Debbie Ellinghaus (Executive Director) was born in Washington, DC. Her mom worked as a Montgomery County Public School math teacher and her dad taught community college courses while also running several small businesses. She can trace her mother’s family back to the 1500’s when they were ousted from Spain because they were Jewish. Other family branches immigrated to America from Russia by way of Ellis Island at the top of the 20th century. In 1976, her parents moved to Columbia, Maryland, where she was raised in the new “planned city” built to encourage racial, cultural and religious harmony in a suburban utopia. Debbie did not inherit her father’s physical toughness on the football field, her mom’s quick serve on the tennis court, or her sister’s speed in the swimming pool; instead, she found her way in the theatre, thanks in large part to her grandmother, who took her to see Annie at the Kennedy Center in 1978. And, also thanks to her parents who spent Sunday mornings listening to Broadway show-tunes on the record player before turning on the football game. Despite her suburban upbringing, Debbie longed for city life. So, upon graduating from the University of Maryland at College Park, she moved to New York City. In the Big Apple she took theatre classes with incredible teachers including the remarkable film and theatre director/producer Mike Nichols, worked multiple jobs and met many interesting people, most especially Andrew, a New Jersey-born musician whom she married. After getting hitched, they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where they had their kids, Madeline and Griffin, and Debbie continued to build professional experience in the theatre field. Career and family twists and turns eventually brought her back to Maryland in 2011.
Debbie enjoys volunteering in her community and currently serves on three nonprofit Boards: Merriweather Arts and Culture Center (Board Secretary and Past Chair); Medstar Montgomery Medical Center (Vice-Chair); and Congregation Kol Nefesh (Board Treasurer). She’s an active alumna of Leadership Montgomery’s Class of 2019 and Leadership Howard's Class of 2022. In her downtime, she enjoys running (the half marathon distance is her fave) and swinging kettlebells at 39MinuteWorkoutandWellness. But her favorite activity by far is spending time with her two awesome teenagers and talented husband (check out his band, Better Off Dead). She's been employed since age 12 when she landed her first job delivering papers. Other fun gigs followed including work as a "shampoo girl" and as "Raggedy Ann." She's worked in the arts and education industry for more than 25 years at extraordinary places such as Yale University, University of Maryland, Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre, and the Guggenheim Museum. But no job is more fulfilling and exciting than her current one: Executive Director of Olney Theatre Center, where she's been since 2014.