NMU Forest Roberts Theatre - James L. Rapport

James L. Rapport "Daddy Bear" 11/14/1928 - 8/28/2011


In 2011, after positively impacting the lives of countless people through his guidance as a professor and individual, Dr. James L. Rapport passed away.  Dr. Rapport's teaching expertise included: acting, directing, the history of drama, introduction to theatre, Criticism Theory, and Shakespearian theatre. He performed in over 90 roles and directed over 100 productions.

He received his bachelor's (1950) and master's (1951) degrees from Western Reserve University. He earned his doctorate in Theatre from The Ohio State University in 1960. 

Jim joined the faculty at Northern Michigan University in 1958. Known widely as Daddy Bear to the students he adored, he designed the Forest Roberts Theatre and grew the theatre major that continues to flourish at NMU. Jim taught various courses in speech and drama for 40 years, including acting, directing, costuming, history of theatre, modern drama, fundamentals of speech, and more than 150 sections of Intro to Theatre. He taught humanities and honors classes, and he was named Distinguished Professor and Professor Emeritus at NMU. 

Rapport served eight years as director of theater and 27 years as department head. But he started out as a one-man show. In order to teach nine different courses, he had to school himself in costuming, makeup and lighting--subjects he had limited experience with in college. Upon retirement, he reflected: "I taught four courses back-to-back and would occasionally run into the room asking which class it was," Rapport said. The students would say directing, and I'd say 'I thought this was intro to theater. I'll be right back with the notes'. It was wild, but the wildness gave you an energy and excitement."

In 1998 Dr. Rapport created the Rapport scholarship to assist students interested in the performing arts to achieve their goals through higher education.  Please consider helping continue this tradition by donating to the Rapport scholarship.

Jim Rapport loved acting, but better, he loved teaching acting.  And when he talked about teaching, there was a definite sense of animated delight about him.  It's a relished subject and he loved talking about it...and his students.

He used to talk about the times when he started as an assistant professor at NMU in 1958, the times when he would have all "his kids" over to his house once a month - a time when there were faculty parties every fall.  he said he missed that.  In those days there weren't any majors in drama so the big "stars" were from a variety of majors.  Later in his career he said that there were a lot of majors, a lot of minors and the students were not as intensely involved.  College had become a business and the students were there to get better jobs.  His philosophy of teaching was to open as many doors as he could and "get out of the way."  

Introduction to Theatre was his favorite class to teach, he said, because the students are closest to "dry sponges.'

Acting came naturally to Rapport.  His mother was a professional actress and, at the age of seven, he was performing in vaudeville.  By the age of 15, he was a professional stand-up comic.  But it wasn't until his second year of college that he got his chance to act in a play, and he loved it.