Mary-Jo Okawa

  • (480) 250-2870

Artistic Producing Director and Arts Educator


Dedicated seasoned Artistic Director with over 20 years of experience as a lauded performing arts professional. Award-winning specialist with dynamic leadership and management skills in diverse settings. Founder and Artistic Producing Director of renowned community arts organization with a proven record for successful productions, camps, classes and workshops for community members of all ages and Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) touring program. Known for creating and implementing dynamic marketing/brand strategies incorporating social media campaigns. Provides innovative community outreach inviting and engaging new audience members, students and performing arts enthusiasts. 


Work History
2008 - 2015

Artistic Producing Director


A 501(c)(3) non-profit community arts organization founded in 2008 and dedicated to offering high quality arts education, entertainment and enrichment for community members of all ages. Copperstar grew from a $50k annual budget to a $275k annual budget over 6 years.

  • Produced 23 mainstage shows featuring professional actors and community members of all ages and 15 youth productions featuring students ages 8-18
  • Designed award winning sets for mainstage and youth productions
  • Coordinated and managed all events and fundraisers and served as Creative Director
  • Hired and directly supervised all personnel including all performers (AEA and non-Equity), Directors, Designers and Stage Managers
  • Developed theatre camps, workshops and classes focusing on storytelling through acting, singing and dance serving more than 350 students annually, 2000 students over 6 years
  • Built annual season of four main stage productions attended by over 15,000 patrons
  • Established Student Matinee Series attended by over 6,000 students annually
  • Developed and managed annual operating budget for all organization activities
  • Worked closely with Treasurer to present monthly financial report to the Board of Directors
  • Actively participated in the Board of Directors and served on Board Search and Development Committee
  • Created and managed Copperstar Studios in Chandler, AZ where camps and classes were offered in acting, musical theatre, voice, yoga and pilates and where Copperstar rehearsals were held
  • Responsible for obtaining grants for educational programs averaging $25,000 annually
  • Formed "Copperstar Class Act" Theatre for Young Audiences Touring Production Company which performed for over 45,000 school age students throughout the state of Arizona
  • Developed partnership with Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ where students received university credit for performing or working with Copperstar Repertory Co.
  • Cultivated relationships with community leaders and prominent businesses resulting in Title Sponsorships of $10,000 - $15,000 per show and advertisements totaling upwards of $11,000 per season and donations from individuals, business totaling over $30,000 per season
  • Established and maintained collaborative relationships with artistic and administrative staff of regional and state theatre organizations such as Utah Shakespeare Festival, Marriott Lincolnshire, Arizona Theatre Co. and Phoenix Theatre, sharing information, materials, props, sets and costumes  
2001 - 2013

Choral Director and Music Teacher


2001 - 2006 & 2011 - 2012

  • Taught Choir, Vocal Technique General Music, Dance, Instrumental Music
  • Directed and produced up to eight performances annually
  • Certified District-wide Mentor Teacher
  • Department Chair
  • Chairperson of Annual Choral Festival 2001 - 2006
  • Chaired Teachers Assisting Teachers Team -Supporting problem-solving, accommodations and interventions
  • Founded and directed “Marimba Magic” Traveling Percussion Performance Group, Grades 5-6
  • Author of CUSD Music Curriculum as a part of a team that developed district music curriculum based on Arizona State and National Music Standards
2008 - 2011

Theatre Arts, Choir and Music Teacher

  • Taught Beginning and Advanced Acting, Shakespeare, Film and TV Acting, Stage Combat and Stagecraft
  • Taught Vocal Technique, Choir and General Music
  • Department Chair
  • Directed and choreographed several performances annually
  • Community Partnership and Outreach
  • Chaired Student Study Team - Supporting problem solving/accommodations/interventions
2006 - 2008

Director of Dramatic Arts


Mesquite Junior High School - Grades 7-8

  • Taught Beginning and Advanced Acting, Shakespeare, Film and TV Acting, Stage Combat  and Stagecraft
  • Directed and choreographed several performances annually including one acts, duets and monologues and large scale musicals
  • Developed Community Partnership and Outreach programs
  • Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) Teen Critic Liaison and Mentor
1996 - 2001

Founding Artistic Director


A Visual and Performing Arts Organization for Youth dedicated to offering opportunities for high quality arts education for students in grades K -10

  • Produced 6 main stage shows
  • Directed Summer Camps and Workshops for 45-75 young people annually for ages 4-16
  • Wrote and developed curriculum
  • Taught Visual Art Workshops and Camps for ages 3-16
  • Taught Acting and Voice
  • Taught Yoga and Dance
  • Created and managed annual budget
  • Maintenance of art supply inventory and musical instruments
  • Managed teaching staff
  • Management and scheduling of all classes and workshops
2000 - 2001

Performing Arts Specialist, K-6th Grades

  • Taught Vocal technique, Music, Dance, Acting, Shakespeare and Stagecraft
  • Directed and produced up to seven performances annually
  • Directed large scale plays, musicals and concerts (Castro Middle School)
  • Student Study Team - Supporting teachers in problem solving, accommodations and interventions.
1997 - 2000

Director of Visual and Performing Arts

  • Taught Choir, Dance, Theatre Arts, Shakespeare, General Music and Visual Art (Grades K-6)
  • Directed and choreographed major full scale productions, sharings and performances
  • Wrote Visual and Performing Arts Curriculum based on national and California state standards
  • Created/managed annual budget and inventory of materials, supplies, and musical instruments
1986 - 1987

Graduate Teaching Fellow


  • Solely responsible for courses of Musical Theatre and Advanced Musical Theatre
  • Served as Assistant Director for main stage productions
  • Taught private voice lessons
  • Directed and Choreographed student plays and musicals

Awards, Grants and Honors

  •,  Best Musical, Phoenix Area 2015, Les Miserables (Director)
  • Mesa Chamber of Commerce Grant (2014 and 2015)
  • Arizona Community Foundation Summer Youth Performing  Arts Grant (2013 and 2014)
  • Arizona Arts Congress (2010 - 2015)
  • The Town of Gilbert Arts Enrichment Grant (2011 and 2012)
  • US Airways Community Grant (2013)
  • Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards Nominee – Arts In Education (2013 and 2014)
  • National Youth Arts Awards (Copperstar):  Best Supporting Actor,  Oliver! (2014) Best Musical, Outstanding Ensemble, Les Miserables SE  (2013) Outstanding Ensemble, Best Choreography, Best Direction,  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2013) 
  • AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence – Copperstar Awards: Scenic Design: Into the Woods (2014), Costume Design, Seussical (2012), Costume Design: The King and I (2012), Music Direction, The Sound of Music (2010)
  • Gilbert Mayor’s Arts Award - Cooley Award (2011) - Recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to a specific Arts program
  • Gilbert Mayor’s Arts Award - The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery Award (2009) - Recognizes those in the Arts field that have provided the community with services enabling an expansion in the scope and quality of the Arts
  • Intel Teach to the Future Grant (2006)
  • Silver Apple Teacher Excellence Award, Chandler Unified School District (2006)
  • Chandler Education Foundation  “Innovative Teacher Award” and Grant Recipient (2004)
  • Glenn Hoffman Award Winner, Santa Clara County (2001)

Professional Affiliations and Conferences

  • Actor's Equity Association (1990 - Present)
  • National Educators Association (1995 - Present)
  • American Music Educators Association (1995 - Present)
  • American Orff-Schulwerk Association Member (1996-Present)
  • Theatre Communications Group (2014 - Present)
  • American Association of Community Theatres (2008 - Present)
  • Arizona Board of Education: Committee for Arts Assessment (2006-2008)
  • Arizona Orff-Schulwerk Association. Board Member (2004-2006)
  • Gilbert Fine Arts Association, Board Member and Director of Education, (2007-2009)
  • American Orff-Schulwerk Association National Conference (2000-2005)
  • Northern California American Orff-Schulwerk Association Conference (2000, 2001)


2001 - 2021

Arizona Standard Secondary Teacher Certification

  • Dramatic Arts
  • Music
  • English
  • Structured English Immersion
1996 - Present

Orff-Schulwerk Teacher Certification

  • Pedagogy that combines Music, Language Arts, Dance and Instrumental Music
1994 - Present

Teacher Certification

  • 200 hour Teacher Training Certification
  • Yoga Alliance Approved Program

Courses/Master Classes/Workshops

Offered for all ages and levels unless indicated:

  • Musical Theatre (Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of Utah)
  • Stagecraft
  • Properties
  • Beginning & Advanced Acting
  • Costume Construction
  • Theatre History/Literature/Criticism
  • No Fear Shakespeare (Adults and Grades 3-12)
  • Vocal Technique & Private Voice
  • Movement for Actors
  • Auditioning
  • Beginning & Advanced Musical Theatre
  • Jazz, Tap and Musical Theatre Dance
  • Film and TV Acting (Junior High through adults)


  • Loretto Heights College, Regis University
    • BFA, Musical Theatre - Dean's List,  cum laude
  • University of Utah
    • 31 units Toward MFA in Musical Theatre/Directing, Dean's List (All But Thesis)
  • Santa Clara University
    • California Teacher Certification
    • 28 units toward MA, Curriculum & Instruction, Dean's List
  • Mills College Orff-Schulwerk Certification
    • Integration of Music, Dance and Language Arts


Letters of Reference Available Upon Request:

  • Tara Kissane - Visual and Performing Arts Administrator - Higley Unified School District (retired)
  • Honey Berg - Assistant Superintendent - Moreland School District (retired)
  • Stephen Guggenheim  - Resident Music Director - Guggenheim Entertainment
  • Kona Fotu -  Copperstar Board of Directors, Secretary and Staff Member


Portfolio is available upon request.