His myriad accomplishments notwithstanding, Cohen considers himself primarily a director. His earliest effort was Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury at summer camp in 1957, the latest his UCI production of Rabbit Hole in 2007—and he shows no sign of slowing down.
He states “I have no favorites” among his plays, but admits that he takes particular pride in certain shows (though the list gets longer the more he thinks about it). To cite just a few examples: his 1989 production of Shakespeare’s tragic King Lear was judged by the Los Angeles Times as the best play staged anywhere in Southern California during that year—no small feat for an effort featuring student actors that was rated against all productions by professional companies. The Plaie Called Corpus Christi, presented in three parts between 1985 and 1987 and translated by Cohen, was a rare contemporary staging of a medieval passion play. In 2001 his original play The Prince, in which Cohen brings the notorious Renaissance nobleman Niccolò Machiavelli to life, was deemed “stirring” and “exciting” by a critic at the Times. Such reactions could be quoted about many of his productions over the years.
In addition to a feverish schedule at UCI—he has directed two productions in most seasons—Cohen has been active in professional theatre. His particular interest in Shakespeare is reflected by his frequent return to both the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Shakespearean Festival, where he will direct The School for Wives this summer.
Fulfilling a long-time dream, Cohen formed his own company in 2006: the UC Irvine Field Station at the Hayworth Theater in Los Angeles. The first production was Machiavelli: The Art of Terror, a revision of his original script The Prince, which had debuted at UCI in 2001.
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