Ralph Alan Cohen, Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center, has brought Shakespeare performances -- using their original staging conditions -- to hundreds of American communities and advanced an interest in Shakespeare and his times by building a re-creation of the Blackfriars Theatre and creating an American center for the performance and study of Shakespeare in Staunton, Virginia.
For his dedication to fostering a love of Shakespeare, Cohen is the recipient of the 2013 Shakespeare Steward Award, presented annually by the Folger in recognition of outstanding contributions to the innovative teaching of Shakespeare in American classrooms. Folger Director Michael Witmore presented Cohen with the award on October 26, 2013 at the closing event of the Blackfriars Conference, the American Shakespeare Center's biennial gathering of scholarship on early modern drama.
"Ralph has a long been a leader in the community of Shakespeare scholars who see that there is much to learn from the practice of staging Shakespeare's plays," noted Witmore. "People think differently about Shakespeare and Renaissance drama because of what Ralph has done."
Peggy O'Brien, the Folger's Director of Education added, "Ralph is close to magical. All of his gifts -- scholar, teacher, director, and entrepreneur -- have driven work that has created lively and exciting Shakespeare experiences for hundreds of thousands of students and teachers. And the founding and growth of the American Shakespeare Center besides! It's an honor for us at the Folger to honor him."
Cohen, Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center, is Gonder Professor of Shakespeare and Performance and founder of the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program at Mary Baldwin College. He was project director for the building of the Blackfriars Playhouse -- a recreation of Shakespeare's indoor theatre -- in Staunton, Virginia.
He has directed 30 productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including America's first professional production of Francis Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle. He also directed the first revival of Thomas Middleton's Your Five Gallants and co-edited the play for Oxford University Press's Collected Works of Thomas Middleton.
He is the author of ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare. He twice edited special teaching issues of Shakespeare Quarterly and has published articles on teaching Shakespeare as well as on Shakespeare, Jonson, and Elizabethan staging.
He founded the Studies Abroad program at James Madison University, where he won Virginia's award for outstanding faculty. He has frequently directed summer institutes on Shakespeare and staging sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001 he established the Blackfriars Conference, a biennial week-long celebration of early modern drama in performance.
In 2008 he won the Commonwealth Governor's Arts Award with his American Shakespeare Center Co-Founder Jim Warren. In 2009 he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare's Globe in London. He earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his doctorate at Duke University and has honorary degrees from St. Lawrence University and Georgetown University.
Past recipients of the Shakespeare Steward Award include the partnership between the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Public Schools; scholars Gail Kern Paster and Jeanne Addison Roberts; the Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival; Peggy O'Brien; and the inaugural recipient, Susan Biondo-Hench, a high school English teacher in Carlisle, Pennsylvania who founded a student Shakespeare festival in her community.
Learn more about Folger Education and its resources and publications for teachers and students at www.folger.edu/education.
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Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-class center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world's largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500 - 1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K - 12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs -- theater, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs. By promoting understanding of Shakespeare and his world, the Folger reminds us of the enduring influence of his works, the formative effects of the Renaissance on our own time, and the power of the written and spoken word. A gift to the American people from industrialist Henry Clay Folger, the Folger -- located one block east of the U.S. Capitol -- opened in 1932. Learn more at www.folger.edu.