd to the 26th for a festival of mind-bending ideas.

The complete schedule and ticket information for the Buffalo Humanities Festival can be found at 


Cyrano Becomes CyranA
Doug Zschiegner and Niagara University Actors
11:00am-12:00pm, Burchfield Penney

What changes when a seventeenth-century man is portrayed by a twenty-first-century woman? Niagara University Theatre recently premiered CyranA, an original, gender-switched adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano De Bergerac. By reversing the sexes – but not altering the behavior – they have created a world where women are the dominant sex, while men peacock for their attention. This presentation features actors recreating scenes and sharing experiences, with adaptor/director Doug Zschiegner moderating.

Doug Zschiegner is Associate Director and Associate Professor of Acting and Directing for Niagara University’s BFA Theatre program. Doug’s MFA is from the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program, and he has directed, acted, and taught at Equity theatres and universities around the country. That last name is pronounced CHEEG-ner.

A Shakespearean Gender-Bender
Shakespeare in Delaware Park
1:00pm-2:00pm, Burchfield Penney

William Shakespeare wrote some of the most exciting and complex female characters in the dramatic canon. And yet, he wrote them for male actors at a time when women weren’t allowed on stage. Does a male perspective on a female voice change the message? Does a modern audience experience cross-gender casting differently? Shakespeare in Delaware Park explores these questions in a double take of Olivia and Viola scenes from Twelfth Night, once with an all-male cast and once with all women, to show how gender influences text, and ultimately, the performance experience.

Shakespeare in Delaware Park is a not-for-profit, professional theatre company dedicated to providing free, high-quality public theatre to the widest possible audience. One of Buffalo’s most beloved cultural institutions, SDP just completed its 40th Summer Season, which featured Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night.

Presenting Jimmy Janowski!
Jimmy Janowski and Anthony Chase
3:00pm-4:00pm, Burchfield Penney Auditorium

Jimmy Janowski, Buffalo’s foremost interpreter of gender bender roles, discusses his life in drag. Working with Buffalo United Artists, Janowski has recreated female heroines from such film classics as Rebecca, Imitation of Life, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and The Poseidon Adventure. In this session, Janowski talks about his career of tapping into the Golden Age of gay screen icons. The discussion is moderated by theater critic Anthony Chase, Assistant Dean of Arts and Humanities at SUNY Buffalo State.

The Buffalo News calls Jimmy Janowski “One of the funniest men performing on Buffalo stages!” He has been delighting local audiences with his “gender bending” characters for over twenty years. The recipient of several Artvoice “Artie” awards, Janowski was named “Favorite Actor” by Buffalo Spree in 2013.



The University at Buffalo (UB) Humanities Institute (HI) presents the second Buffalo Humanities Festival, an annual celebration of ideas. The Festival takes place from Wednesday, September 23, to Saturday, September 26, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo History Museum, Burchfield Penney Art Center, and SUNY Buffalo State. The featured speaker, Jill Lepore, is America’s most engaging historical writer. 

This year’s theme, “Gender Bender,” explores the question of whether we are bound by gender. Now featuring four days of presentations, performances, and conversations, the Festival probes gender issues by going beyond the traditional oppositions of male/female and gay/straight. Tackling a controversial subject head-on, the Festival seeks to raise the level of community discourse in Western New York by exploring sex and gender through history, literature, and the arts. And it does so in a setting that is lively and fun. Erik Seeman, Professor of History at UB and Director of HI, says “the Festival’s mission is to foster dialogue and idea-sharing among the public, scholars, and artists.”

According to Libby Otto, Associate Professor of Art History at UB and Executive Director of HI, “We believe that understanding the humanities enriches one’s life and fosters civic engagement.” Each year, the Festival draws on Buffalo’s rich academic and cultural traditions to engage the most pressing questions of our time.

The Festival kicks off on Wednesday, September 23, with an event at the Buffalo History Museum that is free and open to the public. Patrick McDevitt, Associate Professor of History at UB, offers a talk on “Do Clothes Make the Man?” McDevitt explores the history of the man’s suit; a pop-up exhibit of men’s fashions accompanies the presentation. Reception at 7:00pm, talk at 7:30.

On Thursday, September 24, the Humanities Festival Book Group is open to all who want to discuss The Secret History of Wonder Woman by featured speaker Jill Lepore. Good food and conversation are on the menu at Sweetness 7 Cafe, 301 Parkside Avenue, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. The discussion is led by Susan Cahn, Professor of History at UB, an expert on gender history. Tickets are $8 and include hors d’oeuvres
and one glass of beer, wine, or a soft drink.

Jill Lepore appears on stage at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Friday, September 25, at 8:00pm. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students. Lepore is a history professor at Harvard University and has won some of the most prestigious accolades in the profession. At the same time, her books and New Yorker articles crackle
with wit and humor, features that have won her a remarkably wide readership. For more on Lepore, go to

At the Albright-Knox, Lepore talks about her bestselling book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The Wall Street Journal calls it “lively, surprising, and occasionally salacious,” while NPR says that the book “relates a tale so improbable, so juicy, it’ll have you saying, ‘Merciful Minerva!’” After the presentation, Lepore takes questions from the audience and is available to sign books, with copies offered for sale by Talking Leaves. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for a wine-and-cheese reception with the author, beginning at
7:00pm. VIP tickets, which include admission to Saturday’s events, are $60 each, $100 for two.

The Festival continues on Saturday, September 26, with fifteen interactive talks and performances by Western New York’s most gifted humanities teachers and scholars, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Ketchum Hall at SUNY Buffalo State. During each of the hour-long sessions, speakers engage audience members on topics such as “The Sex of Sports,” “The Real Eunuchs of Constantinople,” and “Rebellious Women of Country Music.” Performances include Shakespeare in Delaware Park doing scenes from “Twelfth Night,” first with all male actors and then all female, and the Niagara University Theatre Department offering their gender-switched adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Presentations will be held from 11:00am to 4:00pm. A full schedule is at

Daypasses for Saturday’s events, only $15 for adults and $10 for students, also include a screening of short films about gender and free admission to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Burchfield Penney Art Center. And if Daypasses are purchased by Wednesday, September 23, they include a free lunch from the West Side Bazaar. Choices include Ethiopian vegetarian combo, Burmese chicken curry, Vegetarian Pad Thai, and many more.

Saturday also features a number of events that are free and open to the public outdoors on Rockwell Quad (behind Rockwell Hall, between the Burchfield Penney and Ketchum Hall). A Drag Break during lunch features some of Buffalo’s favorite genderbending performers. The Performance Space includes cabaret music by Katy Miner and Michael Hake at 2:00pm, and a Gender Bender Party with cash bar and music by Alison
Pipitone at 4:00pm. In the Kids Tent, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Arts Center invites children to play dress up and make video art that explores ideas of what it is to be a “boy” or a “girl.”

The Festival is a collaboration among five Western New York institutions of higher education: in addition to UB, partners include Canisius College, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State, and SUNY Fredonia. The Festival is made possible by the generous support of the Oishei Foundation, the UB College of Arts and Sciences, the
New York Council for the Humanities, UB’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Schroeder, Braxton & Vogt Financial Advisors, embraceWNY, and WNED/WBFO. The John R. Oishei Foundation strives to be a catalyst for change to enhance economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership, and network building.

For more information, including a full schedule of events, and to purchase tickets, go to For questions, contact Erik Seeman, Professor of History at UB and Director of
HI, at