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Ellen W. Kaplan

Professor Emerita of Theatre


Theatre 105


Ellen W. Kaplan is Professor Emerita of acting and directing at Smith, a Fulbright Scholar in Costa Rica, Fulbright Senior Specialist in Pakistan, Romania and Hong Kong, an actress, director and playwright. She performs and directs internationally, (Pakistan, China, Israel, Costa Rica, Argentina, Puerto Rico and across the United States), and has been guest professor at Tel Aviv University; Hong Kong University, where she was a distinguished writer-in-residence in 2016; the Chinese University of Hong Kong; University of Costa Rica; Heredia University (Costa Rica); the University of Theatre and Film (Bucharest, Romania), the University of Kurdistan/Hewler. During the pandemic, she taught virtual classes at Rojava University in Syria.   Recent guest lectures and theatre workshops include the University of Coimbra, Portugal and National Academy of Performing Arts, Karachi, Pakistan.

Recent directing: The Stories of Ismat Chughtai, National Academy of Performing Arts and Indus Valley School of Arts, Karachi, Pakistan; Noel Coward’s Private Lives at Hedgerow Theatre; Turn of the Screw; Lungs; The Tattooed Man; and a radio production of The Foxfinder for Silverthorne Theatre; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at Smith College; a virtual production of Julius Caesar; and The Magic Flute for the University of Massachusetts Amherst Opera Workshop. Recent acting: Ruth in Collected Stories (Margulies), Karachi, Pakistan; David de Sola’s La Nieta del Dictador, touring to Puerto Rico and the Midwest, and a workshop production of La Razon Blindada by Aristides Vargas, in Spanish.

Recent playwriting: Survivor, Outcast Theatre, Tampa; Livy in the Garden at the Robert Black Theatre in Hong Kong; Coming of Age, published by Next Stage Press; Out of the Apple Orchard: Off Bdwy: Actors’ Temple, NYC (2023), Orlando Repertory Theatre (2016); Someone Is Sure to Come, about inmates on Death Row, was presented in NYC at La Mama Annex and published in the Tacenda Literary Magazine; Sarajevo Phoenix, based on interviews with Croat, Slav and Bosniak women who survived the siege of Sarajevo; Cast No Shadow, about the legacies of the Holocaust, which premiered at the Jewish State Theater of Bucharest; Pulling Apart, about the 2nd intifada, produced in New Haven, CT, and won a Moss Hart Award; and two short documentary films, including Mixed Blessings, about Jews and Roma in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. She has written and performed plays based on archival research, about Justine Wise Polier (supported by Kenilworthy-Swift Foundation); Charlotte Salomon (supported by Haddasah-Brandeis Institute), and a play about Anzia Yezierska. Her play Testimonies is based on interviews with Ezidi women in Iraqi refugee camps. Her plays were twice named as finalists for the Massachusetts Playwriting Fellowship.

Ellen works extensively with underserved and at-risk communities, including Arts in Special Education in Pennsylvania; Young Playwrights’ Festival; pre-GED literacy training; with women in prison, and death row inmates. In 2022, Kaplan offered theatre workshops with Ezidi IDPs at Shariya Camp in northern Iraq; see her essay about this work in Humanities Journal:


Theatre Responds to Social Trauma: Chasing the Demons. ed. Kaplan, Ellen W. (Routledge, 2024)

Images of Mental Illness Text and Performance. eds, Kaplan, Ellen W. and Sarah Rudolph. (Mellen Press, 2005) 

(Selected) Book chapters

Fragments of a self: Embodiments, (Re)enactments, and Re-encounters with Memory, in Trauma, Narrative and Memory, ed. Joana Ricarte University of Coimbra Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (iiiUC); Edward Elgar Publishing, Cambridge, UK forthcoming 

From Stage to Page: Theater and Story as Literary Practices. In Using Innovative Literacies to Develop Leadership and Agency, eds, Pinhasi-Vittorio, L, Ben-Yosef, E. (2023) IGI Global.

Fragmented Communities, Anxious Identities in Imagined Israel(s): Projections of the Jewish State in the Arts.  (2023) Eds, Goldberg L. & Giansante. R. Brill, NV Leiden, 

A Cry Without an Echo: Consciousness, Creativity, and Healing Work of the Arts, in Performing Psychologies, ed. Nicola Shaughnessy.  Bloomsbury-Methuen, Feb 2019

Representing the Homeland: Israel and Palestine on Stage.  In Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict – ed. Rachel B. Harris – Wayne State Press, March 2019

Directing Cao Yu’s Wilderness in translation  - in  The World Expression of Pottery Figurine Wilderness( “古陶俑”〈原野〉的世界表情)ed. Wang Yansong China Social Science Press, Beijing. 2015

Fool’s Faith:  The Dionysian Actor and the Experiential Engagement with Faith.  In: The Psychology of Faith, Nova Publishers, NY (2011)

Si la memoria no engana: Liturgias de Nora Glickman. In: Claves y espacios en el teatro de Nora Glickman, ed. Monica Bausset-Detrick.  Buenos Aires: Nueva Generacion.  (2006); (English: Brigham Univ Press, 2007).


New explorations include work on theatre and ecology, with support from Arts Afield and CEEDS, for projects at the MacLeish Field Station in Whately, Massachusetts.


M.F.A., University of North Carolina at Greensboro
B.A., State University of New York at Binghamton