Leah Napolin

Obituary of Leah Napolin

Broadway playwright, Leah Napolin, died May 13, 2018. Ms. Napolin made her Broadway playwriting debut in 1975 with Yentl, adapted from a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and since performed widely both here and abroad. She was 83 years old and was a longtime resident of Sea Cliff, NY.

In addition to short plays, prose, essays, and articles, other plays include Lost Island, Aristophanes’ Retreat, and The Dogs of Pripyat which earned Ms. Napolin the 2004 John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award. Split at the Root: A Novel in Three Acts was published in 2018, and a memoir titled War Baby 1935-1950, is slated for publication later this year.    

Born in 1935 to the late Dorothy and Morris Napolin, she graduated from  Sea Cliff High School, and received her B.A. from Alfred University in 1956 where she majored in English and Drama with the late C. Duryea Smith. After college she acted in summer stock, worked for an anthropological research foundation, and taught music in Venezuela. She married the abstract expressionist artist Bert Katz in 1958. They had two daughters and were divorced in 2000. She taught comparative literature at The Ohio State University, founded a creative writing program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and was the Associate Editor at Choice Magazine Listening. Ms. Napolin was a member of P.E.N. and the Dramatists Guild.

"My mother's writing was informed by her spectacular intellect, compassion, and fiercely generous heart," said daughter Margo Katz. "Like Yentl, she was ahead of her time; giving voice to women who not only needed to be seen and heard, but who wanted to reach their fullest potential."

Ms. Napolin is survived by her wife, Barbara L. Murphy whom she married in 2013; daughters Margo Katz and Jessica Starke; sons-in-law Morgan Starke and Craig Kratovil; a sister Dale Napolin Bratter; brother-in-law Warren Bratter; granddaughters Daisy Katz, Madelaine Starke, and Morgan Joy Starke; nieces Rebecca Karson, Susan Nowell, Marsha Polk, and Pamela Sherry; nephew Jordan Flaste; and, generations of other nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A memorial service is planned for later this year.