Becca Cohen Undergraduate Spotlight

The Department of English is delighted to spotlight a selection of summer achievements from our amazing undergraduate students!

Becca Cohen
Biology and English
Emory University, Class of 2023

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

At the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) in Staunton, Virginia, audience members are part of the performance. Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize any lines–but Merchant of Venice’s Portia may point to you while she declares her suitors unsuitable! Because the ASC replicates early modern conditions, some lucky playgoers can sit on the stage in the “Lord’s Chairs” that are part of their recreation of the Elizabethan theater known as Blackfriars. In this indoor theater, lights remain on during the show, so audiences cannot hide in the dark as they can in most modern productions. This type of performance allows for eye contact and–as research has shown– it results in an emotional reaction in participants, which of course enhances everyone’s theater experience. 

This summer I have been lucky enough to be fully immersed in the ASC experience as an educational intern. In this internship, I’ve come to rely on skills I’ve honed in English classes. I’m especially grateful for what I’ve learned in Dr. Cahill’s classes about early modern drama, intimacy choreography, and early modern historical contexts (from aristocratic hunting practices to sorcery and witchcraft) because I’ve drawn on this knowledge as I have analyzed different plays, props, and acting choices. And I’m thrilled to have opportunities to learn more from other Shakespeareans at the ASC, including my supervisor in the education department, Sarah Enloe, and Aubrey Whitlock, who co-hosts the Hurly Burly Shakespeare Podcast.

 So far, I’ve seen Macbeth in an outdoor theater space and Henry V in the Blackfriars. I have also gotten covered in stage blood at a workshop with young children; helped teach early modern rhetoric and meter to college students; attended rehearsals and later provided dramaturgical input to actors (for example, I weighed in on the current production of Henry V set in the grunge era of the 1990s and starring Brandon Carter, an extraordinary actor of color who has appeared in several Shakespeare history plays); analyzed ongoing productions in my blogs; taught administrative staff how to write blog entries; wrote play pitches for future seasons; helped graduate students find resources for their research; absorbed new information from the vast film archives of past productions; and even interviewed actors about how their BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities affected the decisions they made on stage. It has been very cool to see how vital the skills I developed in my Emory English courses are to my intern experience.

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