Tuesday, October 19, 2004

New play award will honor Kaplan

By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer


Some high points in the production history of new plays at Playhouse in the Park:

1989 - Series debuted with Alan Brody's Inventions for Fathers and Sons; produced off-Broadway in 1992.

1993 - Scotland Road by Jeffrey Hatcher; dozens of productions across the United States, including off-Broadway.

1998 - Coyote on a Fence by Bruce Graham; produced across the United States.

2000 - The Dead-Eye Boy by Angus MacLachlan; produced off-Broadway and in London.

2003 - The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Carson Kreitzer, while still waiting to be discovered, is considered by new play fans to be a pinnacle of the series.

Along with her husband, Dr. Stanley Kaplan, the late Mickey Kaplan was one of Cincinnati's great arts philanthropists. She was known for not putting qualifiers on her giving. She was a believer, the one who urged, "Try it."

Now, marking the first anniversary of her death last October, there will be more artists given an opportunity to "try it."

The Mickey Kaplan New American Play Prize will debut in 2005 at Playhouse in the Park with John Yearley's absurdist dark comedy Leap. The comically depressed hero of the play uses the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center as an opportunity to lose his identity.

"We always agreed it was terribly important for artists to have the opportunity to show their new work," Stanley Kaplan says.

The commitment to a winter slot for an American world premiere at Playhouse is entering its 17th season. The annual world premiere was formerly sponsored by Richard and Lois Rosenthal, who ended their commitment after 15 years. In 2004 there was not a named sponsor.

The award carries a $15,000 cash prize to the playwright as well as some production costs, including the playwright's local residency during an extended rehearsal process. The plays are typically produced in the Playhouse's 200-seat Shelterhouse Theatre.

The Mickey Kaplan Prize is a five-year commitment, but, says Kaplan, "I see this as an ongoing commitment. I've already seen (the plays) which have been done in the past" and he's comfortable with the quality. He has read Leap, he says, and likes it, although, he adds, that's not a condition of the award.

Stanley Kaplan is a longtime member of the Playhouse board of trustees and its executive committee. He chaired the theater's long-range planning committee in 1993-94.

His late wife, Kaplan says, "would be happy to know that this prize will help to ensure the experience of new work for future generations of theatergoers."


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