|David Kaplan finished his thesis on Eugene Ionesco at the Yale School of Drama in November of 1978 and before graduating in May 1979 went off to the University of New Mexico to stage various texts by Bertolt Brecht, teach the basics of Rudolph Laban’s movement theory, and lecture about the social and artistic background of Weimar Berlin. In 1980 he established a studio in New York for professional actors and directors. After twenty-one years the work concluded with the 2001 publication of the textbook Five Approaches to Acting, still in print and in e-book format from Hansen Publishing Group, used in colleges and universities in America, Canada, and Italy.
Most of Kaplan’s professional students had previously received undergraduate training, often from conservatories in which theater history and scholarly research had been taught as something separate from the artist’s preparation and creative process. A “world-of-the-play” analysis became a hallmark of studying with Kaplan who has also lectured at NYU, Columbia, Bard, Rutgers, The University of the South, University of Southern California, Mississippi State University, and Hofstra on subjects as diverse as Racine, Shakespeare, Stanislavsky, Ibsen, and Ubu Roi.
Putting into practice his theory that a text meant for the theater, in any language, is essentially a recipe for human relationships, in 1995 Kaplan taught a semester (in Russian) at The Siberian Institute of Fine Arts in Ulan Ude, followed by annual teaching stints in Central Russia at the Samara branch of Moscow Pedagogical State Institute. In 2001 he was invited to teach master classes to the Hong Kong Repertory Theater’s company of actors. In 2008 Paolo Asso, the translator of the Italian version of Five Approaches to Acting, invited Kaplan to help organize and lecture at Italy’s Metodifest, a gathering of acting teachers and professional students from all over Europe. In 2012 Kaplan was one of three master-teachers at Mexico’s International Acting Festival: Actuando Sin Actuar in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
As author, director, and teacher, Kaplan exemplifies the synergy of scholarship and artistic creation. His research into the life and writings of Tennessee Williams has led to several books among them Tennessee Williams in Provincetown and Tenn at One Hundred: The Reputation of Tennessee Williams. At the same time, he has directed productions of Tennessee Williams’ plays in Europe, Asia, Africa, and throughout America, and co-founded the prestigious Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, now in its eighteenth year, for which he is curator.
His professional students in New York and Los Angeles have won numerous stage awards, including the Tony. Three theater companies have formed out of Mr. Kaplan’s classes, including Artificial Intelligence, the creators of the long-running Tony N Tina’s Wedding.