Performing Locally, Thinking Globally
For many, theatrical performances are a way to explore the unfamiliar, to experience things that are different from the place and people they call home. For Leda Hoffmann ’09, however, theatre has been a tool for making a strange new place feel like home.
The daughter of a foreign service officer, Hoffmann’s life before Grinnell was spread across multiple continents. While some might see moving around between Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Canada, and the United States as an obstacle to getting involved in a community, Hoffman dove headfirst into local theatre to make friends in each new city.
So why did this internationally-inclined student choose to come to the middle of Iowa? The answer is simple: To get the benefits of international ideas without the distractions of a big city.
“I had never lived anywhere that wasn’t a big city, but going to Grinnell was easy for me,” she says. “Grinnell felt cosmopolitan enough that I knew if I went, there would be people from big cities, smaller towns, and all over the world.”
A theatre and dance major, Hoffmann directed numerous student-run plays during her time at Grinnell, working closely with theatre faculty. “Grinnell professors push you to do better,” she says. “To have professors and other students push you and go, ‘That’s not good enough, push harder. Ask more questions.’ That’s the whole point of going to Grinnell for me.”
This willingness to engage and challenge each other is part of what attracted Hoffman to Grinnell in the first place. “The people I talked to at Grinnell felt really honest and connected to what was going on there,” Hoffmann says. “It felt like a really strong community and one that felt true to whatever it wanted to be.”
After graduating, Hoffmann began her theatre career as an assistant lighting designer for Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. and later as an education apprentice at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. More recently, she has worked her way from education coordinator to literary coordinator and director at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
“When I started as an intern at the Repertory Theater, I did a lot of teaching literacy through theatre. After two years, I had enough connections in town to become a director,” says Hoffmann. “As director of community engagement, I create and execute the programs that ignite positive change in our community. It’s a job that combines my love of theater with the social justice mindset Grinnell instilled in me.”