Secret Agent: Dana Kaplan | What's Good | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Secret Agent: Dana Kaplan 

Published September 11, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

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Age: 40
Occupation: Executive director, Outright Vermont; multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, the Smittens
Town: Burlington

Dana Kaplan has traveled the globe with his internationally acclaimed indie band the Smittens. The twee pop group has a knack for light, sunny melodies that sometimes obscure heavier ruminations on love, loss and identity. The sextet has been a scene staple for more than 15 years, with a devoted following from Burlington to Belgium and beyond. (And that's the Smittens singing the "Stuck in Vermont" theme song every episode, BTW.)

While Kaplan's music career gives him a public profile, perhaps his most important contribution to the Queen City happens behind the scenes as the executive director of Outright Vermont. Since 1989, that nonprofit has provided resources, support and advocacy to the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, up to age 22. Outright's programming includes forums, support groups and workshops around the state; education and outreach for schools and community organizations; and large-scale events, such as the annual Outright Gayla.

What most people don't know about Outright Vermont: 

While we are based in Burlington — and recently moved into what may be one of the largest queer youth spaces in the country — we do statewide work. We run queer and trans youth programs in Brattleboro, Montpelier, Morrisville and Burlington. We support youth as young as 4 years old — our office is literally covered in rainbows and unicorns — and 100 percent of the staff identify as queer, trans or some combo.

Favorite BTV spot for people-watching: 

Having grown up in New York City, people-watching is in my blood. For prime people-watching with elevated entertainment value, it's gotta be either the St. John's Club on a karaoke Friday or, seasonally, the grandstand of a Lake Monsters game, Truck Stop at ArtsRiot, or the Champlain Valley Fair.

Vermont destination worth driving for:

A Sunday afternoon at Bread and Puppet Theater. A sunset swim at Lake Willoughby. If it's a drive for treats: a fresh growler from Hill Farmstead Brewery, any real maple creemee this side of the Adirondacks, or pop-up doughnut shop Poorhouse Pies.  

How to make it through a Vermont winter:

The best advice I ever heard on this very subject was from a former therapist, likely in the throes of winter itself. Two words: radical acceptance! And if that fails, walk slowly. Have a creative project that keeps you engaged. Invest in a good thermos. Make neighborhood friends. Discover the fireplace at Hotel Vermont. And plan a getaway to break up the season. 

Burlington's best-kept secret:

Well, I do have a really good one, but that's a setup of a question — obvi I can't say, or else it wouldn't be a secret! However, there's a sweet little walking path just north of Scout & Co. on North Ave. It leads down to the bike path via some community garden plots and lets you out by a spot just south of North Beach.

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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.


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