Founder, CEO, and Artistic Director
Hanna Bondarewska is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Ambassador Theater and was recently seen in They Don't Pay? We Won't Pay! by Dario Fo as Antonia, Smartphones as Maria, Protest as Stankova, Death of Tintagiles as Ygraine and in Summer at Nohant as George Sand. “For Hanna Bondarewska, the path to world peace not only exists, she is walking it — one artistic endeavor at a time.” – The Washington Diplomat.
Hanna Bondarewska is a native of Warsaw, Poland and was trained in the Polish and American schools of drama. She founded the Ambassador Theater because she believes in the power of theater to change the world for the better through collaboration and artistry. By bringing together theater and diplomacy she hopes to give us all a new perspective as global citizens, which will lead to deeper cultural understanding.
In June 2008, Hanna organized a life-changing trip to Poland for students from D.C. Public Schools as part of an educational program about Poland. The program was done in collaboration with Mrs. Hanna Reiter, wife of the former Ambassador of Poland to USA, the Embassy of Poland, Embassy Adoption Program, D.C. Public Schools and WPAS. She worked with over 60 students, teaching them about Poland, its history, culture, and traditions through theater designed to help them better retain learnt material, improve their reading comprehension, posture, and speaking skills, increase their imagination, and energize their drive for life.
The program developed into a performance, "Poland the Beautiful, an Imaginary ." Students performed the piece at their schools and at the Embassy of Poland, and then took it on the road for the First Lady of Poland, Mrs. Maria Kaczynska, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw and in many other places around Poland last June.
Hanna’s acting credits are extensive and include the role of George Sand in "Summer at Nohant", Young Helena Modjeska in ""Farewell to Arden" at ATICC, and in "Helena—the Emigrant Queen"; "Sunflowers" at the Polish Theater Institute in New York; Square Minus One; A Genie Named Khatab; Snow Queen; Anouilh’s Antigone; Gogol’s The Marriage; and Goldoni’s Mirandolina and many others.
Ms. Bondarewska has recently directed The Trap, Happily Ever After, The Visitor, The Third Breast, The Madman and the Nun, Death of Tintagiles, Miracle of Saint Anthony, Summer at Nohant, Farewell to Arden, Forefathers, and Out at Sea.
Her one-woman show, Lotte Lenya, won recognition at the Kennedy Center Performing Arts Festival. Hanna performed at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre, Spectrum Theatre, Classika-Synetic Theatre, The New York Polish Theater, Hippodrome State Theatre, and Acrosstown Theater in Florida, where she also directed The Tao of Pooh, based on the book by B. Hoffman, and S. Mrożek’s Tango. Her Polish theater credits are extensive and include work in Warsaw, Bialystok, Olsztyn, Torun, Katowice, and Wroclaw with many luminaries of the Polish stage.
Hanna is teaching drama at Ambassador Theater's Outreach Programs and has also taught special outreach programs with Classika-Synetic Theatre at Arlington schools with Lilia Slavova and drama classes at Classika. She graduated magna cum laude from the Mount Vernon College of The George Washington University and earned her Acting Diploma in Poland. For over 15 years she served as Executive Director of the Institute for Education and Membership Chairman of the ABC XXI Child Awareness Program for Poland, which supports the emotional health and rights of children and adolescents through reading programs, awareness, education, and action.
Ms. Bondarewska has received various honors, including 2015 and 2014 DC Metro Theater Arts Best Director, Best Play Award, 2013 Helen Hayes Canadian Partnership Award, the St. Cyril and Methodius Award of excellence in promoting the Bulgarian Culture, Julia Heflin Performing Arts Award, recognition by Who's Who Among Students in American Universities, identification as a National Dean's List Scholar, and others.
Shawn W. Lyles (Assistant Artistic Director) is a graduate of Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts. With a concentration in Cinematography and Editing, he completed his Digital Filmmaking professional program at the Washington, DC Campus."What does this have to do with theater?" you may ask. Filmmaking was the bridge that connected Shawn to Hanna and the Ambassador Theater. Upon hearing about the work of the theater and the production of 'Rage', Shawn's contribution came in the form of a trailer for the play, as well as a feature segment with the director Joe Banno.This led to ideas of a more day to day involvement with the theater, but his association with drama didn't start there.
Shawn, a native of Rochester, NY, theater background began at Syracuse University where he studied under Arthur Storch and performed (as Chino) in Syracuse Stage's production of West Side Story. Having caught the acting bug, Shawn set his sites for the regional houses in the area and was cast In Geva Theatre's A Raisin in the Sun (George Murchison) and The Member of the Wedding (Honey Camden Brown).
At the urging of his director Woodie King Jr., Shawn made the move to NYC and split time between theatre work (which included an East Coast tour with The Shoestring Players), daytime television (ABC's 'One Life to Live') and a Manhattan based cable-access music show called 'Make It or Break It' where he worked as the videographer-on-the-street.
After developing an appreciation for creating and producing segments, and learning the realities of 'run and gun' filming, Shawn broadened his skill set, and while employed as a Video Editing Specialist at Sachs Insights, he honed his video story telling working with focus groups and research projects.
He also was able to transition into directing theater by founding the 'Black Expressions Theater Group' where he co-produced and directed "I See Rivers" and "Denmark Vesey Revolts" at Geva Theatre and The Village Gate Theater.
A move to Washington, DC translated into a variety of new experiences including the opportunity to act once again in "A Mid-Summer Nights Dream" & "Much Ado About Nothing" with The Shakespeare Theater Company and the founding of B-Roll Film Productions where he produced and directed a promotional video for the non-profit organization 'Bread for the City', produced a recruitment video for the national for-purpose 501(c)3 organization 'Back on My Feet', and served as Co-Producer/Editor on the 'One World Education 2014 Student Ambassadors' video. He also served as videographer for 13-time Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Leamy's keynote speech to 2014 Association Media and Publishing and produced a mini-documentary on Washington, DC native, musician, David Marsh. Shawn would like to thank Hanna for her ongoing mission of bringing diversity and cultural awareness in the arts to the community, and for the opportunity to contribute to the Ambassador Theater.
Over the last 25 years, Joe Banno – who recently established a new residence in Los Angeles – has distinguished himself as an innovative, critically acclaimed director. In work that has been called “joltingly powerful”, “audacious” and “engagingly freewheeling”, he has brought his unique, directorial vision to well over 100 productions spanning classical and contemporary theatre, opera, musicals, video and film. He has also, in a successful second career, established himself as a fresh voice in classical music, opera and film criticism, with hundreds of his pieces published in newspapers across the country.
Since 1988, Banno’s productions at theatres in the Washington DC-area have been nominated for 32 prestigious Helen Hayes Awards, and have won 8 of them, including one for Outstanding Direction. Banno is also the recipient of the Mary Goldwater Award and the Bud Yorkin Award, both for excellence in directing.
With a theatre background that includes degrees from Georgetown and Carnegie-Mellon Universities and further studies at NYU and the British-American Drama Academy, film training from NYC’s School of Visual Arts, The New School for Social Research and Global Village Video Center, and long experience in the classical music world, Banno brings a uniquely wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary perspective to his work.
His directing has been seen across the US – from a co-production between NYC’s Blue Heron Theatre and the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, to the inaugural production of LA’s Mutineer Theatre, to hybrid stage-works incorporating text, dance, music and visual arts for experimental companies like Musica Aperta and The In Series. He has created stagings of new and classic works for the Folger Theatre and Theatre J (DC), Rep Stage and Adventure Theatre (MD), Milwaukee’s Renaissance Theatreworks (WI), Wolf Trap Opera and the American Shakespeare Center (VA), Opera Northeast (NYC), and San Francisco’s Marin Opera (CA), among many other companies. For a decade, Banno was the artistic director of DC’s groundbreaking Source Theatre Company.
Among the many hats he has worn throughout his eclectic career, Banno has written on classical music for the Washington Post, directed an independent feature film and a web series, worked as general manager at radio station WFUV-FM in New York City, headed–up a new-works funding initiative at Opera America and, for two years, was the on-camera co-host for the official U.S. live-broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards to the Arab world on Alhurra television. He has frequently served as an acting coach, conference panelist, competition judge and theatre consultant. Banno has interviewed conductor James Conlon before a live audience at the Folger Theatre, and director John Pascoe on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. In 2010, and again in 2012, he guest-lectured in Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Page’s arts-criticism seminar at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism, as well as recently guest-lecturing in theatre classes and workshops at Pepperdine University, Catholic University, St Mary’s College of Maryland and The Shakespeare Theatre (in Washington, DC).
Currently, Banno is in discussions with theatres in LA and in the DC-area for productions in the upcoming season. He is working as director and co-screenwriter on an independent feature-film project in development, as well as on two other films and a web-series also in development. In 2013, he began contributing concert reviews to the Los Angeles Times.
Banno’s career has seen him direct over 60 contemporary plays – including dozens of new scripts – at a host of theatres. From 1997 through 2006, Banno served as artistic director of Washington DC’s creatively audacious Source Theatre Company, where he nurtured the development of burgeoning writers through the annual Washington Theatre Festival of New Plays, and produced and directed works by a who’s-who of contemporary American playwrights, including a multi-year cycle of plays by David Mamet. Under his creative leadership, Source expanded its mission – producing late-night theatre; offering seasons of music ranging from intimate cabaret to rock festivals to chamber music series and opera workshops; hosting shows of gallery art and photography; and forging partnerships, artistic residencies and co-productions with other DC theatre companies – resulting in Source’s growth into a bustling, multi-disciplinary arts center.
Celebrated for his culturally relevant updating of classic plays (like his American-set deconstructions of “Tartuffe”, “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Source), Banno has been particularly noted for his work in Shakespeare. He has directed eight Shakespeare productions, including “Hamlet”, “The Merchant of Venice”, and a notably popular staging of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Folger Theatre (where his production of “Romeo and Juliet” won several Helen Hayes Awards, including one for Outstanding Direction). His Shakespeare directing has also been seen at Washington Shakespeare Company/AvantBard (seven productions including the rarely-produced “Cymbeline”, “Pericles”, “Troilus and Cressida” and “Edward the Third”), and in the historically-recreated Blackfriars Theatre at the American Shakespeare Center (for a twice-extended, year-long run of “King Lear”).
Known as well for his work in musical theatre, Banno’s production of “Evita” – a collaborative project between Open Circle Theatre’s company of artists-with-disabilities and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange – was a critical and popular success. His work in musical theatre extends from classics like “Carousel” (a national tour with Opera Northeast) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (a hit production at Connecticut’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre) to lesser-known works, such as William Finn’s early “In Trousers” (at Source Theatre Company) and the DC premiere of “Six Women With Brain Death” (Razor’s Edge Theatre). Banno’s world-premiere staging of “Executive Leverage” at Source Theatre Company received a Helen Hayes Award Nomination for Outstanding Production of a Musical.
As an opera director with over 40 productions to his credit, Banno has had his most recent successes with “The Marriage of Figaro”, “The Magic Flute” and “Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci” at Opera Delaware. His modernist stagings of “Otello” for Washington Summer Opera, “Sweeney Todd” with Wolf Trap Opera, and “La Tragedie de Carmen” and a Bernstein double-bill at the Alba Music Festival (in northern Italy) – together with his emerging-singer workshops of “The Coronation of Poppea” and “Das Rheingold”, and his experimental stagings of non-theatrical musical works (most notably his “Winterreise” for DC’s innovative music-theatre-dance collective, The In Series, and his theatre/chamber-music/haute-cuisine event, “Re:New”, with renowned Chef Jose Andres and the ensemble Musica Aperta) – have reconfirmed him as a challenging and original interpreter of the art-form.
FILM & VIDEO
Banno has recently begun directing film, and his first independent feature, “Sleeping and Waking”, was released in 2009. Boasting a wide-ranging knowledge of film, television and related media, and trained in film production, single- and multi-camera video production, cinema history and film semiotics, he has been involved in the world of visual media in a wide range of positions – film critic, projectionist, indie-cinema manager, co-director of live-theatre telecasts for Virginia cable television, and creative consultant on the multiple festival-award-winning 1995 film, “Bigger Fish” (Second-Hand Smoke Prods). In 2012, he completed a two-year project directing a video web-series featuring nutritionist Janis Jibrin, for fitness guru Bob Green’s website TheBestLife.com, ranging from interviews and exercise videos to cooking demos and on-site restaurant features. He currently has several independent film and web-based projects in development.
MUSIC & FILM CRITICISM
As a critic with twenty-five years-worth of published work to his credit, he has contributed reviews and articles on music and film to a number of publications, including Opera Monthly, Yankee Magazine, and DC’s alternative weekly, Washington City Paper, where he was the opera critic, as well as a film reviewer, from 1989 to 2008. He was a classical music critic at The Washington Post between 1993 and 2012, and reviewed classical recordings and videos for the website TheClassicalReview.com from 2009 through 2012. Last year, he began contributing concert reviews to the Los Angeles Times.
The last few seasons have seen Banno developing and directing a number of stage works: the plays “Elvis Blossom” and “Dear Abe” (at Virginia’s newest incubator for original scripts, Studio Roanoke), the dark-comedy “Ngala Muti” and the punk-rock musical “Requiem” (for the graduate playwriting program at Catholic University’s School of Drama, in Washington, DC), the American premiere – in a freshly revised and newly orchestrated version – of the British theatre-for-youth musical, “Spot’s Birthday Party” (at Maryland’s Adventure Theatre), the new Irish play, “Elvis’s Toenail” (at Sidewalk Studio Theatre in LA) and the film-adapted, one-man show, “Wonderful Life” (at LA’s Theatre Asylum).
In his first production for Northern Virginia’s American Century Theatre, his audience-interactive staging of Durang’s “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You” was enthusiastically received, as was his second production for the company, a rare revival of the stage-version of “Judgment at Nuremberg”. In recent seasons, Banno staged a double-bill of Leoncavallo’s opera “Pagliacci” and Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban zarzuela “Maria La O” (set, respectively, in 1950s Little Italy and Havana), as well as developing and directing a new musical-revue of songs from the 1930s and ‘40s by émigré Hollywood composers, “From Berlin to Sunset” – both productions for The In Series, the DC-based company where he had previously staged a cycle of Mozart’s operas in modern-dress.
ATICC Board Member, Resident Director
Lilia Slavova is Audience Choice Award winner for directing “The Snow Queen” and the recipient of the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Award for the artistic achievements and promoting the Bulgarian culture. She received her MFA Degree in Dramatic arts from the renowned Higher Institute of Dramatic arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. She has over 30 years of acting, directing, choreography and teaching experience in Europe and the United States. She has been directing puppet shows for the last 12 years with Classika, now Synetic theatre and has also been Director of the studio and Director of education. Among many of the successful shows she directed are: The Nutcracker, Wondrous White Winter, Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, The Story of a Lost Sock and others. A Member of all the unions she has been acting but mostly enjoying what she loves the MOST-Teaching. A well-recognized acting coach and talent scout Mrs. Slavova is happy to see her students on the screen, Broadway and theaters through the Washington Metro area. Previous directorial contributions with Ambassador Theater include the Little Prince and the original Hopa Tropa, which gained national attention and was featured on Fox News and in the Kids Euro Festival 2009.
Stephen Shetler (Associate Artistic Director and Technical Director) studied acting at The Catholic University of America and at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Mr. Shetler has performed more than 60 roles in the past 20 years. He spent five years as resident company actor and associate director at Classika Theatre before joining Ambassador Theater. He has directed at Classika Theatre, Synetic Theater, Northern Virginia Community College. Recently he directed Dyskolos by Menander.
Paul A. Oehlers is most recognized for his “extraordinarily evocative” film scores. (Variety) Films incorporating his music have screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, the Indiefest Film Festival of Chicago, and the Hamptons International Film Festival, where the film Paul scored, Most High, captured the Golden Starfish, the largest independent film award in the United States. The film has gone on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta International Film Festival and the Prism Award for Outstanding DVD of the Year. Paul A. Oehlers’ compositions have been performed in the United States and abroad including performances at the Society for Electro-acoustic Music in the United States national conferences, the International Computer Music Conferences, the Gamper New Music Festival, the Seoul International Electroacoustic Music Festival, the Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung in Darmstadt, Germany, and the VII Annual Brazilian Electronic Music Festival, as well as a 1987 command performance for former United States President Ronald Reagan. Paul was named the Margaret Lee Crofts Fellow by the MacDowell Colony for the year 2006. He is currently Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Audio Technology at American University in Washington, DC.
I’ve started my adventure with theatre some time ago, as a singing kid, who was starring in musicals. Then it developed through voice-overing, acting, playing instruments to Academy of Fine Arts. Because of the past – I love being around the theater and creating something on the scene or behind the lights. Now I am graphic artist, working in Poland, traveling around the world and trying to be ambassador of life.
Anna Klamczyńska has received her Master of Fine Arts at the Warsaw Academy of Arts in 2013 with the focus on illustrations, graphic design, media and lithography and has been collaborating with the Ambassador Theater since 2010. Anna has produced numerous works, which were exhibited in numerous art exhibitions in Poland. She has also performed as a vocalist in many national and international festivals and received many awards. Since she was little she has performed in the theater and the movies and taught many theater and art workshops. Anna also have extensive experience in technical theatre work and has produced and stage managed many productions.
Jonathan Rushbrook (Resident Set Designer) is a British transplant who graduated from the George Washington University’s MFA Production Design program where he focused his efforts on set design and lighting. Jonathan’s passion for theatre was ignited at nine years of age when he acted in his first show. Over the years he became fascinated with the technical and design aspects of theatre production. In 2004 he was awarded a BA in drama and film studies from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, and in 2007 he completed a post-graduate teaching certificate at Middlesex University in London focusing on drama and dance education to middle and high school students. During his time at GWU he designed several main stage productions for their Theatre and Dance Department as well as local theatre companies including the Washington Stage Guild, the Olney Theatre, and the American Ensemble. His efforts culminated with his thesis production of Jane Austen’s Emma as adapted by Michael Bloom. Jonathan spends much of his time working within the events business focusing on design and production but still enjoys working closely with Ambassador Theater. This will be his second season with Ambassador Theater and he is looking forward to many more to come.
Eliza Anna Falk ( Literary Director) joined the Ambassador Theatre in early 2013 as a Creative and Editorial Consultant, in time to contribute to the success of the Literary Café event at the Embassy of Austria. Soon after she assumed the role of a Literary Associate Director and provides literary support to the theater’s productions, working with the Artistic Director on research and plays’ development. Her contributions include essays and articles; press releases, play bills and programs, aticc.org blog entries, as well as editorial work and occasional translations i.e. poems by Ireneusz Iredynski. Eliza’s passion for theatre and writing is also being realized through her work as a writer/reviewer for DC Metro Theatre Arts, covering plays, musicals and concerts. Graduate of Warsaw and Sydney Universities, she holds a Bachelor of Social Work and Policy and an M.A. in British Film and TV. She is also a CELTA (Cambridge) qualified teacher of English. Her past employment encompasses work for the Australian federal government, including diplomatic postings to Moscow and Warsaw, teaching English, and interior design and styling projects. Eliza is an avid theatre and film goer and lover of arts and travel. Past resident of Warsaw, London, Moscow, Paris and Sydney, she is thrilled to be able to experience life in cosmopolitan DC and collaborate with its vibrant theatre scene.
Classical philologist, interpreter, PhD student of the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” at the University of Warsaw. Currently works at the Theatre Institute (Instytut Teatralny) in Warsaw, teaches Italian and tries to find time to work on her PhD dissertation that focuses on the phenomenon of the holy foolery in films by Andrei Tarkovsky. Her hobbies include art-house films, interpreting and participating in marathon races all over the world.