Nashville Children's Theatre's SCOT COPELAND Dies

Scot Copeland, longtime producing artistic director of Nashville Children's Theatre, 2010 First Night Honoree and one of the world's leading proponents of theater for younger audiences, died during the overnight hours of February 24 from an apparent heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Rene Dunshee Copeland, producing artistic director of Nashville Repertory Theatre, his two sons Josh Copeland and Ben Copeland, many family members and countless "chosen family" and friends all over the world.

Scot Copeland was 62.

A public memorial for Copeland will be held at Nashville Children's Theatre in the near future. Once the date and time have been determined, that information will be shared far and wide. "We look forward to honoring and celebrating him with all of you," says a statement on the NCT website.

"Scot's death is a tragic loss for all of us who considered him a close friend as well as a loss for NCT, the Nashville theatre community, and the Theatre for Young Audiences community as a whole," said Trayte Peters, Nashville Children's Theatre board president.

"Scot was the kind of leader who pulled a group of artists together and energized them, so that they not only want to create the best work possible - he made everyone believe they can create something extraordinary if they did it together. The repercussions of his passing will be felt throughout our local Nashville theatre community and nationwide.

"While we mourn the passing of this great and unique man, his legacy will always stand through the 1.2 million children who have attended and experienced his many productions."

Copeland always said "the kids come first," and with that belief he served as Producing Artistic Director of NCT for more than 30 years. An 8th generation native Tennessean, Scot learned and practiced his craft over 15 years at theatres throughout the southeast (earning his BFA from the University of Montevallo, Alabama, and an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro along the way) before accepting artistic leadership of Nashville Children's Theatre in 1985. In his time at NCT, Scot produced 179 plays, directed 122, and wrote 11. Under his leadership, NCT emerged as the flagship theatre for young audiences in the Southeast region, making it one of the top five children's theatres in the nation.

Copeland has been a long time tireless advocate in the local public arena for the arts, arts funding and arts education through his leadership in the Nashville Arts Coalition. He has also been hugely influential on the national level through his leadership on the Boards of Directors of The Children's Theatre Foundation of America and the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People.

"While we will miss him and his quick wit and his unmatched zest for Theatre for Young Audiences, his footprint on NCT and Nashville will remain forever. Our hearts go out to Scot's family and loved ones during this difficult time. He will be greatly missed by everyone at NCT," Peters said.

Scot Copeland was a master storyteller, both onstage and off. The staff at NCT and the Nashville Repertory Theatre, where Scot's wife, René Copeland, is the Producing Artistic Director, thought it fitting that his legacy of a good story not be overlooked. If you have a fond memory, anecdote, story, yarn, legend, chronicle, or tale, please send it to the following email:

"For those who ask what else they can do to honor Scot, we have a simple request," said Alicia Fuss, NCT's Education Director. "Believe in magic, and dragons, and mythic heroes' journeys. Believe in the giddy anticipation of house lights coming down at the start of a show, in good conversations over strong coffee, and believe in the incredible minds and hearts of the young people he strived to serve every day."

Funeral arrangements are not yet set. Go to to stay updated.

About Nashville Children's Theatre Nashville Children's Theatre is a professional theatre company providing the children, families and educators of Middle Tennessee with extraordinary shared theatrical experiences that inspire imagination, develop creativity, and build community.

NCT was founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville and is recognized as the oldest professional children's theater in the country. A national leader in professional theater arts and education programs for young people, NCT was ranked by TIME magazine as one of the top five children's theaters in the country.

Here are some of my most vivid and personal memories of Scot: I used to have this purple leather club chair at my house in Historic Germantown. It was custom made and was the first piece of furniture Stuart and I ordered when we bought our new house. The first time Scot Copeland sat in that chair he proclaimed it "the most comfortable chair in Nashville" and everytime he and Rene Dunshee Copeland came to our house, he would make his way into our music room to sit on what became known as his throne. I promised him I would leave the chair to him in my will. Like everyone else, I am heartbroken. And while all of Nashville mourns -- and theater folk from all over the world share in our grief -- I will find solace in the friendship that will always live on in my heart and via the legacy of Scot's creativity, imagination and generosity and his stewardship of Nashville's most enduring artistic outlet...Nashville Children's Theater.

The accompanying photograph, by Rick Malkin, was made at the 2010 First Night Symposium, during which Scot was honored with our other theatrical luminaries. Truth be told, he was the first First Night Honoree because without Scot on-board it never would have happened.

The 2010 First Night Honorees' Dinner at Germantown Cafe (left to right): 2010 Honorees Barry Scott, Mac Pirkle, Paul Gattrell, Kathleen O'Brien, A. Sean O'Connell, Robert A. O'Connell and Scot Copeland. - photo by Tim O'Brien
The 2010 First Night Honorees,
by Matt Logan

My dear friend Matt Logan created this drawing for the inaugural First Night Honors in 2010, and I think it captures all of our honorees perfectly, but most certainly he got Scot's spirit just right. When I gave Scot his First Night medal, he assured me he would wear it at all subsequent meetings at NCT to prove to people he was a superhero.

At the 1990 First Night Awards, he came up to me at the after-party to offer to host First Night at NCT thereafter: "You need a bigger space for this," he said. And for six years, we were at NCT and Scot and everyone there welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home. We just came in, threw a party and put on a show. They provided the rest.

The best review I've ever gotten was from Scot: "You're my favorite part of First Night! Oh, yeah, the performances are terrific, but when I see you walk onstage I know that you will give the most honest performance of the night, because you'll speak from your heart. That's the kind of theater I really love."

And in July 1997, on the Sunday that my partner, Stuart Bivin, died, Scot and Rene were among the first people to come to my house to offer support and sympathy, friendship and love. I was sitting in Scot's purple leather club chair and I said, "Oh, my gosh, I have to plan a memorial service now! Where can we do that?"

"You can do it in our black box theater," Scot offered. And so we did and it was the best damn funeral I've ever been to. Scot's team even gave the theater a fresh coat of paint before the show. (Which, make no mistake about it, it was).

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