Beyond his directorial accomplishments, Cohen is a passionate teacher of acting whose methodology is widely admired, and whose legacy can be found on stages throughout the world. His books on acting theory and practice are in wide use as textbooks, many of them released in multiple editions, some translated into other languages, and all still in print.
UCI’s drama program has always been, in Cohen’s words, “a training ground for pre-professional actors.” During the first academic year, in winter 1966, he founded the Students’ Repertory Theatre, which enabled twenty student actors—at the time, most of the drama majors at UCI—to work together as a repertory company, collaborating on a series of plays over the course of the season. Remarkably, this was the first repertory company established for an undergraduate acting program at any university in the United States. The group’s name was changed to the Irvine Repertory Theatre for the 1968-1970 seasons, after which the cohort of acting majors became too numerous to continue the program. But Cohen’s mission had been accomplished: the aura of professional training was clearly established. He and two other faculty members briefly revived the repertory approach in 1975.
Cohen’s chief focus as a teacher during most of his career at UCI has been graduate acting, though in early years he also taught directing and dramatic literature. Having had no prior teaching experience, he studied existing methodologies and then developed his own approach centered on the question “How do you translate style into believability?” The success of his method is evidenced not only by the many successful graduates of UCI’s program and the prominence of his textbooks, but by the many invitations he receives to teach acting workshops worldwide.
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