Baruch College, CUNY

Debra Caplan is Assistant Professor of Theater at Baruch College, City University of New York. Her first book, Yiddish Empire: The Vilna Troupe, Jewish Theater, and the Art of Itinerancy was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2018. She is also co-founder of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project.


  • The World of Yiddish Theater
    An introduction to the remarkable story of Yiddish theater, from its origins in 19th century Romania to its heyday in America on Second Avenue to its decline and subsequent reinvention in Fiddler on the Roof and more recent efforts like Indecent​. Learn about the extraordinary lives of Yiddish theater’s greatest stars, including Boris Thomashefsky, Jacob Adler, Molly Picon, and others, and hear excerpts from the plays that captivated audiences around the world. This lecture can be combined with a concert of music from popular Yiddish theater shows, performed and contextualized by Professor Caplan, or can be arranged as a lecture/concert.
  • Make Them Laugh: Molly Picon’s Comedic Legacy
    Molly Picon was a Yiddish theater icon, known for her comedic performance style and the acrobatic stunts that she performed into her eighties. Hear the story of the fascinating life and career of the woman known as “the Jewish Helen Hayes,” from her first performances as a child vaudeville star to her flourishing as a Yiddish theater star in shows like Mamele, to her Yiddish film career, to her move to Broadway stardom.
  • Jewish Theater in America Today
    What is the legacy of Jewish theater in America today? The recent popularity of shows with significant Jewish content, like Indecent and Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish speak to a renewed interest among contemporary audiences. This lecture would consider these examples and others of contemporary Jewish theater and will discuss their significance.