Hi!  This is Robert Kaplowitz – the designer, composer and engineer half of Nine Hostage Arts.  I’m quite terrible about web design or presence, but I’ve taken to putting samples of my work here (usually after I’ve slammed them together for grant applications…)

I’ve spent the last 24 years designing sound and composing; and have been honored with an OBIE for Sustained Excellence In Sound Design and a Tony for Fela! In truth, I owe much of my success to James Houghton’s inspirational mentorship during our 4 years together at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and the 12 years that followed at the Signature Theater in NYC.  I’ve collaborated with a mind-bogglingly awesome collection of artist – these include  Lemon Anderson, Regina Taylor, Bill T Jones, Ruben Santiago Hudson, John Beluso, Lisa Peterson, Anne Kauffman, Jo Bonney, Ain Gordon, Bill Sims Jr., Bobby McFerrin, the National Musuem of Prague, the National Constitution Center, and a really intense list of hundreds of other venues and artists.  A fairly current resume is here: Resume RK Autumn 17

Current and recent projects include:

  • composing & co-writing the musical Minors, about the Kids for Cash judicial scandal in Luzerne County PA, which will be produced as the final production in the Lantern Theater Company’s 25th 2018/19 Anniversary Season (
  • a devised work in collaboration with Suli Holum, Nora Quinn and Ain Gordan for the National Constitution Center about Reconstruction, designed to accompany a permanent exhibit on the 14th through 16th amendments
  • sound design and composition for Julia Cho’s Office Hour at Long Wharf and Berkeley Rep (nomination: Connecticut Critics Circle for Outstanding Sound Design – awards on June 11, 2018)
  • sound design for the 15th Anniversary production of Regina Taylor’s Crowns at Long Wharf and the McCarter Theater Center
  • An installation for the Prague Quadrennial 2019’s “36Q” – to be created as a follow up to our multi-room museum installation at the National Museum of the Czech Republic’s Lapidarium
  • The Signature Theater revival of Stephen Aldy Guirgis’ Our Lady of 121st St 

Below are a few sound samples to give you a sense of some of the various work I do.

Sound designs and compositions by Robert Kaplowitz, created at Nine Hostage Arts:

Music from the first productions of Dominique Morriseau’s Skeleton Crew at the Atlantic Theater, including “Eat, Work, Sleep” featuring Jimmy Keyes. Directed by Ruben Santiago Hudson.

The play takes place during the dying moments of the last independent auto-parts factory in Detroit, in the winter of 2010. Inspired by both the mechanical rhythms of the industry and the sounds of Detroit rap and techno, I created these beats and melodies at Nine Hostage Arts.

#06 “Eat, Work, Sleep” is a collaboration with Detroit rapper Jimmy Keyes; I had created a preliminary version of this piece, which I shared at first rehearsal; Jimmy immediately took it home and began rapping over it. We passed it back and forth a dozen times, until we created this final version.

Soundscapes from Dan O’Brien’s The Body of An American at the Wilma Theater, directed by Michael John Garces

Exploring the idea of a shared haunting mediated by an electronic conversation between war reporter Paul Watson and playwright Dan O’Brien, this design makes music of the ordinary sounds of its characters’ lives. I created a tonal soundscape from printers, phone lines, air conditioners and rivers, as well as transformed catches of songs. These rise out of the stillness, and subtly change the world these characters inhabit.

00:00 – Paul describes the massacres in Rwanda, watching bodies tumble over a waterfall, finding a child under a pile of corpses, witnessing the result of a massacre in a church, and taking a photo of a lost child in the camps.

01:50 – Watching corpses in the river in Burma, Paul is comforted by the philosophy that our bodies are just vehicles

3:23 – Dan flies to the Arctic to finally meet Paul face-to-face

4:22 – Paul’s ghost now haunts Dan as well.

Music from Regina Taylor’s stop. reset. at the Signature Theater, directed by Ms. Taylor.

stop. reset. is an exploration of whether identity is tied to physical objects, or even to our bodies themselves. Ames is a publisher struggling to hold onto the old media, and adrift after the death of his son. J is a hustler who can slide in and out of the virtual universe, but has, as we discover, gotten stuck reliving this day eternally. At the climax of the play, Ames transfers all of his memories into J’s mind, leaving his body a mere animated shell. My score emerged as a collage of remembered, internal (hummed/scatted) and hyper contemporary sounds and music, both found and composed.

0:00 – Opening

00:40 – J takes control, stops what’s happening, and relaunches the action of the day.

1:54 – J’s puts memory up for sale

3:10 – Late in the play, J takes Ames into his virtual world.

Jazz from Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Water By The Spoonful at the Arden Theater, directed by Lucie Tiberghien

Personnel (in alphabetic order):
Ben Gullett: Drums & Percussion
Sean Peterson: Piano
Frank Rein: Trombone
Rick Rein: Trumpet
Kevin Trout: Bass

Music and design from Lemon Andersen’s County of Kings at the Public Theater, directed by Elise Thoron.

This design was influenced by a mixtape Lemon gave me, that moves back and forth between classic rock sources and the hip-hop tunes based on those sources. In showing Lemon’s journey, I focused on creating the links between past and present while exploring the evolution of hip-hop.

0:00 Lemon describes a special trip to Coney Island with his “tough love supreme” mother; the soundscape give us a sense of his origins and his future. The brief subway rhythm that follows accompanied the transition that was his ride home.

2:19 This was the only time Lemon rapped in the show. We travel with Lemon to Cleveland on a drug dealing trip; I was inspired by the very-different-from-NYC midwestern “Horrorcore” style.

3:37 This is the only time I treated Lemon’s voice live; we were exploring the idea of him growing distant from himself. The music afterwards accompanied his journey toward jail.

Chickabiddy’s Year One – Produced and Recorded at Nine Hostage Arts

There’s a whole lot more, both stylistically and in terms of content out there; if you are interested in hearing some of my other work, I have this antiquated Google Site, that contains links to a fairly solid amount of my music – just know – it’s so old, you have to actually download the audio files to listen to them…