In Memoriam: Arlene Epstein

To all Drama Desk Members:

Our colleague Arlene Epstein, former theater critic of the South Shore Record and longtime syndicated columnist, died last evening after a long illness.

Arlene has been a member of our organization since 1982. She served multiple terms on the awards nominating committee, was former secretary of the Drama Desk board and, until last year, was a member-at-large of the board. In recognition of Arlene’s dedication to our organization and her countless hours of service, she was named a lifetime Drama Desk Distinguished Service Member in 2018.

An obituary, with biographical information, will be posted on the Drama Desk website as soon as possible.

The following information regarding planned memorial observances has been provided this afternoon by Jolie Kapelus, Arlene’s daughter:

Burial Rites – Tuesday, January 8th at 11 am at Mt. Ararat Cemetery at 1165 NY-109, Lindenhurst, NY.

New York City memorial service and shiva at the Kapelus’s Manhattan home, 334 West 86th Street, Apartment 11A

  • Tuesday, 5-9pm: There will be a Memorial Service at 7pm where the rabbi, family, and friends will speak and share memories
  • Shiva continues on Wednesday, 7-9pm

Long Island shiva at the home of Adam and Ilene Epstein, Arlene’s son and daughter-in-law, 1631 Ridgeway Drive, Hewlett, NY

  • Tuesday 1-5pm and 7-9pm
  • Wednesday and Thursday,7-9pm
  • Friday, 12-4pm
  • Saturday, 6-9pm

ARLENE EPSTEIN by Leslie (Hoban) Blake

Arlene Cohen Epstein, former theater critic for the South Shore Record and LI Herald and longtime syndicated columnist, died January 6th, 2018, after a long illness. She had just turned 82.

Arlene graduated from Lincoln High School, attended Brandeis University, graduated from Barnard College, and later received a masters degree in humanities from Hofstra University. She was an accomplished golfer and achieved Life Master status with the American Contract Bridge League.

Ever generous with her time and talent, Arlene served on the boards of several charitable organizations, including The Laura Rosenberg Foundation for Pediatric Leukemia, Israel Tennis Centers, the Peninsula Counseling Center, the Five Towns Community Chest SESD and South Shore Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Donations in her memory may be made to any of these organizations as well as Broadway Care/Equity Fights Aids.

But her longest service was to the Drama Desk, the organization of writers, editors and publishers covering New York theater, which she joined in 1982. She served on the Drama Desk Awards nominating committee and as board secretary for two terms. Until last year, she was a board member-at-large.  

In recognition of Arlene’s dedication to the Drama Desk and her countless hours of service, she was named a lifetime Distinguished Service Member in 2018. (see photo) 

For the past dozen years, Arlene regularly helped organize volunteers for all Drama Desk events and  functions, greeting members at the door, sporting one or another of her customary brightly designed silk scarves and a brilliant smile (see photo). 

Her other professional theater organizations included the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theater Critics Association, and the League of Professional Theater Women. 

Arlene and her late husband Harvey were married for 58 years, and were the proud parents of Jolie Kapelus and Adam Epstein. Among Arlene’s greatest joys in life were her grandchildren Samantha, Casey and Brett Epstein, and Liza, Sydney and Griffin Kapelus, each of whom was represented on the necklace of gold charms she always wore (see photo). 

In the final days of Arlene’s life, Jolie and Adam (and their spouses, Jerome and Ilene) kept vigil at her bedside, along with all the grandchildren. During that time, they played recordings of the show tunes which Arlene extolled in her “Critic-at-Leisure” columns. 

Arlene was buried next to her beloved Harvey at Mt. Ararat Cemetery in Lindenhurst, NY. 

This excerpt from her column of January 9, 2015, is representative of her personal philosophy, as well as being a fitting epitaph: 

“…. how fragile life can become in an instant —… a wake-up call to reach out to family and friends in a world where fate is unendingly fickle… “

Lauren Yarger, Charles Wright, Arlene Epstein, Richie Ridge, Leslie (Hoban) Blake
Ed Karam, Leslie (Hoban) Blake, Reed Birney, Patrick Christiano, Arlene Epstein

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