Dr. Ariel Nereson Receives Research Grant from UB Baldy Center

Published November 15, 2021

Mae West.

Mae West, publicity photo, 1936, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress and Wikimedia.

Ariel Nereson, Assistant Professor of Dance Studies, focuses her research on the intersection of embodiment, identity, historiography, and cultural production. Her ongoing research, supported in part by an award from The Baldy Center at University at Buffalo, aims to give insight into obscenity laws during the Progressive Era in United States history (circa 1890s-1930s).  

Nereson's project, Obscenity Law and the Problem of Performance: A Case Study of the Trial of Mae West's “The Pleasure Man,” analyzes the 1930 trial of Mae West’s Broadway show of the same name to understand the ways in which performance was historically understood to reflect and generate the public sphere.

Dr. Ariel Nereson.

Dr. Ariel Nereson

The 1928 cast and crew members of Mae West’s The Pleasure Man were charged with violating the Wales Padlock Law because of their alleged purposeful influencing of the public’s morals and desires with their “obscene” performance. Full details can be found in a recent article / press announcement by The Baldy Center Magazine online: http://www.buffalo.edu/baldycenter/multimedia/magazine-fall-2021.host.html/content/shared/www/baldycenter/insight-fall-2021/obscenity.detail.html

The grant will support the beginning of a longer research project into productions that were tried under The Wales Act and their relationship to criminal prosecutions of homosexuality. Nereson has previously written about Mae West’s “gay plays” – “Queens Campin’ Onstage: Queer Kinship in Mae West’s Gay Plays” (Theatre Journal Vol. 54, No. 4, 2012) – and this new project builds on that research.