Shakespeare one night, Jerry Springer the next—a weird combination to some, but to English Professor Jim Bulman, it’s a wonderful illustration of the range of professional theatre. It’s also how the students on the travel seminar Dr. Bulman led spent their first two nights in England: seeing Jerry Springer, The Opera the night after seeing a multicultural, modern-dress performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
But for Professor Bulman, making an impression is nothing new—universally students say he’s a teacher they’ll never forget. Professor Bulman came to Allegheny in the 1970s as a traditional Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar, but his approach—as both a scholar and a teacher—has evolved to focus on plays much more in performance than simply as written texts…in no small part because Professor Bulman is an actor as well as a teacher, regularly playing roles in local theatre.
“To see live performances can be wonderfully transformative,” says Dr. Bulman, an internationally recognized Shakespeare scholar and editor of the Shakespeare in Performance Series, which has more than 20 volumes in print. When he found out that the College had awarded him a research stipend, rather than buy books or hire an assistant, he knew immediately how he could use that money so that it would have the greatest impact on students…he’d take them to the theatre. “I’ve introduced hundreds of students—possibly more than a thousand—to professional theatre. If I’d never done anything else, that would make my work as a teacher worthwhile.”
Professor Bulman is grateful that Allegheny has encouraged his own evolution: “Allegheny is a place that says, ‘Yes!’ to what you want to do.”