The problems with titles is that some people have too many of them and a website has only so many categories.
Where to list them?
Robert Begam has been a vital part of Valley theater from the 1950s on. He is a director, an actor, a theater activist. He has served as a long time member of the Arizona Theatre Company board of directors.
He is a novelist.
He also is one of the state’s most prominent – and busiest attorneys.
How he finds time for it all is a mystery.
I have listed him under the “director” category because, if there is anything he is remembered for the most, it is the series of brilliant productions he headed at Phoenix Little Theatre.
Here is a brief biography taken from the website of his law firm.
Phoenix attorney Robert Begam, the author
of the gripping courtroom thriller, Long Life,
became interested in the field of cryonics
several years ago. His curiosity was aroused
after a member of the Ted Williams family
approached him about some possible legal
The body of Williams, a Hall of Fame base-
ball player, lies in cryonic suspension at the
Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scotts-
dale, Ariz. Bob never became involved in the
case, but cryonics grabbed his imagination
and eventually served as the touchstone for
his second novel, Long Life. As part of his
research for the novel, Bob spent time
with the staff at Alcor to learn more about the
science and the economics of cryonics.
The lawyer’s love of literature and the arts has deep roots. He grew up in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. He was the son of a Jewish lawyer who became a director of sales for DuPont. Like Bob, his father had a flair for the dramatic.
“Dad graduated from the New York School of Law but found work in sales with DuPont, first for its Atlas Powder subsidiary and then for a division that sold plastic car finishes for cars. The product was called Darko, and it came in a dozen different colors,” Bob said.
“Dad painted different sections of his car with the different colors to create a rolling billboard for Darko. He’d drive the car to Michigan to show off his paints firsthand to the buyers. That’s how he made the sale.”
Bob followed his father’s legal path by graduating from Yale Law School. Along the way, he spent his undergraduate years as an English major at Yale, taking most of his required courses at the Yale School of Drama.
He studied under such noted writers and directors as Thornton Wilder and Elia Kazan, and he paid his way through school by acting in summer stock throughout New England.
While at Yale, he directed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet. His master’s thesis was on Macbeth.
Acting or law?
After graduation, Bob was torn between pursuing acting or law. By this time, he was married to the former Helen Clark, a Yale drama student who gave him some simple advice: Do both.
Bob earned his law degree but maintained a lifelong involvement with literature and drama. In Phoenix, his adopted home, he has acted in numerous Phoenix Theatre productions and has directed more than 30 plays. Helen, who died in 2007, was even more heavily involved in Phoenix Theatre.
The Begams moved to Phoenix in the 1950s to fulfill Bob’s military obligation. He had begun a promising law career at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a premier New York City law firm for nearly two centuries. His draft notice came as a total surprise to him. The military knew what it was doing, however. It gave Bob the option of being an Army private or joining the Air Force as a Judge Advocate General. The choice was easy, and Bob and his young family ended up living in Arizona, where Bob was based at Luke Air Force Base.
When Bob’s military service ended, the Begams decided to stay in Arizona. It was a good place to raise a family, and Bob believed the opportunities to practice law were attractive.
After a brief sojourn in state government, Bob became partners with attorney Sam Langerman to form the law firm of Langerman & Begam. The firm is known today as Begam, Lewis & Marks, and it is widely respected as one of Arizona’s premier personal injury law firms.
His directing credits at Phoenix Little Theatre include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Othello and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. He acted in Point of No Return, Dark of the Moon and Duet for Two Hands for the theater.
PHOTOGRAPHS, REVIEWS & THE KITCHEN SINK
APRIL 1963 “Antony and Cleopatra.” Co-Production by Phoenix Little Theatre and Arizona Repertory Theatre Company. Director: Robert Begam. Cast: Robert Aden, Fran Tolleson. Set Design: George Pettit, Van Peterson. Stage Manager: Joan Plencner.
Review by Helen Backer of the Arizona Republic, April 10, 1963
1962. Phoenix Little Theatre. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
1961. “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.” Director: Robert Begam. Assistant director: Helen Begam. Stage Manger: Jackie Qualman. Cast: Steve McCall, Jim Thomas, William L. Hermann, Douglas Reed, Channing Duvall, Jerry Albert Svendsen, Paul J. Matte, Taylor Reed, Herbert Cooper, Ray Chavez, Bill Black, Jim McKenzie, Robert Laabs, Lawrence J. Sandell.
FEBRUARY 1960. “The Glass Menagerie” Phoenix Little Theater.
Bob was Tom, Fay Bullock was Amanda, Jackie Qualman was Laura and Hal Chidnoff was the Gentleman Caller is this well-received production of the Tennessee William’s classic. Bob’s wife, Helen, was assistant director for Joseph Caruso.
- Director: E. Lee Tolleson.
- Producers: Robert Begam, Helen Begam.
SEPTEMBER 1959. “No Time for Sergeants.” Phoenix Little Theatre.
Bob directed this popular comedy, assisted by his wife Helen.