Toby Orenstein

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Toby Barbara Orenstein
Toby Barbara Press

(1937-05-23) 23 May 1937 (age 83)
Bronx, New York City, New York United States
Alma materColumbia University (BFA)
  • Director
  • Educator
  • Business Owner
OrganizationColumbia Center for Theatrical Arts, Young Columbians, Toby's Dinner Theatre
Spouse(s)Hal Orenstein
Parent(s)Sam Press, Mildred Press
HonorsMaryland 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] Her commitment to the performing arts is considered legendary.[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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]



  • 1985: Voted Columbian of the Year by Columbia Magazine
  • 1990: Howie Award for outstanding contributions to the Arts in Howard County
  • 1996: Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Director of a Musical
  • 1996: Business Volunteer of the Year, Howard County
  • 1996-99: Voted Best of Baltimore by Baltimore Magazine for Toby's Dinner Theatre
  • 1998: Outstanding Women by the Maryland State Department of Education for creativity and enriching the lives of people in Maryland[2]
  • 1997: AIDS Alliance Community Recognition Award for 10 years of service, support and guidance
  • 2001: Featured in the book: Lives in Arts: Sixteen Women Who Changed Theatre in Baltimore
  • 2001: Selected Honorary Chair for Howard County Arts Gala
  • 2002: Named to Howard County Women's Hall of Fame
  • 2003: Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Jekyll & Hyde; Maryland's Top 100 Women, The Daily Record
  • 2004: National Education Association Summer Assessment Grant
  • 2005: Outstanding Service to Educational Theatre, Maryland Theatre Association
  • 2007: Marylander of Distinction, Maryland Life Magazine
  • 2008: Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, Maryland Commission for Women[2]
  • 2011: Exemplar Award: ACE Hall of Fame, Howard County Chamber of Commerce[19]
  • 2012: Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award, Maryland Citizens for the Arts[20]
  • 2015: Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Employee of the Year from the Association of Community Services of Howard County[21]
  • 2015: Sonya Award from the Carson Scholars fund and presented by Ben Carson[22]
  • 2016: Person of the Year: Readers' Choice Awards, Maryland Theatre Guide[23]
  • 2016: Helen Production Award nomination with Lawrence B. Munsey for Outstanding Director of a Musical, Ragtime, The Musical.
  • 2016: Helen Production Award nomination for Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical, Ragtime, The Musical.
  • 2017: Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre Honorable Mention presented by Carnegie Mellon University[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In 1961, The High School of Performing Arts and The High School of Music & Art merged into Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School.
  2. ^ Cortland State Teachers' College was later renamed to State University of New York at Cortland.


  1. ^ a b "The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University Announce the Winner of the 2017 Excellence in Theatre Education Award". Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Toby Barbara Orenstein, Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". 2007. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Lazarick, Len (2017). COLUMBIA AT 50 : a memoir of a city. [S.l.]: BOOKLOCKER COM. ISBN 978-1634924542. OCLC 1002120080.
  4. ^ a b c Maryland State Archives (2008). "Toby Barbara Orenstein, Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  5. ^ "Board of Directors - Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts". Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  6. ^ Beachy, Mark (February 12, 2017). "Announcement of WINNERS of MD Theatre Guide's Best of 2016 Readers' Choice Awards". Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Shird, Shannon (2008). "Toby Barbara Orenstein". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  8. ^ Loeschke, Maravene (2001). Lives in Art: Sixteen Women Who Changed Theatre in Baltimore. p. 45.
  9. ^ a b c "Stage Mother". HerMind. March 11, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "Meet Toby". Toby's Dinner Theatre. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  11. ^ "Columbia at 50, Part 10: Arts at the Heart of the New Town".
  12. ^ a b "Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts". Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Kelemen, Carolyn. "Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts celebrates 45 years with reunion, free performance". Columbia Flier. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c "About Us". Toby's Dinner Theatre. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "The Young Columbians". Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  16. ^ Hoban, Phoebe (1997). "He's Hot But Cool To Lure Of Fame". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  17. ^ Nitkin, Karen. "Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts marks 40 years of inspiring young talent". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "Our Founder: Toby Orenstein - Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts". Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  19. ^ "ACE Hall of Fame". Howard County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  20. ^ Holzberg, Janene. "Toby's founder Orenstein wins award for community work". Howard County Times. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  21. ^ "Association of Community Services - Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards History". Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  22. ^ "2015 Maryland Awards Banquet". Carson Scholars Fund. May 7, 2015. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  23. ^ "News: Announcement of WINNERS of MD Theatre Guide's Best of 2016 Readers' Choice Awards". Maryland Theatre Guide. Retrieved October 11, 2017.