The show must go on
Acclaimed local actress Jennifer Copping balances family and life on stage
How much family time should a mom sacrifice for her career? How much of her career should she sacrifice for her family?
When I chatted with Jennifer Copping, mother of four-year-old Cian and star in the Toronto production of Jersey Boys, this was our topic of conversation.
Picture this — Copping, a Vancouver actor, is invited to Toronto to audition for the role of Mary Delgado, Frankie Valli’s drug and alcohol addicted wife.
After a series of callbacks, she hears nothing. Then this — “Can you move your entire life here and start in ten days?”
“I left three days later” she says. Copping’s in-laws cared for Cian while hubby, director, producer Jessie Miller, took care of renting out their house and quitting his job. With ten days to rehearse, life in a new city was topsy-turvy.
“I have a photo of my son on his third birthday blowing out a candle on this little cupcake. I had rushed home between two performances to be with him. This year we’re throwing him a big fourth birthday party with a huge cake with all his new friends.”
Copping raves about the home she sublets in the Danforth and Jones area, a.k.a. the Pocket.
“There are a ton of young families who want to know you, bringing over pies, bringing soup and inviting you over.”
Having kids has had an effect on Copping’s social life with the cast. Jeff Madden, who plays Frankie Valle, has two little girls, but they live out in Oakville making play dates prohibitive.
Late night drinks with the cast have also become a thing of the past.
“My son wakes me up at 6:30 every morning, so I had to stop partying,” she laughs. Playing the role of Mary Delgado, Frankie’s wife who loses her daughter to drugs, takes a big emotional toll on Copping on a nightly basis.
“As an actress, it’s been an incredible challenge to relive that pain eight times a week. I don’t want to use my own son to get to that place. It’s very painful.”
The irony of the Jersey Boys back story isn’t lost on Copping.
“Really it’s about people trying to raise kids and have a career, which is why I think this show has such mass appeal. It’s a huge struggle that I can relate to.”
The recent tragic death of Jersey Boys cast member Lindsay Thomas from lung cancer has had a profound effect on Copping’s very own attempt to maintain a work-life balance.
“Lindsay really wanted to have kids. She didn’t get that chance,” Copping explains. “I did and I want to cherish it. Which is why I’ve made the decision to leave the show later this year. I needed to do this job, and now I need to be with my family. I want to be able to put my son to bed every night.”
As the character of Frankie Valli says in the show, “Family is everything.”
Copping is a working mom who walks the talk.