The driving force behind the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA) is artistic director and founder, Toby Orenstein. Early on, a teaching experience in Harlem had a major impact on Toby’s life.
One of twelve teachers selected to work with the "All Day Neighborhood School Project", Toby helped Eleanor Roosevelt realize her dream—to motivate and stimulate disaffected, under privileged inner-city youth to learn in a different way—in other words, help make a connection between the student and the subject using new and "different" techniques. It was here that they discovered teaching through creative dramatics intellectually stimulates children!
According to Toby, “Education is not just about curriculum, but about approach, creating a safe, caring, fun, interactive stage to experience the subject at hand. Children grow and learn when they are nurtured and loved.” Although Toby’s time in this program was short lived, it changed her forever. This commitment to person and process—not the product—is what guides her to this very day.

In 1959, Toby moved to Maryland with her husband Hal. After several years of teaching, directing and producing, she was asked by Jim Rouse to create a theatrical arts school for the new city of Columbia, MD. It was then she founded the Columbia School for Theatrical Arts (now Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts).

THE COLUMBIA CENTER FOR THEATRICAL ARTS is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1972 by Toby Orenstein at the invitation of visionary developer Jim Rouse. For over 40 years CCTA has educated through the arts by creating theatrical experiences that inspire thought, action, creativity and change.
Today, CCTA continues with Toby’s original mission by creating new theatrical experiences that are not only educational and entertaining but are also proactive and inspirational! Our programs and productions teach life experience and pass along sound moral messages to to young audiences.

While originally conceived as an “arts school” where children learn through the performance process (putting on a show), CCTA has grown in several areas. Today CCTA employs more than 80 teachers, directors, writers, actors, musicians, technicians and consultants under the guidance of two full-time and 4 part-time staff members.

CCTA’s programs can be divided into three main areas:

The Conservatory offers performing arts-based programs designed to nurture and develop the whole child. These include Tots and Kids on Broadway musical theatre classes; After School Programs at area schools; annual Workshops; three Performing Arts Camps; and the nationally-recognized Teen Professional Theatre, recipient of five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Our Theatrical Arts Productions offers professional performances that are related to school curriculum and reflect current social issues and concerns. They are enjoyed by thousands of students each year from throughout the Baltimore-Washington area. Favorites include Ben Carson, M.D.; The Diary of Anne Frank; Miss Nelson is Missing; Charlotte’s Web, Holes, The Ugly Duckling and many more!

CCTA’s Outreach Programs are designed to make theatre arts available and accessible to the neediest student in our region. Programs include the Ben Carson Project which brings students from the Baltimore City Public School System to performances of CCTA’s original play Ben Carson, M.D.; the After School Project offering free theatre classes for low and moderate income students in both Howard County and Baltimore City; a Performing Arts Camp for Baltimore City youth; and Broadway Kids, a partnership with Loyola University that utilizes theater to deliver speech and social therapies to children with special needs.

CCTA is supported in part by Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive, and the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County. For a complete list of sponsors, please visit our website at The Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts is a non-profit 501(C)3 corporation and is continuously searching for new and innovative ways to reach the deserving children of our communities. There are several ways corporations, small businesses, performance venues, and schools can establish working partnerships with CCTA. For more information, contact Alexandra Franco at 410-381-0700 or
Our Mission is to educate through the arts by creating theatrical experiences that "inspire thought, action, creativity, and change".
Toby B. Orenstein
Founder & Artistic Director, CCTA
Toby believes that if you can reach a child at a young age—while their mental and physical skills are still developing—you can steer them away from anti-social behaviors, help them develop coping skills, and help build higher self-esteem, transforming their lives and enriching the community.
About CCTA
The Beginning
About CCTA
Our Mission
CCTA is dedicated to making these experiences available and accessible to as many members of the community as possible with an emphasis on reaching and nurturing our children regardless of gender, race, religion, ability, age, or socioeconomic status.
About CCTA
CCTA Form 990
Columbia Center for
Theatrical Arts
Double-click here to edit the text.
What They're Saying
Plays for Children
Board of Directors
About CCTA
Summer Camps
Teen Professional Theatre
After School Programs
Outreach Programs
Young Columbians
Incement Weather Policy
Network for Good
Donation Form
Young Columbians