In Memoriam

Just over a fortnight ago, on the first night of Chanukah, a traffic accident claimed the life of one of the most versatile and valuable individuals in the Austin theatre community. David Mark Cohen, playwright, dramaturg, educator, and critic, was killed as he and his partner, economist and monologist Steven Tomlinson, were traveling to Oklahoma to spend the holidays with Tomlinson's parents. The accident occurred near Fort Worth in the early evening of December 23. Cohen and Tomlinson were headed north on I-35 when a car in the southbound lanes crossed the median and hit their car, which was struck a second time by another vehicle traveling behind them. Cohen died at the scene, but Tomlinson received only minor injuries.

The shocking news spread quickly throughout the theatre community. Cohen's involvement in local stage work was so broad as to put him in touch with students, academics, playwrights, producers, directors, and critics. He was associate chair of the UT Department of Theatre & Dance and head of its playwriting program. He was a recognized dramatist, having been Resident Playwright for Capitol City Playhouse and winner of the Larry L. King Award for Outstanding Texas Playwright from Live Oak Theatre for his script Nantasket. He was an advocate for his fellow writers, through Cap City's New Play Development Program, and the new organization Austin Script Works, which he co-founded to nurture, develop, and help produce new dramatic scripts. And he was for several years a critic, reviewing theatrical productions across the state for the alternative paper The Texas Triangle.

Throughout the theatre community, he was widely known and widely respected. He was an artist with a keen sense of the past and a sensitivity to words that could make history bloom in the present. His art and craft informed his criticism and developmental work. Through his words, you could tell he knew plays from the inside out. His judgment was acute but never cruel. He'd been there.

Cohen's death came at an exceptionally productive time for the artist. He had helped get Script Works off the ground and through its first production, American Arcana. He had just won the Live Oak award and had a new public reading of Nantasket. He had directed his partner in an exhilarating production of Tomlinson's new solo work, Managed Care. And he had agreed to dramaturg the upcoming Zachary Scott Theatre Center production of Angels in America. In fact, he had been a part of the casting process in the days before his death. It will be sad to see these projects go forward without him. His wisdom and compassion will be missed.

A memorial service for Cohen will be held at noon, Sunday, January 25, the McCullough Theatre on the UT campus. His friends and colleagues are encouraged to contribute their stories or memories of Cohen to a memorbuch, which will be bound in a portfolio and copies given to Cohen's parents and Tomlinson. Contributions may be sent on one letter-size page to: 11303 Toledo St, Austin, 78759; or faxed to 345-0285; or e-mailed to

A memorial fund in Cohen's name has been set up to support the production of works by UT playwriting students. Donations to the "David Mark Cohen Memorial Fund" may be made in person at any local Boatmen's Bank branch or mailed to the bank at PO Box 4218, Austin, 78765. Rest in peace, David.

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