In Memoriam: Dr Tom Karplus

We were deeply saddened by the passing this month of long time friend and supporter of Bell Shakespeare, Dr Tom Karplus. Tom has been close to Bell Shakespeare since the very beginning, in the circus tent cheering on John Bell’s new company.



Tom Karplus was the strong, silent type. He truly believed in the work of Bell Shakespeare and was a committed supporter of the performing arts. He never dictated what should become of his contributions, but rather, always had an inherent trust that it would be invested wisely for the betterment of the Company, the industry and the art.

His trust and commitment to the art was extraordinary and he truly believed in the transformative power of theatre, particularly for young people, and as such was a huge advocate for Bell Shakespeare’s education programs.

Tom showed particular strength and support on a personal level to the staff of Bell Shakespeare during the pandemic. He remained engaged, offering support and consolation throughout the very trying lockdowns, reminding us that this too would pass, and that there would be light at the end of the tunnel for arts organisations.

Tom and his wife Elisabeth were passionate travellers and birdwatchers. They always spoke enthusiastically about their trips to regional Australia and overseas to spot an exotic species. Tom and Elisabeth had an extraordinary bond and our hearts are with Elisabeth during this very difficult time.

Thank you, Tom, for all that you have done for Bell Shakespeare.

"Among my myriad of happy memories of my 25 years with Bell Shakespeare, I treasure my conversations with Tom and Elisabeth Karplus.

We mainly met at the briefing sessions in the rehearsal room that preceded each new production, and again at the post-show events after opening nights. But that mounts up to a formidable number of conversations because Tom and Elisabeth always showed up for over twenty years, and we always made time for a serious conversation.

Tom had a wonderfully laid-back, almost laconic manner that was warm, witty and informed, and Elisabeth shared his warmth and enthusiasm. I always made a bee-line for them in the room because I valued their opinions (always generous) and sense of humour.

Tom and Elisabeth represent a generation that fully understands the primacy of the arts in a civilised society; the torchbearers who pass that message on to the next generation.

I send Elisabeth my deep condolences and I shall remember Tom with great fondness and gratitude."

John Bell, AO OBE