Toby Orenstein

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Toby Barbara Orenstein
Toby Barbara Press

(1937-05-23) 23 May 1937 (age 86)
Bronx, New York City, New York United States
Alma mater Columbia University (BFA)
  • Director
  • Educator
  • Business Owner
Organization(s) Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, Young Columbians, Toby's Dinner Theatre
SpouseHal Orenstein
Parent(s)Sam Press, Mildred Press
Honors Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre

Toby Barbara Orenstein (née Press; born May 23, 1937) is an American theatrical director, producer, and educator. She has two honorable mentions for the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre. [1] Orenstein was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2008. [2] Selected by Eleanor Roosevelt for her federal education project in the Harlem, Orenstein taught Dramaturgy to students in a local public school in the late 1950s. [2] [3] In 1972, at the request of pioneering businessman and philanthropist James Rouse, Orenstein founded the non-profit Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts through which, the nationally acclaimed theatre troupe the Young Columbians was created for the United States Bicentennial. [2] Later, Orenstein established the award-winning Toby's Dinner Theatre in 1975. [3] [4]


Alongside her work in theatre, Orenstein is a community and social activist, and is the president of the board of directors for the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. [5] She raises funds for scholarships and community programs including over ten years of producing Labor of Love to raise money for the AIDS Alliance of Howard County. [4] Orenstein has also chaired and directed the Howard County Arts Gala for the Arts Council (3 years), participated in the events for the Carson Scholars Fund, and directed and produced plays for United Service Organizations and the United States Armed Forces stationed overseas. [4] In 2014, Orenstein was honored with the Leadership Award for Accessibility by the Howard County Commission on Disabilities. [6]

Early life

Orenstein was born The Bronx, New York City, to Mildred and Sam Press. [7] As a child, Orenstein had an innate proclivity towards drama leading to her first role was as a pilgrim in a kindergarten play. [7] This interest in drama continued through Primary school where she directed shows in school and on the playground with her classmates. [8]

Orenstein successfully auditioned for the selective High School of Performing Arts in New York City. Onlookers of the audition described her delivery of a monologue as coming from "the gut." [7] After the initial excitement of the acceptance, Orenstein eventually developed a dislike of the school's "lacking support system." [7] Orenstein says of her time at the Performing Arts school, “[It was] cut-throat competitive, not at all a nurturing environment.” [7] Subsequently, Orenstein transferred to a local Bronx high school in the middle of her junior year where she won best actress and directed the senior show. [7]


Upon graduation with a B.F.A. in theatre and a minor in education from Columbia University, [2] Orenstein was selected as one of twelve teachers for Eleanor Roosevelt's federal education project in Harlem, New York called the All Day Neighborhood School Project. [9] [10] Having seen her teach at the Burn Brae Dinner Theatre in Burtonsville, Maryland, [11] in 1972 James Rouse asked [2] [12] [13] Orenstein to move to Columbia, where she became the founder and director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA), [14] a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Howard County Arts Council. [12] In 1975, she created the Young Columbians, a dynamic performance troupe of young people aged 8–21. [2] [9] [14] [15] Its graduates include several Broadway actors and, most notably, former Howard County resident Edward Norton, an acclaimed actor, activist and Academy Award nominee. [9] [16] Other notable alumni of the Young Columbians include Steve Blanchard and Caroline Bowman. [13] [17] Performance venues include the White House, Wolf Trap, Walt Disney World, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Merriweather Post Pavilion, The Fillmore, Lake Kittamaqundi, The Ellipse, House of the Temple, the Washington D.C. Temple, and others. Since 1979, Orenstein is also the Artistic Director and owner of Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland. [14]

Personal life

Orenstein is married to economist Harold (Hal) Orenstein. Together they have two children: a son, Jeffery (born 1961), and a daughter, Mindy (born 1963). They reside in Columbia, Maryland. [18]

Education and awards



See also


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