Blackfriars Conference 2013–Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen’s Welcome to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference

Hi Everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen’s Welcome to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference.

Dr. Cohen took to the stage in a packed Blackfriars Playhouse to welcome everyone to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference and began this celebration of early modern drama with, as he said, “the only somber moment” of the conference when he took a moment to recognize the memory Blackfriars Playhouse architect: Tom McLaughlin who died in 2012. Dr. Cohen then recognized several people who made this conference possible including the team who read through over three-hundred abstracts before introducing ASC Artistic Director Jim Warren who gave a brief history of the ASC and Blackfriars Playhouse. After Mr. Warren thanked the attendees for their contribution to Shakespeare scholarship, Dr. Cohen introduced ASC Managing Director Amy Wratchford and incoming ASC Board President Mary McDermott. Dr. Cohen also introduced Staunton’s mayor, Lacy B. King. Mayor King gave a brief history of how the ASC has impacted and enlivened our small, picturesque city.  Dr. Cohen also recognized this Conference’s patron, George Walton Williams IV and introduced the Director of  Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare & Performance M.Litt/MFA program, Dr. Paul Menzer.

The focus of Dr. Cohen’s Welcome was on community, both the local community of Staunton and the community of ASC employees and volunteers who are responsible for the success of the ASC and this week’s Conference. Dr. Cohen welcomed all of the ASC employees to the Blackfriars stage for a special moment during which each employee introduced him or herself to the Conference attendees. ASC Director of Education Sarah Enloe  then took the stage to explain some of the Conference logistics before introducing the hallmark of the Blackfriars Conference: the bear. Bears (or grad students dressed as bears) will come onstage to stop any presentation that goes over time. This fun practice is, of course, inspired by the famous stage direction in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, “Exit, pursued by a bear”.  Ms. Enloe, apparently, went over her allotted time because one of the bears entered and grabbed her paper before exiting. And so it begins…