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Shakespeare Scholar Ralph Alan Cohen to speak Dec. 2

BOONE—Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, noted Shakespeare scholar and co-founder of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., will discuss “The Role of the Arts in Building Community Economies” at Appalachian State University Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.

View larger imageNoted Shakespeare scholar Ralph Alan Cohen will discuss “The Role of the Arts in Building Community Economies” Dec. 2 at Appalachian State University. Photo credit: Lauren D. RogersView larger imageThe Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Va., where Ralph Alan Cohen directs, is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s first indoor theatre. It attracts 55,000 visitors a year who spend an estimated $14.75 million dollars in the area each year. Photo courtesy of Blackfriars Playhouse

His lecture will be presented in the Valborg Theatre. It is free and open to the public. His visit is co-sponsored by the university’s Forum Committee, Hayes School of Music, Department of Economics, and Department of Theatre and Dance.

Cohen is director of mission at the American Shakespeare Center, as well as the 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 in Staunton, Va., where he has directed 30 productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

The American Shakespeare Center has had a tremendous economic impact on Staunton, population 23,000, and the Shenandoah Valley. The center produces professional theatre 52 weeks per year in downtown Staunton at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s first indoor theatre. It provides more than 100 full-time equivalent jobs, generates nearly $400,000 per year in local and state taxes and fees, and provides cultural enrichment and entertainment to approximately 55,000 attendees annually. The Staunton Department of Economic Development conservatively estimates that visitors who come to the town to attend the theatre spend $14.75 million dollars in the area each year.

Local residents interested in economic growth and the role of the arts in the greater Boone community should attend, according to event organizer Dr. Paulette Marty, who teaches threatre. In addition to being articulate and engaging, Cohen “is also very knowledgeable about the impact of the arts on economies across the English-speaking world, and the scope of his talk will range beyond the case study of Staunton to examine broader trends,” she said.

In 2008, the state of Virginia recognized Cohen’s contributions to the region by presenting him with the Commonwealth Governor’s Arts Award. He also has been widely lauded for his contributions to the field of Shakespeare studies. In 2009 he was the Theo Crosby Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. In 2013, the Folger Shakespeare Library awarded him the prestigious Shakespeare Steward Award. Cohen has also received multiple National Endowment for the Humanities grants to direct summer institutes on Shakespeare and staging. Cohen earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his doctorate at Duke University.

Cohen has an abiding commitment to quality teaching and arts education. He is the author of “ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare,” editor of two special teaching issues of the Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of articles on teaching Shakespeare as well as on Shakespeare, Jonson and Elizabethan staging. Cohen founded the Studies Abroad program at James Madison University, where he won Virginia’s award for outstanding faculty. In 2001, Cohen established the Blackfriars Conference, a bi-annual weeklong celebration of early modern drama in performance.

The Valborg Theatre is located on the north side of Chapell Wilson Hall on Howard Street. The door faces the back of the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on King Street in downtown Boone. Parking is available after 5 p.m. on campus in faculty lots and after 5:30 in the College Street parking deck near Belk Library and Information Commons.


The Department of Theatre and Dance is housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Its mission is to provide liberal arts educations for the B.S. degree in teaching theatre arts and the B.A. degrees in dance studies or theatre arts. The department also values the opportunity to offer coursework for integrated learning through the arts to the general university student population. Vital to the support of this mission is a dynamic co-curricular production program that provides exemplary theatre and dance experiences to departmental students, the university community and the region. The departmental philosophy is to support the university’s liberal arts environment through a balanced and integrated emphasis on teaching, creative activity, scholarship, and service.

Media contact

Keith Martin