Alum spotlight: Frank Coleman (B.F.A. ’86/A) and Julie Coleman (B.F.A. ‘86/A)

wedding photo and couple at beach

Frank and Julie Coleman BFA in Performance, 1986

Christmas in 1985

Julie and Frank are both Virginia natives. She’s from the Eastern Shore and he’s from Chesterfield. They both ended up at VCU, where he was a folk singer in the 1984 production of Spoon River Anthology, and she worked on costumes.

Frank and classmate David Fuller (aka David Bridgewater) in Liz Hopper’s makeup class in Shafer St. Playhouse basement, 1984

Julie says. “Friends started to nudge us together, but we didn’t really date until our Junior year.” She recalls that she asked Frank to join her and some friends to a movie when they were sophmores, but as Frank puts it, “I was pretty stupid and said no.” Their first date was at a cast party for We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay, directed by Richard Newdick. Frank recalls, “Julie came with me and we went back to Julie’s apartment and stayed up late talking. We found each other.”

Outside Julie’s Grace Street Apartment their senior year

By the time they graduated, “There was not much doubt that we were going to get married,” which they did on July 18, 1986. Interestingly, they also attended the wedding of fellow classmates and neighbors Jenni (BFA ’86) and Paul Hundley (BFA ’86).

Julie and Frank at their daughter Grace’s graduation

Since they both realized, “we weren’t trying to go to New York to be actors,” they got makeshift jobs. Julie printed photos at Richmond Camera and Frank worked for his father’s cabinet business for three years.

Julie at the Grand Canyon

Julie decided, “I wanted to go back to school maybe to teach English, which seemed feasible with a theatre background,” so she ended up at Reynolds Community College for some catch-up courses. One was in geology and “I fell in love with it. Chatting with my professor I said, you’ve almost persuaded me to be a science teacher.” He encouraged her, since “English teachers are a dime a dozen.”

Julie and Grace in Hawaii

Meanwhile, Frank cut the tip of one of fingers off and “that pushed me to go back to school.” VCU’s School of Education has a five year program to get a degree and a Masters on top of it and we were able to do that in 4 years.”

Frank with longtime music partner Chris Fuller

Both of them ended up student teaching at Monacan, where they also taught for a year.  The next year, Frank went to the new James River High School for six years before he “left for 13 years to pursue music, plus we had a daughter, Grace, and I was Mr. Mom.” Frank also worked on soundtracks for the local public TV station and won Regional Emmy Awards. He returned to teaching Special Education in 2014 at James River HS.

Frank rehearsing w/ Among Friends (group formed by Richmond Folk Singer, George Turman) circa early 2000s

As for Julie, she’s been teaching Biology for 29 years. She reflects, “Part of what VCU taught me was what little talent I really had, but I use my degree as a teacher. You’re on stage every single day, so I’m getting more bang for my buck.” As for Frank, “When I talk with people about my experience in college, the main thing was a I got a great wife!”

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the February 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter