An Appreciation and Remembrance of Jon Kaplan 1947-2017.

by Lynn on May 3, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

What an outpouring of love for our Jon Kaplan. Here’s my tribute.

Jon didn’t like openings so we usually saw each other if we both were seeing a show after it opened. There was always that smile and a hug and kiss. We always wanted to know what the other saw and thought. I never heard him use the pronoun “I” before he used the pronoun “You.” No matter who he was talking to he always asked how people were and what they were working on, and when their next show was. It was always about them and not about him.

Fringe time was always stressful—not for me as I was never here for it, alas. He shared that he would be inundated with press information and phone messages from all those who wanted him to see their show. If they didn’t hear back from him immediately they sent the stuff again or left another voice message. He seemed almost at pains to have to tell them that if he didn’t reply immediately it was because he was busy writing copy; laying out his section and doing all the myriad things necessary to get out the paper. I can imagine that his message was kind when he said to please leave only one message and send the stuff once. That was the closest I ever saw Jon being anything but even-tempered.

When he chose a way to inform the community of his health challenges it was matter of fact and without despair, as if he was trying to save us from those dark feelings. I emailed him on the day I knew he was getting his results of a CAT-scan. He said the news wasn’t good. The cancer had spread. But the good news was that he was now eligible to be included in drug trials. Leave it to Jon to find something good in the spread of cancer.

We always saw each other at Young People’s Theatre at their opening matinee. He always sat in the last row, aisle seat, house left and I always sat in the row in front, aisle seat. The catch-up was always sweet. The last time I saw him was in March at Anita Majumdar’s wonderful, compelling show Boys with Cars. He was tired. He didn’t want to eat but forced himself to keep up his strength. His mouth was dry from the medication, so he carried a water bottle. He lost some of his hair and his head was hot because of the radiation – but he was still Jon.

We were scrupulous about not discussing a show we were reviewing, but Jon leaned forward and said he’d never seen such anger coming from the stage. It was so right an observation and so appropriate for that show. After the show, I offered to drive him home but he said he wanted to say hello to Brian Quirt (the director) and of course Anita Majumdar to tell them how much he enjoyed the show. And because I didn’t know how little time Jon had left, I realized he probably also wanted to say good-bye to them.

I must confess that over the years, my eye-brows crinkled at that notion. It’s a small community. We all have friends in the theatre. But being so close to the artist one reviews seems a conflict of interest to me. However, upon reflection I realized that Jon wanted theatre artists and creators to do their very best on their shows and they, in turn, wanted to do their very best for him. So, where’s the conflict? He was capable of writing a comment that suggested an improvement could be made, but it was said with such kindness and affection, the receiver of the comment was grateful and not wounded.
I thought I should write Jon last week to ask how he was doing but got distracted and then it was too late. He died on Friday, April 28. Another subtle life lesson, courtesy of Jon Kaplan: never, ever, wait to ask how someone is or say that they are important to you or tell them you love them. Love you Jon, Grateful for having known you.


In a word, Jon:

Always smiling.
Passionate about the theatre and its creators.
A mensch, of course!
A hugger and kisser.
A quiet note taker
A listener
A talent for friendship
Terribly, terribly missed.

In sum, Jon.

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1 Maja Ardal May 3, 2017 at 7:30 am

Thanks Lynn for such a sensitive and caring description of Jon. He was all those things. On top of this, he was so generous in helping us all to come to terms with his devastating illness. The empty space he leaves is huge, while he lives on in our hearts.


2 Dianne Weinrib May 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Thank you Lynn for your caring tribute to the much-missed, wonderful Jon Kaplan. He was truly a one-of-a-kind and generous soul. I can see and hear him in your words.