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Staging a Legacy

David CoffeeActor David Coffee '79 (MFA '82) has discovered a new part to play off stage: that of benefactor to his beloved Trinity Shakespeare Festival (TSF) at TCU. In 2015, following the death of his mother and after impressing critics and fans of the Bard in the title role in TSF's production of King Lear, David decided to make the popular TCU festival part of his estate plan.

"I decided to include Trinity Shakespeare Festival in my will because I've seen the benefits the festival has given to students, professionals and — most important — our audiences," he explains. "I hope naming the festival in my will encourages others to step up and help secure the future of this valuable asset that TCU has developed."

David has performed both comic and tragic parts each summer since the festival's inaugural season in 2009: from Caesar and Caliban to Falstaff and Feste. The North Texas native has become the unofficial "face" of the festival as well as an artistic associate.

It almost didn't happen. A versatile and busy actor appearing in productions around the country, David hesitated when TCU Theatre Department chair and TSF managing director Harry Parker '80 recruited him to be part of the original company. "I told him, ‘I haven't played in Shakespeare in 30 years — not since college!' I didn't know if I would even be up to the task. But, years later, I've been so blessed to become reacquainted with these marvelous stories and characters."

First Curtain Call

Shakespeare is a long way from his stage debut as Portly Otter in a Casa Mañana production of The Wind in the Willows at the age 11. David's parents, Winston and Christine (Chris), alternated work shifts in order to shuttle their son from their home in Arlington to rehearsals in Fort Worth. That production was the beginning of his longtime association with the Fort Worth theatre where has appeared in more than 80 shows. It's also where he met Horned Frog friends and fellow thespians Johnny Simons '73 (MFA '75), John Gaston '64 (MFA '80), Jim Covault '68 and Vicki Fallis Barosh '69.

Although neither of his parents attended TCU, most of David's friends did — so he decided to follow their example. He applied and auditioned for one of TCU's prestigious L.A. Nordan Fine Arts Endowed Scholarships, which have supported gifted young performing and visual artists for five decades. "Once I got in, the Nordan just sealed the deal," he says. "I'm so glad I did."

Dr. Parker notes that the Nordan scholarships have played a crucial role in the success of TCU fine arts programs. "These scholarships have helped us attract some of the finest students we've ever had and made it possible for them to benefit from a TCU liberal arts education and professional training in the fine arts."

For his part, David believes TCU provided him with the full university experience, offering many opportunities to perform both on and off campus. "I had great classes and professors who made me think critically about the world and allowed me the chance to explore ideas and concepts of how to create a life in that world." Through a University internship program, he formed a relationship with the Granbury Opera House, where he continued to perform for 25 years. For more than 20 seasons he has played Scrooge in the North Shore Music theatre's production of a Christmas Carol in Beverly, Massachusetts.

That level of commitment comes through in all that David undertakes, including his relationship with his alma mater. "So many have given me opportunities, so it's only right that I try and give opportunities to others," he explains. "The benefit lies in knowing that I may help some other young — and not so young — artists experience the joy I've found in this marvelous festival."