An actor, dancer and theater director, Timoth David Copney has a busy life. At 62, he has traveled, shared the stage with several stars and is an active member of Baltimore’s theater scene.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Copney grew up surrounded by Jews.
“I grew up … next door to a synagogue,” he said. “Every Sunday morning, our backyard was littered with the throwaway yarmulkes that the kids, after shul, would come out and toss! I had a lot of Jewish friends…[and] there are Jews scattered all over my family.”
Copney’s late brother, David, married a Jewish woman and raised their daughter in the faith. Copney helped his sister-in-law to continue raising his niece as Jewish after David passed.
Copney accredits David as the reason he went into the arts, and to whom he owes most of his career. David, a natural musical talent, was the first and youngest black singer in the Cape Cod Gilbert Sullivan Opera Players. He would also teach Timoth what he had learned at piano lessons.
“I idolized him. I started taking dance because…because he could sing and I could sing enough,” Copney said with a laugh. “I always wanted to dance too, and he was a lousy dancer. As it turned out, I had a gift for dance.”
While the two fought as children, they eventually become close.
“I wanted to do everything my big brother did,” he said. “All my fabulousness comes from my older brother, who … [taught me] that being grand was an attainable goal. You could say yes to experiences that nobody in the family had.”
After David passed in 1989, Copney took on his name as his middle name.
“I wanted to keep my brother’s name in show business,” Copney said. “Every time my name appears in a program, it’s like he’s still with me. He gets some credit because without him, I would not have gone far.”
Copney began his dance career at 14 with the Miami Ballet Dance Guild in Ohio, then went to Atlanta for his junior year of high school on a full scholarship with the Atlanta Ballet. He also attended the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati as a dance major. Copney also performed in three equity tours for “My Fair Lady,” “Applause” and “The Music Man” – all before graduating high school.
Copney has lived in many places as a result of his work and training. His landing places include San Francisco; Quebec City and Montreal, Canada; and even Reykjavik, Iceland. He finally ended up in Baltimore in 1998.
“I wanted to start over someplace, but I didn’t want too big a change and my sister lived just outside of D.C.,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, if I go to Baltimore and things go horribly wrong, I can always hitchhike to her house and get a sandwich or something.”
Things did not go horribly wrong. On his second day in town, Copney met his now husband of 21 years. The two happily reside in Original Northwood with their dogs.
In 2000, Copney decided he wanted to officially convert to Judaism.
“Judaism is the only religion that has ever resonated with me,” he said. “I have always felt, since I got interested in religion as an adult, that my only real path to God is through Judaism. When I do prayers, I only feel that I’m really communicating with God when I’m doing Jewish prayers.”
He began meeting with Dr. Jerry Saffer to start the conversion process.
“He was more like an advisor – gave me my first prayer books, suggested readings, etc.,” Copney said.
Unfortunately, Dr. Saffer passed in 2005 before Copney officially converted. Copney found himself without time to finish his conversion. He plans to do so when his schedule allows enough time to study with another person.
In addition to being on- and offstage in the Baltimore theater scene – most recently appearing in “Beehive” at Spotlighters Theatre and Jo-Anne in “Company” at Stillpointe Theatre – Copney is the chair for the Baltimore Playwrights Festival (BPF), now in its 39th season. He has been in the position for two years, working with his fellow board members determine which submitted plays will receive full-length productions and representing BPF around the community as “more or less the face of the festival.”
“I’m our biggest cheerleader,” Copney said. “I’m out talking to people about the playwrights festival, talking to playwrights, actors, theatre-makers, executive director of theaters – kind of around the clock.”
Copney is currently directing “Crusade” by local playwright Bruce Bonafede, produced by Rapid Lemon Productions in partnership with the BPF. The play depicts a futuristic world with a government taken over by Christian fundamentalists and the U.S. in a civil war. When an AWOL Christian soldier is captured by a hidden revolutionary army squad, a chain of events [ensues] that test everyone involved and “is resolved in a moment of violence that seals their fate[s].”
While he has worked with several renowned celebrities of stage and screen including Earth Kitt, Florence Henderson and Richard Harris, Copney loves working with the local community.
“I find that the talent pool in Baltimore is as diverse and deep as anywhere,” he said. “I always feel blessed to be able to work with the same folks I share … that talent pool with.”
Copney also writes theater reviews for MD Theatre Guide.
“Crusade” runs Aug 9-10, 12, 15-17 at 8 p.m. and Aug 11, 18 at 3 p.m. There will be a talkback after the Aug. 11 show with Copney and Bonafede. Tickets for “Crusade” are available at theatreproject.ticketspice.com/crusade.