Ralph Alan Cohen

ralph cohen director of mission cofounder american shakespeare center
Co-Founder and Director of Mission

Ralph Alan Cohen is Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center, Emeritus Professor of English at James Madison University, and currently Gonder Professor of Shakespeare at Mary Baldwin College, where he founded the graduate program in Shakespeare and Performance.

He was project director for the building of the Blackfriars Playhouse and 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 has twice edited special teaching issues of the 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 directed four scholar 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 ASC Co-founder Jim Warren. In 2009, he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. In 2013, Folger Shakespeare Library awarded him and the ASC its Shakespeare Steward Award. In 2014, he was the first American to be awarded the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker award for pioneering work in Shakespearian theatre. He earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his doctorate at Duke University, where he ushered at Cameron Indoor Stadium.