Ralph Alan Cohen

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

Ralph Alan Cohen is the Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center and Gonder professor of Shakespeare in Performance in the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program, which he founded at Mary Baldwin University. He was the project director for the building of the Blackfriars Playhouse, in Staunton, Virginia. He has directed 35 professional productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, and Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, in America’s first professional production of that play.

He is the author of ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare, which won the AEP’s Distinguished Achievement Award and to be published in a revised and expanded edition by Arden Shakespeare in 2018. He has twice guest edited special teaching issues of Shakespeare Quarterly, and has published articles on teaching Shakespeare as well as on Shakespeare, Jonson, and Elizabethan staging. He also co-edited Thomas Middleton’s Your Five Gallants for Oxford University Press’s Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. Ralph is a former professor of English at James Madison University, where he won Virginia’s award for outstanding faculty. He has been the project director for four NEH-sponsored summer institutes for college professors on the staging and teaching of Shakespeare and every other year hosts the Blackfriars Conference, a weeklong celebration of early modern drama in performance. In 2008 Ralph and ASC co-founder Jim Warren won Virginia’s Governor’s Arts Award. In 2009 he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. In 2013 the Folger Shakespeare Library awarded him its Shakespeare Steward Award for his contributions to teaching Shakespeare, and in 2014 he became the first American recipient of the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Award for pioneering efforts in the production and promotion of Shakespeare’s work. In 2016 Duke University Graduate School honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ralph earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his doctorate at Duke University, and he has received honorary degrees from Georgetown University and St. Lawrence University.