UPDATE: A celebration of Bruce Coleman's life will take place on Monday, October 2, at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Doors open at 6 pm, with the celebration beginning at 7 pm. "The donning of your Bruce Coleman 'original' is encouraged" notes the announcement.
Bruce R. Coleman, a respected director, costumer, set designer, teacher, and playwright, passed away on August 15 at age 62 from a heart attack.
The news shocked the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community, every corner of which Coleman touched in one way or another during his decades-long career. He had most recently directed and costumed Tigers Be Still at MainStage Irving-Las Colinas, which opened on August 11 and runs through August 26.
Coleman's legacy includes critically acclaimed productions at, among others, Shakespeare Dallas, Junior Players, Pegasus Theatre, Pocket Sandwich Theatre, and Uptown Players, which called him “an integral part of the Uptown Players family for many years" in a statement regarding his death.
But he was perhaps most closely associated with Theatre Three, where he began as an intern in 1985. After making his professional debut there as both a director and costume designer, Coleman would return throughout the years and even assume the role of interim artistic director from 2015-2017, following co-founder Jac Alder's death.
"We’re so grateful for the creative work he shared with our community and hold his family in our hearts today as they navigate this difficult time," reads a statement from Theatre Three on its social media.
Coleman was a staunch supporter of equality, writing the play Andi Boi, about a transgender teen, for Dallas Children's Theater in February 2020.
His comedic solo play, Tales from Late Night Kroger, exemplified his storytelling skills and showcased his signature pen-and-ink sketches during its premiere in 2021. It was filmed, and there is currently a push on social media for more copies to be made. The play was scheduled to be the headliner at the Fort Worth Fringe festival in early September, accompanied by a display of Coleman's artwork around the theater.
During the pandemic, Coleman immediately jumped in to help by sewing hundreds of face masks. He often accepted commissions for 1950-style dresses, aprons, and bespoke Halloween costumes, dressing most of the area's theater community offstage as well as on.
"To say there will never be another like Bruce R. Coleman is the biggest understatement of all. We are forever changed because of him, and his absence will be significant," says actor Sheila Rose.
"He challenged me and made me a better person. No other director has given me the chance to play such a range of people and emotions. He taught empathy and infused me with the power of vulnerability. I know many others feel the same way," says Realtor and actor Mikey Abrams.
Coleman is originally from Kansas, having earned his BFA in theater from Midwestern State. He taught theater classes at MacArthur High School in Irving, Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, and for the Kim Dawson Agency.
His brother, Brian, has indicated that a public memorial is being planned — updates will be posted here when announced.