Playwright Spotlight: Joshua Kaplan

Visiting Hours, written by Joshua Kaplan, directed by Dina Vovsi, with Richarda Abrams*, Adam Bemis, Amy Gaipa*, Michael Grew*, Karen Lee*, Maureen Shannon*, and Joel Stigliano; and featuring Dan Grimaldi* who portrayed identical twin mobsters, Patsy & Philly Parisi, on the critically acclaimed HBO series, THE SOPRANOS, will premiere for ONE WEEK ONLY: July 28, 8pm; July 29, 8pm; July 30, 3 & 8pm; July 31, 3pm. TheaterLab NYC, 357 W 36th Street, New York City, will host the premiere of this intense family drama

Headshot (Kaplan)

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

The ability of art to reveal truth, especially comedy. Comedy tends to get undersold and underestimated in its dramatic effectiveness, as though laughter is somehow less valuable than tears. I am at my most inspired when I find a way to use comedy — the “light” of the theater — to illuminate themes that are often concealed in darkness.

Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?

My mother passed away last year after a long illness. A few weeks later, a friend suggested to me that I try writing a play about my mother’s death. I resisted at first — it felt too fresh — but then realized that the freshness was the best reason for writing it so soon. But while my own experience may have been the jumping off point, as the play evolved it became far less about me and my experience and more about reflecting the universality of grief and loss as well as the complicated nature of family. So by the end, the play was no longer about me or my family, as much as it became a reflection of and upon the ways in which deep, significant loss can be a source of both pain and redemption.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

To be an original and sincere voice. To make people’s lives a little better than they would have been without my words.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

It’s not all I can do, but it’s the thing I do that’s closest to the essence of my self. Also, Paul Newman was selling himself short. He made a hell of a salad dressing.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?

I don’t really understand this question. Nobody can tell me I can’t do this. I can write whenever I want. I can create worlds whenever I want. I can invent characters, plot, settings. Nobody can tell me I can’t. If you’re the kind of person who needs permission from others to create, you’re setting yourself up for a real bad fall.

Last words? 

While vacationing in Key West about a decade ago, I took a yoga class taught by a real what you’d call hippie, artsy-fartsy type, the kind of person who sees clouds in their coffee. I was still a lawyer then, still completely clueless about life (today I’m only 98% clueless), just going along the path most taken, racking up the golden rings. After class, the teacher stopped me at the door. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her, I’m a lawyer. She looked deep into my eyes — too deep for comfort — and said, no, you’re not. You still have to find your place in the universe. And she walked away. She remains, to this day, the wisest woman I’ve ever met (though if I ever meet Oprah, I might have to revise that).

Joshua Kaplan is a former attorney turned writer. Prior to the NYC-debut of Visiting Hours, Josh’s theatrical work has been seen in staged readings, workshops, and productions in a number of theaters and festivals across the country, including the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the New Jersey Repertory Company, the Waterfront Playhouse, the Actors Studio, and the William Inge Festival, as well as projects hosted by the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Burgdorff Center for Performing Arts. He has had the good fortune to work with a number of esteemed actors and directors, including Estelle Parsons, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Urie, and Jerry Zaks. This Fall, he will enter his first year in USC’s Screenwriting MFA Program as a Mary Pickford Scholar.

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