Paul D. Nelsen, 72, of Dummerston, VT, died peacefully on Monday, August 19, 2019 surrounded by his family, after bravely facing a sudden cancer diagnosis this April which evolved with shocking speed. The outpouring of love Paul received from family and friends supported and comforted him.
Paul was born in Bridgeport, CT on January 12, 1947, attending elementary and high schools in Newtown, CT where he pursued athletics, theatre and academics with equal vigor. He earned his BA at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and his MFA in acting and directing at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.
In 1971, Paul began teaching theatre at Windham College in Putney, VT. With his colleague Joe Greenhoe, Paul initiated a memorable and ambitious program, The Windham Summer Repertory Theatre, providing a distinctive opportunity for students to partner with theatre professionals. Paul acted in and directed many of these productions. In 1973, Paul and Joe took Windham College students to London for a month-long immersive experience in theatre. In January of 1978 Paul started teaching theatre and drama at Marlboro College in Marlboro, VT until his retirement in 2013.
A highlight of his Marlboro College directing credits was his 1983 epic production of King Lear performed in Persons Auditorium, starring RSC actor Ted Valentine, with a large supporting cast of community actors and production teams.
In 1985 Paul helped revive the Fine Arts Building at the former Windham College as The River Valley Playhouse and Arts Center. He directed a series of plays with community actors as well as starting concert series featuring national touring artists.
As a result of his research and publications on early modern English playhouses in Shakespeare Bulletin and other academic journals, in 1990 Paul was invited to serve on the Academic Advisory Committee and Research Board for the reconstruction of The Globe Theatre in London, on which he served for 12 years. In 1995-96 Paul was one of twelve National Endowment for the Humanities Fellows at the Folger Shakespeare Institute.
By the mid 1990s, his London theatre programs expanded, with more students of all ages seeking intensive theatre-going combined with daily seminars featuring actors, directors and designers. Paul often began group discussions with “What do you remember?” This non-critical approach to analyzing a production encouraged broader participation and brought many people back yearly.
Paul acted in and directed a wide range of classical and contemporary plays plus about a dozen original scripts throughout his career. He also worked with various arts organizations. He served on the board of Sandglass Theatre in Putney, VT. He was a Fellow of the Vermont Council on the Arts. He was on the Editorial Board of the academic journal Shakespeare Bulletin. He also worked with the Brattleboro Music Center during the mid 1970’s.
Paul will be deeply missed by his wife Lou Nelsen; his son Corin Nelsen and wife Jennifer, step-grandchildren Jacob and Hanna; his daughter Jessie Nelsen and husband PJ and granddaughter Zoe; sisters Ginger Nelsen and Judy Casalone and their families; in-laws Nancy DeVries, Andrew DeVries and Justus DeVries Jr and their families; as well as many cousins in the extended Nelsen family.
A memorial celebration will be held on September 28th, at 1pm at All Souls Church at The West Village Meeting House, 29 South St., West Brattleboro, VT 05303
Contributions in Paul’s memory may be made to a charitable organization of your choice, or:
-West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 40, West Dummerston, VT 05357
-Rescue Inc., PO Box 593, Brattleboro, VT 05302
-New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat St., Brattleboro, VT 05301 or neyt.org
-Latchis Arts, 50 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301 or latchisarts.org