Press agent Robert “Bob” Ullman, a veteran of the theatrical industry whose career spanned eras in Broadway history, died July 31 in Bayshore, Long Island, New York. He was 97.
Mr. Ullman’s lifelong passion for theatre began at age 10 when his parents took him to see Ethel Merman in the 1932 musical Take a Chance. Colleagues often called upon his encyclopedic knowledge of theatre history both onstage and off, most of which came from his firsthand experience working alongside some of the greatest artists of the time.
Mr. Ullman worked with Merman and George Abbot on the 1950 premiere of Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam, as well as with theatre legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on their final Broadway appearance in the 1958 revival of The Visit. He also worked on the short-lived musical Goldilocks, co-written by theatre critic Walter Kerr and starring Elaine Stritch; Lauren Bacall in Cactus Flower; and Ethel Merman and Mary Martin: Together on Broadway.
The last decade of Mr. Ullman’s career was primarily focused on publicizing new works by the next generation of theatre artists, serving as publicist for both the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons. In 1970, Mr. Ullman became the in-house press agent for Joseph Papp, representing the Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park (then known as the New York Shakespeare Festival), working on Michael Bennett’s A Chorus Line from its development Off-Broadway through the first five years of its hit Broadway run. His work at the Public also included That Championship Season, Girls who have considered suicide…, Landscape of the Body, I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, Runaways, and the all-star revival of The Pirates of Penzance with Linda Rondstat and Kevin Kline.
At Playwrights Horizons, Mr. Ullman worked on William Finn and James Lapine’s March of the Falsettos, and Christopher Durang’s Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You/The Actor’s Nightmare.
His time in the dawning days of Off-Broadway's non-profit scene allowed Mr. Ullman to such writers at Wendy Wasserstein, Peter Parnell, Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and John Guare at the start of their careers.
In 2008, Manhattan Theatre Club honored Mr. Ullman by co-naming its Samuel J. Friedman Theatre lobby in his honor.
Mr. Ullman is predeceased by his husband and partner of 63 years, Milton (“Mike”) Freeman. Their first date was The New Faces of 1952. In later years, Mr. Ullman and Mr. Freeman ran two successful Long Island antique shops, Collectibles in Bridgehampton and The 1780 House Antiques in Water Mill.
Robert Ullman was born on July 20, 1922, in Washington Heights, New York City. A celebration of Mr. Ullman’s life will take place in the fall, with a date and venue to be announced. Contributions may be sent to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.