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Reassessing Obscurity: Data, the Vilna Troupe, and Digital Humanities Praxis

A workshop for faculty and graduate students with

Debra Caplan, Professor of Theatre, Baruch College, CUNY

Friday, February 16, 2018
12 noon
Global & International Studies Building, Room 4067

Download chapter for discussion

Dr. Caplan applies data visualization to the study of Yiddish theatre between the two world wars -- and in particular, to the case of the Vilna Troupe, arguing that data visualization offers an important corrective to how Yiddish theatre has traditionally been regarded by theatre historians. Visualizing the data from Yiddish theatre programs and ephemera reveals how hundreds of individuals who scarcely appear in twentieth-century theatre history were in fact influential figures.Demonstrating how compiling, aggregating, analyzing, and visualizing the data contained in these sources can offer new perspectives on the conventional wisdom of theatre history: its key figures, its major events, and its dominant narratives about historical significance.

Debra Caplan is an 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​ is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press in April 2018. Her work on Yiddish theater has appeared in Theatre JournalTheatre Survey, Comparative Drama, Aschkenas, New England Theatre Journal, and Modern Drama​ Together with Joel Berkowitz, she is co-founder of the Digital Yiddish Theater Project (