The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.

The Thespian

Beverley J. Pooley
The Michigan Alumnus 70

U-M Law Professor Beverley Pooley 
has temporarily cut back on his
 schedule. After all, 1989 was heavi
ly charged: Amadeus and The
 Mystery of Edwin Drood with the
 Ann Arbor Civic Theater (AACT),
The Mikado with the U-M Gilbert 
& Sullivan Society, and an ex
perimental musical at the Ann Ar
bor Summer Festival. But Pooley 
never rests for long despite horrible
 stage fright. Why does he continue 
then? Could it be the roar of the
 crowd and the smell of the grease 
paint, the camaraderie of theater 
people, or the lure of new and
 challenging roles? Pooley, 56, com
pares it to "amnesia after
 childbirth—you go on and have 

After more than 30 Ann Arbor 
Civic Theater and 15 U-M Gilbert 
& Sullivan productions, Pooley is a
 definite mainstay of amateur theater 
in Ann Arbor. After 28 years on the 
law faculty, the London-born
 Pooley has yet to lose his British ac
cent. Americanisms have crept into
 his jargon though, which place him
 "somewhere adrift in the middle of 
the Atlantic." No matter, when it
 comes to casting and the part calls
 for an English accent, Pooley is the 
Englishman of record. Being
 typecast in this way doesn't bother 
him in the least. 'Typecasts give you 
more of an advantage. As an 
amateur you can choose what you
 want." He adds that "it's wise to try
 out for things that do stretch you." 
Pooley got his first big break in 
the theater playing a peach flower
 in Stravinsky's Firebird. He was 11
 years old. Then followed a succession of leading women's roles, like
 Mistress Page in The Merry Wives 
of Windsor. "Attending an all-boys 
school," Pooley explains, "gave 
those boys whose voices hadn't 
broken a lock on women's parts." At 
school, under the guidance of the 
French master, a former profes
sional actor, Pooley did his best to
 follow the advice Noel Coward had
 once given to some unfortunate.
 "Face front, speak up, and try not to 
bump into the furniture."

Pooley attended the U-M Law
 School on a Fulbright, earning an
 LL.M. in '58 and an S.J.D. in '61
(Ph.D equivalent). Meeting the
 terms of the grant, he left the U.S.
 for two years and taught at one of 
the world's newest law schools at 
the time—The University of Ghana.
 As no stage is too foreign for
 Pooley, he performed A Winter's
 Tale for an appreciative albeit
 mystified audience. He returned to
 Ann Arbor in 1962 and joined the
 law faculty.

Pooley believes performing is an 
integral part of teaching. "In both 
teaching and acting you've got to 
get people's attention," he says. "You
 must find some way of having an
 audience listen to you."

Pooley teaches contract law for 
first-year students, the same course 
the infamous Professor Kingsfield
 of the film and TV series "Paper 
Chase" taught at Harvard. While
 Pooley shares Kingsfield's Socratic 
approach in class, his demeanor is
 far less severe. Pooley has more of a
 sense of humor. To prove the point,
 he once invited actor John 
Houseman (who won an Oscar for 
his portrayal of Kingsfield) to teach 
his class. When Houseman entered
 room 120 in Hutchins Hall he sent 
the room into a panic.

Although Pooley is an amateur,
 he is a consummate professional to
 work with, according to fellow per
formers and directors. And while 
Pooley maintains that he lacks any 
musical ability, he nevertheless sings 
highly demanding roles with the 
U-M Gilbert and Sullivan Society 
(UMGASS). James Nissen, D.M.A.
'90, who has directed Pooley 
musically in several UMGASS 
shows, says, "he has a terrific ear
 and believe it or not, he has perfect 
pitch." Nissen admits that teaching 
Pooley the music can take time. For
 one melisma, a succession of notes
 sung upon a single syllable, Nissen 
taught Pooley four notes a week.
 After six weeks Pooley knew it
 cold. "Once he learns it," says 
Nissen, "he's rock solid."

Alan Wineman, U-M professor of 
applied mechanics, has appeared in 
23 UMGASS productions, mostly 
in the chorus except for two principal roles. Consequently he has 
had many opportunities to observe
 Pooley on stage and is always
 astonished by "his amazing energy 
and stamina... I know because we're roughly the same age."
 Wineman says of Pooley "It's as
 much pleasure to be in the men's
 chorus watching him as it is for the 
audience on the other side of the
 footlights because he brings
 something new to every performance." That something new, refers 
mainly to constant character
 development, ways of improving 
his performance. On occasion, 
however, it has also meant singing a 
line of gibberish in The Gondoliers
 or exchanging one line for another.
 Once as Sir Joseph addressing the 
crew of H.M.S. Pinafore he said
'"... and every man will have his
 just desserts'. . .which was nothing 
remotely like the real line."

Pooley counts the part of Andrew
 Wyke in "Sleuth," a role he portrayed for AACT several years ago,
 as one of his favorites. He is also
 "passionately fond of Shaw," whose
 roles "are a constant challenge to an
 actor. . ." and would like to do more 
of it. And he wants to play Eliza
 Doolittle's father in "My Fair Lady."

Pooley has enjoyed his brief one-
term hiatus from the stage but the
 wings and the grease paint, which 
he actually wore as an English 
schoolboy, are beckoning. He's 
restless. "It's important to be a doer
 rather than a voyeur in something;
 with me it's theater."