ANN ARBOR, MICH.: She was a babe on rollerblades. He was a backstage trickster. They met doing a production of Tartuffe at the Pearl Theatre in New York City years ago. Then they lived in L.A. for 13 years before adopting their daughter and moving to Michigan.
Actors Julia Glander and Alex Leydenfrost interrupt each other enthusiastically to boast on behalf of the other. They are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and work together onstage and off.
In recounting the tale of how they met, Alex says, “I was immediately drawn to her. I thought, ‘Who is this beautiful woman showing up to rehearsal in rollerblades?’”
Julia recalls rollerblading to rehearsals, but not home from them. That’s because Alex would walk her to her front door.
In Tartuffe, Julia played Dorine, who is constantly going on and offstage, while Alex’s role wasn’t as robust, so “he was always backstage with a sly remark or ready for a prank,” Julia remembers. “We had a teasing relationship.” On the day the show closed, the cast and crew went out to an Irish pub, where in front of everyone Alex announced, “I’m gonna marry Julia.”
“I think I actually spit my beer out!” says Julia. “There was silence for five seconds and then everyone burst out laughing.”
Six months went by until the two met again on Dec. 22, Julia’s birthday. “I’d gone to see Alex in a show, and after he said, ‘Well, we need to go out because it’s your birthday.’ He got huge points for remembering my birthday.”
“I missed my sister’s holiday dinner,” he adds. Given how things turned out for the couple, skipping the pot roast was worth it.
Although Alex left for a fourth-month tour in Europe and Julia headed out to L.A., it soon became clear they were meant to be together. They lived in L.A. for 13 years before adopting their daughter, Josie, in 2001. In L.A. Julia pursued mostly commercial and voiceover work, though she yearned for more creative outlets. Around the same time, Alex began to think more seriously about teaching. When Julia’s mom fell ill in Ann Arbor, they decided to move east.
“When we were first living in Ann Arbor, I didn’t have a teaching job,” Alex says. “I didn’t think I’d go back to acting but Julia said, ‘Why don’t you start going out for things?’” The couple booked Natural History with Boars Head Theatre, but the theatre shuttered a month later.
“We haven’t been cast together in something since,” says Julia with an impatient sigh. But the two have appeared separately on a number of Detroit-area stages, including Williamston Theatre, Performance Network, Purple Rose, and Tipping Point Theatre.
And couple did both work on the movie Batman v Superman, just not in the same scene. “The film incentive—before our current governor—was so strong that I had more film opportunities in Michigan than in L.A.,” Julia observes.
Perhaps it’s no surprise they haven’t worked together more often in recent years. When Josie was young, Alex and Julia decided it was important to have at least one of them home with her. “Now that Josie is 15 years old, I’m sure she’d be thrilled if we both got cast in something,” says Julia.
“Bring it on!” Alex chimes in.
They have directed together, overseeing a show at the local high school for the state drama competition (the school came in second). And recently Julia helped found Kickshaw Theatre, a company whose mission is to produce “plays that represent humanity in all its complexity and multitudes.”
Listening to the pair’s overlapping banter it’s clear there are a lot of joys.
“You should hear us on other days!” Julia says with a laugh.
“We understand the important stuff,” adds Alex. “We can help each other with auditions and give feedback, even if the other person doesn’t want to hear it. We understand the plight of being an actor.”
“And that is huge,” Julia emphasizes. “To have that person you can vent to and who knows and understands exactly what you’re going through is big.”
Both of them have had periods when one isn’t as active in their career as the other, and that’s been hard. “Luckily Alex and I are both very vocal—we communicate well,” Julia says.
Then there was the time that Julia didn’t cast Alex as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Ernest. “Ooh, that hurt!” says Alex.
“I went in a totally different direction,” Julia explains. “Alex is 6’4” and we were doing it in the round. I went with a tiny woman.”
Sightlines aside, Alex admits the petite actress was great. But then he adds with a chuckle, “From now on it’s offer only!”
As far as advice for others hoping to navigate love and work, Alex becomes thoughtful: “You can’t get in the way of each other’s dreams and passions. You have to let people explore—it’s not easy to pursue a career in the arts.”
“You have to love yourself in the art, but you also have to love yourself as a couple in the arts,” Julia says. “You can’t have one without the other. For us, it’s a balance, but it’s the best when we’re a team.”
Or perhaps, in their case, a trio. Josie, who has grown up amid the arts and plays guitar and writes poetry, is currently in her first play, The Rock of Ages. “She’s having a blast,” her proud mother says. Josie also recently advocated to read Romeo and Juliet at school, which resulted in the teacher asking Julia to come in and speak to the class about how to approach the text as an actor.
“Josie says she wants to tell stories,” says Alex.
Her parents couldn’t be more thrilled.