Alum spotlight: Paula Woolfolk-Cohen (BFA ’00 / BFA ’05)

collage of photos

Paula Woolfolk-Cohen, (BFA, Technical Theatre, 2000), (BFA in Art Education, 2005)

When Paula told her dad that she wanted to major in theatre, “He said, ‘as long as you can get a job and support yourself.’” Luckily, Paula has had no problem with that.

(from left) Jessica Betts, Adam Crump, and Paula at graduation

After she got her first BFA, she worked as a scenic artist at George Street Playhouse for one season, before going freelance. “Then 9/11 happened and that changed work.” A year later, Paula was back in Richmond, where she got her second BFA in Art Education. “Working with the Freshmen, I realized that I enjoyed teaching people how to paint, more than getting stuck by myself doing all nighters.”

Paula with Lou Szari (former professor of lighting design)

Paula moved back to her home state of Delaware, where she taught art on an elementary level for 14 years.  “I thoroughly enjoyed teaching art and was loved by the students because of my energy. I did a lot of acting in front of them to grab their attention.”

Jessica Betts and Paula in a makeup class at VCU

Paula is now at Newark High School in Newark, where she’s building a theatre program from the ground up. “My principal is passionate about theatre and has been working to get this off the ground for several years.”

Paula (far left) painting a set with students

In March 2020, the school went virtual and they’ve been in a hybrid mix since January.  “I teach in person and online. It’s a test of all my skills. I’ve learned to back away from the camera and go big.” As the only theatre teacher in the district, Paula’s has also been tasked with writing curriculum units for every high school.

Paula working with students in 2021

When Paula considers what she garnered from her days at VCU, she says, “A lot is remembering and instilling in the kids the practices I got from classes.  It’s refreshing to see the kids light up and go ‘Wow, I never knew you could do that.’”

Paula working with students in 2021

When asked about her home state’s new prominence, she notes, “We’re not far from where Biden lives.  My nephew is friends with his grandson.  When we’d go to birthday parties, the secret service was always around.”

Her husband of five years, Josh Cohen is an Academic Dean at an elementary school.

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the April 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.