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Ellen W. Kaplan
Professor of Theatre
Director of Jewish Studies, 2009-2010

email Send E–mail office Office: Mendenhall CPA 202
Hours: T/TH 1:00-2:00, and by appointment
phone Phone: 585–3207

Ellen W. Kaplan is Professor of Acting and Directing at Smith College, Fulbright Scholar in Costa Rica, Fulbright Senior Specialist in Romania and (twice) in Hong Kong. She taught at Tel Aviv University, Hong Kong University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Costa Rica, and the University of Theatre and Film in Bucharest, Romania. She performs and directs internationally, in China at Shenyang Normal University; in Israel at the Khan, Sherover and Jerusalem Theatres and Hebrew University; also, she directed plays (in Spanish) in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

In 2001-2002, she performed and directed in Jerusalem, and worked with intercultural theatre companies around the country. At Smith, in addition to acting and directing classes she teaches courses on Jewish and Israeli theatre.

Ellen's plays have been performed at Theatre Matrix, LA; Cleveland Public Theatre; Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, and internationally, in Ireland, Israel, and theatres in Romania, including her play Cast No Shadow, about the legacies of the Holocaust on today’s young adults, performed at the Jewish State Theater of Bucharest. Her play about living in Israel during the 2nd intifada, Pulling Apart, was a finalist for the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, was produced in New Haven and received a Moss Hart Award. Her plays were twice named as Finalists for the Massachusetts Playwriting Fellowship. With Dream Awakened Eyes, a one woman show based on the work of Charlotte Salomon, has been performed in the US and in Romania. She translated stories from Cuentos de Eva Luna by Isabel Allende and adapted them for the stage. Media work includes "Mixed Blessings," a documentary about Jews and Gypsies (Roma) in Eastern Europe; radio dramas, and a CD ROM on Mexican writer Juan Rulfo.

Recent directing credits include a tour of Gathering the Waters by Teresa Whitaker; Circle, Mirror, Transformation and The Sisters Rosensweig at New Century Theatre, and Saul Bellow on Stage at The Egg, Albany, NY. Last year she curated, directed and performed in a series of plays by currently incarcerated men, staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. She also wrote, directed and performs regularly in Grain of the Wood, about Justice Justine Wise Polier, a powerful judicial activist and daughter of Rabbi Stephen Wise. In summer 2014, Ellen performs as Silda in New Century Theatre’s production of Other Desert Cities.

Ellen has published a book, Images of Mental Illness in Text and Performance, and essays about Jewish American identity in contemporary theatre. Other publications include essays in Our Voices: An Anthology of Jewish Women's Writing; poetry in The Deronda Review, Voices Project, MomEgg and WordMyth; scholarly essays in Jewish History, Theatre Topics, Studies in Theatre and Performance, among others. She has written a book chapter (translated into Chinese) in a volume about directing Cao Yu’s masterpiece, The Wilderness; and a book chapter (in Spanish) on the work of Argentinian playwright Nora Glickman.

Ellen is active in theatre outreach; recent projects include theatre work with incarcerated mothers, adolescents in Holyoke, MA, and a project with adjudicated teens to create spoken word drama for radio. In the Summer of 2008, after participating in an NEH Institute on Performing Shakespeare, she attended the Inside Out Training Program for teaching in prisons; subsequently she taught a Presidential Seminar on women and violence at the ChicopeeWomen's Correctional facility, with incarcerated women and Smith students. Presently, Ellen is developing a play about life on Death Row.