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Mortimer Caplin's Daughter to Toast His 100th Birthday at Play Premier

July 8, 2016, The Daily Progress

Charlottesville's The Daily Progress spoke with Cate Caplin on directing a play in the same theater named for her mother Ruth Caplin who passed away in 2014 and her excitement to toast her father Mortimer Caplin on his 100th birthday at the plays premier. Ms. Caplin comments on her family's contributions to the University of Virginia, particularly her father's, making the play's premier this weekend a homecoming for the Caplin family. For the full article, please visit The Daily Progress's website.

Excerpt taken from the article.

Cate Caplin, an award-winning director, choreographer and now filmmaker, returns to town to direct “Souvenir” in the theater named for her mother. It opens Thursday.

“I have directed and choreographed at Heritage for six different summer seasons, but this is the first time that I am directing in the theater in my mother’s name, the Ruth Caplin Theatre.

“I am directing a show that’s been on the top of my personal ‘Director’s Wish List’ for years, and I am over the moon with excitement that I am finally getting to do it.”

But that’s not all. The Charlottesville native will be celebrating her return with a room full of support.

“The icing on the cake is that my father is celebrating his 100th birthday, and he will be in town for a birthday toast, [and] then will sit front and center, along with the rest of my family, for the show. It will be an emotionally loaded night, and I couldn’t be more delighted.”

Cate Caplin’s dad also is well known around grounds at University of Virginia School of Law. Mortimer Caplin has a list of accomplishments greater than the number of candles on his birthday cake. A graduate of UVa, Caplin served in the Navy on D-Day, was in London during VE Day and served as IRS commissioner starting under John F. Kennedy’s presidency, an appointment that landed him on the cover of Time in 1963.

Around town, many will recognize him for his trademark bowtie.

“My father taught at UVa and was the law professor for Ted and Robert Kennedy,” Cate Caplin said. “When John Kennedy became president, he asked my father to be in his administration as commissioner of Internal Revenue, and so we moved to DC and I grew up there.

“Two of my brothers went to law school at UVa, and the other taught theater and directed at UVa and still lives here locally, renovating homes and refurbishing homes in the neighboring streets close to UVa grounds.”

With that much law running through the Caplins’ veins, how did this choreographer emerge?

“My father used to joke with me when I was growing up and ask when I was going to law school, but they always knew dancing was my first calling,” she said, “and both my parents were very supportive of that.

“For as long as I can remember, we were all spoon fed the arts. Every special event and holiday, we went to the theater or to the ballet or to beautiful concerts. When I was 10 years old, I went to Interlochen Arts Academy and was immersed in a very intensive arts environment, and I love it. Each summer, I would hunt with my mom through Dance magazine for dance camps I might want to attend.”

. . .

Her mother, who was married to Mortimer Caplin for 71 years, would be proud.

“My mom always loved dance,” Cate Caplin said, “and I think would have done more of it when she was growing up but was limited due to World War II. I think she enjoyed it vicariously through me. I used to kid her about how she always used to cry when she saw me perform — the joyful emotions were so overwhelming at times. She was a beautiful artist as well, and used to sketch and paint in watercolors and pastels.”

Ruth Caplin also did fashion design and fashion layouts for companies and magazines in New York, including Vogue and Vanity Fair.

“I remember us making clothes together when I was growing up,” Cate Caplin said. “It was always such a treat to buy patterns and fabric and dream up new outfits to make together.”

You can see more than a bit of Mom coming through in her daughter.

“She used to direct children’s theater, help with the costumes, the sets and adapting the scripts,” Cate Caplin said. “She loved supporting other artists — their homes are filled with all sorts of wonderful paintings from galleries and festivals, street artists and specialty items gathered while traveling ... Her world was a giant canvas of beauty.”

Ruth Caplin also adapted the novel “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” into an award-winning film starring Joan Plowright.

“My mother was 86 when the film got made,” her proud daughter said. “My mom and I had wanted to adapt it into a stage play as a project to do together, but, sadly, she passed away a year and a half ago, so I am proceeding in her honor.”

Ruth Caplin will be remembered and Mortimer Caplin will be celebrated when their daughter returns to her hometown to show there is talent to be found in the life of Florence Foster Jenkins.


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