Adam Koplan is indeed “all that.”
Giving up a New York career as a professional “theatre maker,” he’s back to his Atlanta roots where he serves as director of performing arts at the Westminster School from which he graduated in 1991. There, he performed in a dozen plays and found his home onstage.
Koplan recalled, “Now back as an educator in the arts, the ‘truth and beauty arena,’ what we can accomplish here is transformational.”
Also, as a community leader, Koplan chairs the board of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. Spinning all these artsy spheres makes him an impresario indeed.
Take a flying carpet ride on his plug into the city’s art ecosystem.
Jaffe: Share your ties to Atlanta.
Koplan: My parents are physicians. Dad came to Atlanta to join the Public Health Service (as CDC director) and investigate infectious disease outbreaks. I went K-7 to the Hebrew Academy and 8-12 to Westminster. My family belonged (belongs) to Shearith Israel. After high school, I left to pursue my passion in theater to Philly, Paris, Seattle, and, ultimately, Manhattan, where I lived for 17 years before returning here. In 2016, I wanted my kids to enjoy Atlanta’s green space and community feeling. I love the arts, culture, and theater scene here.
Jaffe: Does theatre still have your heart?
Koplan: Like all first loves, there will always be an allure. Live theater, either as audience, teacher, or maker, is absolutely glorious. I must confess that my passions have expanded. I’m more driven by the movement to make arts and culture available and accessible for wide audiences—both generally and especially within the education system.
Jaffe: The Flying Carpet Theater, which you founded was…
Koplan: The company was named on a lark because we never thought it’d live past our maiden production. Some buddies and I founded the company over 20 years ago predominantly as a vehicle to produce an adaptation of the “Arabian Nights” for the stage, and we took our name from “Arabian Nights” imagery. Our family puppet musical was a hit off-off-Broadway (very “downtown” venues) and then, to my great surprise, the company kept going. Regarding that early musical, we brought back a new version of it here at the Center for Puppetry Arts (2013). In the interim, the songwriter, Robert Lopez, had “popped” both in the puppet world with “Avenue Q” and in family entertainment because of “Frozen” and “Let It Go.” The success of that Center for Puppetry Arts production got us to a real off-Broadway theater, The Atlantic, and then a development deal with Fox Animation.
Jaffe: You are now at your alma mater, Westminster…
Koplan: As director of performing arts, I oversee a team of 21 full-time performing arts teachers in band, orchestra, drama, film, and choral music. We have an additional team of another 20-ish part-timers. Think of the way athletic directors oversee the schedules, budgets, coaches, and resources of a sports program. I’m in the parallel role in the fine arts.
Jaffe: How has Westminster evolved compared to when you were a student?
Koplan: Westminster has the same spirit of drive and ambition, but is balanced now with a huge emphasis toward community and a welcoming vibe. The idea of Jewish teachers and a highly supported Jewish affinity club (who named themselves “The Matzoh Ballers”) would have been hard to imagine here in my youth. Also, in January, I’m involved with our “Janmester” trip to Poland (sponsored by Jewish alums). We have an overload of applicants from all ethnicities.
Jaffe: What does chairperson of the Breman board entail?
Koplan: We’ve undertaken a multi-pronged initiative to transform the institution to a large, dynamic cultural center complete with ongoing lecture series and live music. We’ve long been a museum, an important archive of Georgia and Alabama Jewish communities, and a major source of Georgia’s Holocaust education. The work of the last few years has been to build on this incredible legacy in order to work toward a Breman as a “big tent hub of culture.”
Jaffe: What art surrounds you in your Morningside home?
Koplan: Picasso’s 1969 texture series – given by my aunt whose college roommate was heir to the Abrams Art Publishing company and was gifted the series. They’re original color offset lithographs on white wove paper from the portfolio, “Portraits Imaginaires” (Imaginary Portraits). In 1969, Picasso received a shipment of painting supplies with packing materials in sheets of brown cardboard. Picasso painted a series of imaginary portraits in brightly colored gouache on the sheets of cardboard. Renowned lithographer Marcel Salinas later collaborated with Picasso to create lithograph plates from those gouache paintings. The lithograph reproduces the texture of the cardboard. (Since Salinas created the plates, it’s technically an “after” Picasso.)
I also enjoy original Vaudeville 1920’s posters and limited series of antique Chung Ling Soo posters. Over the fireplace we have photographs by Dan Winters, who’s known for his eclectic celebrity photos (think of Angelina Jolie in a swarm of bees), and scientific photos and illustrations. More sentimentally, we collect leather masks from an Italian Commedia Del’Arte mask maker (I studied acting with masks for a year in Paris), family treasures like hammered metal coins and Torah plates.
My wife, Nicole, has great taste and collects art deco furniture from New York with green patterns –sometimes she gets a “find” on Craig’s List.
Jaffe: Last word…
Koplan: I feel really blessed to have such purpose-driven work. Though, I’m not sure I should be given a “last word” on anything. After all, I did spend a year at French clown school.
- Chai Style
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Adam Koplan
- Westminster School
- Performing arts
- William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
- Public Health Service
- Hebrew Academy
- Shearith Israel
- Arabian Nights
- Center for Puppetry Arts
- Avenue Q
- The Matzoh Ballers
- Abrams Art Publishing
- Chung Ling Soo
- Craig’s List