Our Team

Sonya Robbins Hoffmann

Founder

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Sonya Robbins Hoffmann is a theater director and dramaturg, arts educator and an educational consultant. She has directed widely for the professional theater, managed both local and national arts education programs, and devised numerous original theater pieces focused on raising awareness of social issues. 

Early in her career,  Sonya had the good fortune to work with several distinguished members of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during summers at Oberlin Theatre Institute.  These mentors instilled in her a sense of theater as a political act, an art form that could be used to ask questions about how we live in society.  During college, she founded and developed a program at a shelter for teens-on-the-run using theater as a tool to develop communication and conflict resolution skills.  For nearly ten years in Cleveland, she ran the education department of a small professional theater, where she managed a countywide playwriting festival for students in grades 1 – 12.  She expanded the program by intentionally targeting students and teachers in the (under-resourced) Cleveland Public Schools, doing extensive arts education work over many years, and providing teacher training for educators county-wide.  She also devised theatrical events for organizations such as the Playhouse Square Foundation, The Aids Taskforce of Cleveland, The Japan Society, University Hospital’s Oncology Department, and the Early College at Cleveland State University. In the more traditional theaters, she came to be known for her work on contemporary, issue-oriented plays.  She premiered the work of Suzan-Lori Parks in the Midwest, collaborated with Obie-winner Rinde Eckert on his anti-war musical, Highway Ulysses, and worked for nearly a year with playwright Sarah Morton to devise a theatrical response (based on the voices of Cleveland natives) to the housing crisis, Dream/ Home. After moving to Washington, she managed national and international programs for students, K-12, at The Kennedy Center before leaving to start her own consulting business, Artful Education, working nationally with schools and arts organizations to help improve practices on an educational and organizational level. For several years, she taught a theater class focused on communication at N Street Village, an organization that provides services for homeless women, and she recently devised and directed The National Domestic Violence Hotline benefit at the Folger Theater.

Sonya lives in the District, has three children, and, in her spare time, can be found hiking, accompanying her daughter on her violin, or practicing her Spanish.

 

Justin Schmitz

Founder

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Justin is a theatrical sound designer and theatre artist in the Washington DC area. He has designed for The Kennedy Center, The Kennedy Center’s Theatre For Young Audiences, Signature Theatre, Round House Theatre, Theater J, Olney Theatre Center, Imagination Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Forum Theatre, Dixon Place Theater, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Triad Stage, Catholic University, The University of Maryland, and other regional and educational locations. He has been honored to receive fellowships from The Kennedy Center in 2015 through the Kenan Institute and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts; and in 2011 through the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival to attend The Orchard Project in New York. He also was awarded a fellowship with the Chautauqua Theatre Company in 2013.

Justin’s desire to use his art to inspire social change was deeply influenced by being raised in a rural, tight-knit, yet politically conservative Wisconsin community. He has mentored countless younger artists and plans to join the faculty of a university theater program as a full-time professor. He has previously taught at the high school level specializing in Madrigal feasts while incorporating at-risk youth and under privileged students. As a young gay college student Justin was an active member of the Rainbow Unity PRIDE group at The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. While attending graduate school in North Carolina he became an active member of the Adam’s Foundation. This yearly benefit evening raises funds for HIV/AIDS awareness and support in the Triad area. Justin also focuses his passions on advocacy for cancer research and cures, LGBT youth homelessness, faith-based acceptance for LGBT persons, bullying prevention in education facilities, single parent assistance, theatrical and music arts education for all ages, and erasing the hard-drawn lines of race iniquities in society today.

Justin holds a Masters of Fine Arts from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Sound Design for Theatre, and a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Wisconsin– La Crosse in Theatrical Design, Technology, and Stage Management. Visit: www.justinschmitztheatre.com


Collaborators

todd-krispinsky_headshotTODD KRISPINSKY

Todd is a designer, arts administrator and photography enthusiast that resides in Cleveland, Ohio.

Artistically, he has twice been honored with the Ohio Arts Council’s Individual Excellence Award in 3D Design & Illustration for his body of scenic design work. He also received the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Scenic Design of 2013. As a theater artist, he has collaborated with organizations that include Great Lakes Theater, Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland Play House, Cleveland Public Theatre, Dobama Theater, Ensemble Theater, Playhouse Square and Stages Repertory Theater (among others).

In addition to his design work, he is the Director of Marketing and Strategic Advancement for Great Lakes Theater (GLT), Cleveland’s classic theater company at Playhouse Square. He is also the Director of Marketing for Great Lakes Theater’s cross-country strategic partner company, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

He has served Great Lakes Theater in a host of capacities since 1999, including work within its education, development and production departments. At the helm of GLT’s marketing and communications department, he conceived and executed a comprehensive audience research, re-branding and resource re-allocation initiative for GLT which has resulted in a 25% increase in attendance. During the process, he also created and implemented a marketing/communications plan which supported GLT’s successful $19.2M capital campaign to realize a new permanent home (Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square) highlighted by national coverage in the Wall Street JournalAmerican Theatre Magazine and myriad other regional print and broadcast features.

As a member of GLT’s education department, he produced several series of outreach programming that pioneered partnerships with Cleveland’s public broadcasting stations, the Cleveland International Film Festival and over 30 other regional cultural organizations. He produced touring productions of 4 original plays and adapted/directed/designed a pair of original oral history-based productions which were selected as models of excellence in humanities programming by the Ohio Humanities Council.

He is a proud graduate of Youngstown State University.

 


peggy-headshotPEGGY RYAN

Peggy has worked as a theater marketer and audience developer at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, Pittsburgh’s Hiawatha Project, the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, the Chautauqua Theater Company, and the San Diego Italian Film Festival. She uses her skills in community outreach, social media, and partnership marketing to teach new generations of arts marketers in her digital and theater marketing courses at universities in Austria and Italy. Peggy began her professional theatre career as the assistant to the directing and producing team of Disney Theatrical’s Los Angeles production of The Lion King. She went on to  design large-scale corporate theater projects at Imagination Entertainment, and she continues to stage-manage new work annually at the Ojai Playwrights Conference.  She has a Masters Degree in Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University, a degree in Cultural Policy from the University of Bologna, and a B.A. in Theater from UC San Diego.

 

 

jessica-headshotJESSICA LEFKOW

Jessica Lefkow holds a BFA from the Catholic University of America and an MFA from the Washington Shakespeare Company’s Academy of Classical Acting at GWU.  Whether teaching, bringing new works to light and extant work to new audiences, or employing theatrical skills to promote the stories and narratives of participants in the wars and social struggles which challenge us, Jessica has spent her  career in the United States and abroad finding ways to promote good telling of good stories for good ends.  She has collaborated with the first women’s shelter in northern India, enabling residents to bring street theater into villages, to reduce domestic violence against women. She has worked in New Delhi’s Tihar jail, to assist inmates with presentation  in a program to bring marketable skills and current income to women incarcerated there. She has brought the revolutionary concept into classrooms across three continents that you cannot be required to enjoy a show. She has taught playwrighting to students  in District schools. She has directed and served as editor and dramaturge in shows dealing with subjects as diverse as the deadly fragmentation of Balkan society in the 1990s, the testimonies of women soldiers in the West Bank, the experience of the Argentinian Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, the works of women writers creating in secret in Afghanistan, and the shared values for Muslim, Jewish and Christian teens which are embedded in their winter festivals.

Jessica is an Artistic Associate with Brave Spirits Theater Company and with 1st Stage, and a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.  Learn more about Jessica at jessicalefkow.com.