For Bud Coleman, associate professor and department chair in the Department of Theatre and Dance, a Fulbright grant to teach in Japan was an opportunity to open a window on American identity for Japanese students.
A CU-Boulder faculty member since 1993, Coleman lectured on American culture as portrayed in musical theatre, American drama, and film at Waseda University and Kyoritsu Women’s University in Tokyo in 2009-10. The students, who spoke fluent English, were American studies majors preparing for international careers in business or law.
“We talked about the American Dream and how that often is a motif in a play, musical or film,” Coleman said. “In Japan, being a part of a group is more important than individuality. That is a radically different ideology from what it means to be a citizen and to be successful in America.”
In the musical theatre class, Coleman presented a variety of material, from "Chicago" to "Dreamgirls." He also taught a class analyzing the depictions of African Americans in American film, from the 1967 classic "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" to movies directed by Spike Lee that examine race relations in contemporary America.
To enhance their understanding of American culture, Coleman put the material into the context of location and time. In his discussion on "A Streetcar Named Desire," he talked about New Orleans geography and culture in early 1950s.
What Coleman hoped the Japanese students would get out of his classes was the same broadening perspective on the wider world he presents to students at CU-Boulder—that the visual is a powerful medium encoded with multiple layers of information and point-of-view.
“My experience in Japan of thinking about plays, musicals and films as more than dramatic literature or art has changed the way I teach theatre,” he said. “I incorporate that new perspective into my classes here at CU-Boulder.”