Rob Kaplowitz is most interested in the stories told by deliberately curated sound and music, and how those stories interact with society. He has spent the last 25 years creating work as a sound designer and composer, and has been honored with a Tony Award for Fela! and an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence In Sound Design, among other flattering celebrations of his work.
Based in Philadelphia since 2010, he has worked there for a wide range of theater companies including PlayPenn, The Wilma, Interact, The Arden, Lucidity Suitcase, Pig Iron, The Lantern and PTC. Elsewhere, his designs and music have been heard On and Off Broadway, at The National Theatre of England, The Guthrie, The Alley, Berkeley Rep, Sundance, The O’Neill, Pilobolus, BAM, the Amsterdam Festival, Arts Emerson and the Expo Center in Lagos.
He is the composer of two musical works – Minors, an exploration of the Luzerne County “Kids for Cash” judicial scandal, which premiered at the Lantern Theater Company in May of 2019 and Leviathan (A Hard Rock Riff on Moby Dick).
He has also played the role of “Sound Lead” for site-specific and museum installations; most recently for “The Blue Hour,” an installation accompanying the 2019 Prague Quadrennial. He is also on the Faculty at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, the leader of an annual Masterclass in Sound Design at the Kennedy Center, a Committee Member for the 24th Ward, 4th District in Philadelphia, co-creator of the app Stagecaller and proud spouse and parent in his delightful family.
Credits for the above video: All music composed by Robert Kaplowitz. Vocals & lyrics for “Eat Work Sleep” by Jimmy Keyes. Vocals for “Do Nothing” by Heather Ullsvik (Soprano) and Kittson O’Neill (Spoken Word). Vocals for “I Go To Sea” Luqman Brown. Video/Image Credits. Video 1: “W*lm*rt / Nature Trail” created by Amy Smith; Costumes and Environment by Marketá Fantóva. Video 2: Dan O’Brien’s “The Body of An American” at the Wilma Theater, directed by Michael John Garces, set by Misha Kachman, Costumes by Meghan Healey, Lights by John Hoey, Projections by Jered Mezzocchi. Video 3: Daniel Roumain & Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “We Shall Not Be Moved” with Opera Philadelphia, directed by Bill T Jones, set by Matt Saunders, Costumes by Liz Prince, Lights by Robert Wierzel, Projections by Jorge Cousineau. Still 1&6: Regina Taylor’s “stop, reset” directed by Ms. Taylor at the Signature Theater, set by Neil Patel, costumes by Karen Perry, lights by Lap Chi Chu, Projections by Shawn Sagady. Still 2: Julia Cho’s “Office Hour” directed by Lisa Peterson at Long Wharf and Berekely Rep, set by Matt Saunders, costumes by Maggie Morgan, lights by Scott Zielinski. Still 3: Amy Herzog’s “Bellville” directed by Anne Kauffman at NYTW and Yale Rep, set by Julia Lee, costumes by Mark Nagle, lights by Ben Stanton. Still 4: Lemon Andersen’s “County of Kings” directed by Elise Thoron at the Public, set by Doug Stein, lights by Jane Cox. Still 5: “Coriolanus” directed by Kittson O’Neill for Shakespeare in Clark Park (not designed – publicity still). Still 7: Martyna Majok’s “Cost of Living” directed by Jo Bonney at MTC, set by Wilson Chin, costumes by Jessica Pabst, lights by Jeff Croiter. Still 8: Regina Taylor’s “Crowns” directed by Ms. Taylor at the McCarter and Long Wharf, set by Caite Hevner, costumes by Emilio Sosa, Lights by Bradley King. Video 4: Prague Quadrennial/36Q’s “Blue Hour” – projections by Romain Tardy, lights by Pavla Berovna, tactile environment & movement design by Tereza Stehlikova. Video 5: “Red Eye to Havre de Grace” created by Thaddeus Philips/Lucidy Suitcase, set by Mr. Phillips, lights by Drew Billiau.
The Kaplowitz Sampler
Getting Deeper Into Individual Projects
Music from the Will Power’s Seize The King at the Alliance Theater. Directed by Michael John Garces.
Will’s take on the eternal return of Richard III, through a contemporary lens and a 5-person cast. I wanted to ground this production very much in today’s Atlanta; let me know how I did! The first track is more traditional in the world of theater collage; everything else drops hard.
Set by Nephelie Andonyandis, Costumes by Sarita Fellows, Lights by Ben Rawson, SM’d by Wendy Palmer
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.
Two videos about my approach to design
Chickabiddy’s Year One – Produced and Recorded at Nine Hostage Arts
My resume is here: Resume RK Autumn 19