Member Spotlight: Fan of the Footlights
Longtime SHN member Muriel Kaplan explains what it’s like to have the theater in your DNA.
There are die-hard theater buffs the world over. People who are devoted to drama, gaga for greasepaint. People who live and breathe the stage.
And then there’s Muriel Kaplan.
Kaplan, a recently retired attorney who lives in Oakland, is such an avid theatergoer that, as she readily admits, she’ll never get enough. She sometimes goes to the theater three times a week, often seeing different productions of the same play. Phantom of the Opera is one of her all-time favorites; she has seen it nine times. She guesses that she’s seen Hair eight times. She’s been an SHN member for at least 15 years, with a seat on the aisle in the sixth row that she has no intention of ever giving up.
“SHN shows are consistently colorful and have such high energy,” she says. “I love musical theater, and SHN does the best in big-time musical productions.”
Luckily for Kaplan, her season tickets to SHN help to satiate—well, almost—her obsession.
Kaplan grew up in New Jersey and attended Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School in Greenwich Village. She spent her free time going to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, sometimes arriving at the box office at the last minute in case tickets were available. The play, she says, that was her point of no return—the show that resonated with her so deeply that she was completely, irrevocably hooked—was Pippin.
“It was in the 1970s, and I felt like I was in the exact same period of my life as Pippin was,” she explains. “He was asking, ‘What’s it all about? Where am I going?’ And so was I. Pippin just pierced right through me. Without a doubt it was the first influential theatrical event of my life.”
Kaplan’s experience at Pippin also informed how she has approached ticket buying ever since. Her seat was in the balcony. “I felt like I was too far away, and I needed to be right in the middle of the action so I could see every expression, every nuance, every detail,” she says. “So now I always get as close as I can.”
Kaplan studied modern dance, had a company that produced soft sculpture, and now works in leaded and fused glass. As she pursued a full-time career as a lawyer with a specialty in employee benefit litigation, her love of the arts never waned. She maintains subscriptions to half a dozen Bay Area theaters as well as the opera, and spends a week every year with friends and family at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland, where, she says, she sees plays “twice a day, almost every day.”
In fact, the theater is so essential to Kaplan’s life that when she got married in 1998, she chose the overture from Phantom of the Opera for her wedding march and modeled her hat and gown after Dolly Levi’s extravagant costumes from Hello, Dolly! (She even persuaded her husband to get Dolly-ized for the wedding in a vintage morning coat and bowler hat.) “Hello, Dolly! is part of my very fiber,” Kaplan says. “So it seemed obvious to include it in our wedding.”
Now that she’s retired, Kaplan is eager to devote even more time to supporting the theater and seeing the latest productions. And SHN, she says, makes it easy to do so because it brings the best of Broadway to the Bay Area. “I’m a night person,” she says, “so I’m able to see everything that sounds fabulous or provocative. And more!”
And, knowing Kaplan, that sounds about right.