Perseverance Theatre welcomes veteran theatre artist and journalist Julie York Coppens to the staff this week as Director of Outreach and Engagement.
In this role, a new leadership position for Perseverance, Julie will oversee communications and youth programming, working to build audiences while widening and deepening the theatre’s community connections—particularly in Juneau, but also in Anchorage and across the state.
“Julie brings a great combination of expertise and enthusiasm for theatre, passion for teaching young people, and her skills and knowledge as a journalist,” says Executive Artistic Director Art Rotch. “Perseverance is fortunate to have her, and I know she will make a difference.”
Prior to joining Perseverance, Julie served twelve years on the national publications staff of the Educational Theatre Association; she was a senior editor of Dramatics magazine and director of Thespian Playworks, EdTA’s highly regarded playwriting program for high school students. A nationally recognized arts reporter and reviewer, she covered theatre for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, and Cincinnati CityBeat, among others; a longtime member of the American Theatre Critics Association, she served on the judging committee for the Primus Prize, honoring female playwrights.
Since moving to Juneau in 2012 from her hometown of Cincinnati, Julie’s career has included more theatre-making. She directed Perseverance Theatre’s Young Company production this spring, Tales from the Nine Worlds: Selections from Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, using her own adapted script. She’s been a teaching artist, producer, musical director, performer, writer, director, and creative consultant for many local organizations, including Northern Lights Junior Theatre, Juneau Public Libraries, Juneau Alaska Music Matters, the University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau Dance Theatre, and the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, where she’s been a Kennedy Center-sponsored Field Leader for the Any Given Child initiative. This fall she will direct Here’s Looking at You, CASABLANCA, an immersive cabaret theatre/film experience, for Juneau Lyric Opera.
In addition to her work in theatre and journalism, Julie is a 20-year veteran instructor/guide, publications director, and longtime board member of Ski for Light, Inc., an all-volunteer organization that introduces the sport of cross-country skiing to adults with visual and mobility impairments. She’s also been an audio-describer of theatre and dance and a narrator of books and magazines for the blind.
Making Perseverance Theatre’s programming more accessible to audiences of all abilities, ages, backgrounds, and identities, she says, will be a personal priority: “When we say, ‘Professional theatre by and for Alaskans,’ we mean all Alaskans. There is a seat here for everyone, and an honored place on our stage for everyone’s stories.”
Julie has a 13-year-old son, Seth, and a three-year-old Schnoodle, Simeo—both gifted actors themselves. Seth Coppens played Scout in Perseverance’s acclaimed 2017 production of To Kill a Mockingbird, while Julie served as dramaturg.
“We’re kind of accidental Alaskans,” admits Julie, who relocated to Juneau for a relationship that ended last year with the loss of her husband, Ken Leghorn, to cancer. “But like so many others, I’ve fallen in love with this place and its people, and I think I have more work to do here. I’m thrilled to join the Perseverance team, supporting these exceptional artists in a job that weaves together all the strands of my crazy résumé.”
Julie’s communications team will include Amy O’Neill Houck, who has stepped down from her role as Director of Marketing and Engagement but will continue her outstanding work for Perseverance part-time, from her new home base in Cordova. On educational programming, Julie will collaborate with artist-in-residence Enrique Bravo, who’s coordinating this summer’s STAR program, a five-week acting camp for students ages 10-18.