Brave Spirits Theatre is dedicated to plays from the era of verse and violence which contrast the baseness of humanity with the elegance of poetry. By staging dark, visceral, intimate productions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, we strive to tear down the perception of these plays as proper and intellectual and instead use them to explore the boundaries of acceptable human behavior.


Text: We are unabashedly obsessed with language. We believe the text itself holds all the clues we need to perform an early modern play with truth and vitality. We examine imagery, verse, rhetorical devices, and embedded stage directions. Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrote beautiful imagery, but they also used language that was bawdy, gritty, and realistic; we embrace both with equal relish. In short, we trust the text and it is the basis of our work. Click here to download a copy of our text work handbook.

Actor: We are a company that believes the actor is at the center of the artistic process. We seek out artists who are willing to take creative risks, who are bold and courageous, who are ensemble-driven, and who are professionally minded in their commitment to the art. The actor is the vessel through which the text comes to life, and as such the actor must be intellectually, emotionally, and physically adept.

Women: Brave Spirits believes we have an ethical responsibility to address the disparity of the female presence in classical theatre. Though women make up 51% of the population, only 16% of Shakespeare’s characters are female. By engaging in cross-gender casting and re-gendering characters, we seek to increase women’s access to and voice in the canon of great dramatic works. We also strive to stage productions that focus on the traditionally silenced female narrative and question the patriarchal constructs present in these works.

Audience: We feel that the audience is the final ingredient needed to bring the play to life. In keeping with the early modern aesthetic, there is no fourth wall, and we welcome the audience as an active participant in the world of the play. Actors may invite the audience to turn into a raucous mob, their confidants, or the butt of a joke. By playing with the audience rather than to them, we make these plays exciting, accessible, and relevant.

For more information about working with Brave Spirits, please see our contact page.

Who We Are


Charlene V. Smith, Producing Artistic Director
is an actor, director, and scholar, living in the DC metropolitan area since 2006. She co-founded Brave Spirits Theatre in 2011 and became Artistic Director in 2014. For Brave Spirits she has performed as Evadne (The Maid's Tragedy), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), and Silvia/Lucetta (The Two Gentlemen of Verona) and directed Richard III and The Two Noble Kinsmen and co-directed The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Bloody Banquet. Her other acting credits include Margaret in Margaret: A Tyger's Heart, Dr. Faustus in Dr. Faustus, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Isabella in Measure for Measure, Macduff in Macbeth, Rosaline/Costard in Love's Labour's Lost, Millie in Picnic, and Helen in The Cripple of Inishmaan. She played Witch 1 in Push/Pull Theater Company's critically acclaimed production of Macbeth at the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival. She has also performed in the premiere of two works by John Moriogello, Jack the Ticket Ripper and A Thing For Redheads. Her other directing credits include Richard II and Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary with a BA in Theatre and English and studied at the London Dramatic Academy. She has a MLitt and MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in partnership with the American Shakespeare Center. She was the head editor on a book of essays produced by her MFA class, Rogue Shakespeare: Stagecraft and Scholarship in an Ensemble-Based MFA Company. She is an Equity Member Candidate, a member of the Shakespeare Association of America, the Shakespeare Theatre Association, Americans for the Arts, and Emerging Arts Leaders DC, and a board member of the Actors' Center. Visit her website at www.charlenevsmith.com.

Artistic Associates

Jessica Aimone is an actor, director, graphic designer and mother to the best little man ever. She has performed across the country and with the American Shakespeare Center (Macbeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Love's Labours Lost); The Theater at Monmouth (Antony and Cleopatra, The Liar, As You Like It); 1st Stage (The Violet Hour, Holiday), Brave Spirits Theatre (Romeo and Juliet, The Bloody Banquet) and other theaters in the DC metro area. She directed shows for the DC Capital Fringe (Macbeth) and Brave Spirits (A Midsummer Night's Dream) and works as a graphic designer at Signature Theatre. She is proud to be a part of Brave Spirits Theatre and its incredible mission.
  Cassie Ash (Resident Dramaturg) is a director, dramaturg, and researcher specializing in early modern drama. Her D.C.-area assistant directing credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mary Stuart at the Folger Theatre, and Mary-Kate Olsen Is In Love at Studio Theatre 2nd Stage. Directing credits the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) include A Christmas Carol (co-director), and Bring ’Em Back Alive staged readings of Swetnam the Woman Hater and The Island Princess. She was the Assistant Director / Tour Manager for the ASC’s Stark Raving Sane Tour, assisting Artistic Director Jim Warren on Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Giles Block (Shakespeare’s Globe) on The Comedy of Errors. In spring 2017, she will direct A King and No King for Brave Spirits. Dramaturgy credits include The Maid’s Tragedy and Arden of Faversham at Brave Spirits; Edward II and The Comedy of Errors for the Shakespeare Institute Players; King Lear, Love’s Labours Lost, and Der Bestrafte Brudermord for the Mary Baldwin College MFA program. Cassie has served as script evaluator for the Future Tenant Play Festival (Pittsburgh, PA), and as rehearsal assistant to Phillip Breen (on Look About You) and Aileen Gonsalves (on Ram Alley) for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Scholars’ Pitch program. Other theatre credits include the Guthrie Theater, the Barter Theatre, Faction of Fools, and Jaq Bessell’s Performance Research Group. Cassie’s research projects have received funding from the Malone Society, Lizz Ketterer Trust, and University of Birmingham Postgraduate Research Support. Her article Activating Annotations, an Experiment with Proverbs appears in the Spring 2016 Special Issue of Shakespeare Bulletin, which Ash co-edited with José A. Pérez Díez (University of Leeds) and Emma Smith (Oxford). She is the compiler of the Census of Renaissance Drama for Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama, and has reviewed books for Early Theatre and Cahiers Élisabéthans. Future publications include editions of Look About You (editor) and The Plays of John Lyly (co-editor) for Digital Renaissance Editions. Cassie has been an invited speaker at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Folger Fridays series, the Royal Shakespeare Company Summer School, and the Digital.Humanities @ Oxford Summer School. She holds MLitt and MFA degrees from Mary Baldwin College, and a PhD from The Shakespeare Institute, where her study was fully funded by the University of Birmingham College of Arts and Law.
  Jason Aufdem-Brinke (Resident Lighting Designer) is a lighting designer working in the DC area since 2000. He has lit A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Two Noble Kinsman, The Bloody Banquet and the regendered Henri IV rep for Brave Spirits, where he is also an Artistic Associate. Other lighting credits include: Resident lighting designer for alight dance theater, lighting design for Bowen McCauley's premiere of Ars Amatoria, Festival Designer for Intersections 2016 and LD for Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival (Athenaeum Theater). He is currently on the Board of Trustees for the Contemporary American Theater Festival and on the Board of Vistitors for the University of Maryland TDPS department. For more: jbrinke.com and for current show info: https://www.facebook.com/JbrinkeLighting/
Jenna Berk
Danny Cackley
Rachel Hynes creates and develops devised, experimental and site-specific theatre. She was Co-Artistic Director of experimental theatre group, Helsinki Syndrome, presenting works from Seattle to London, including New York's Ontological-Hysteric Incubator, and a founding member of HKPG (High Kindergarten Performance Group). She has assisted in devising works with Washington DC's Emma Jaster (To Know a Veil), Philadelphia's Penn Dixie Productions (Animal Animal Mammal Mine) and most recently worked with Natsu Onada Power (The T Party). Rachel received her MFA in Lecoq-based Actor-created Theatre and trained in Lecoq-based devising and physical theatre at LISPA, the London International School of Performing Arts. Her storytelling show, Tale of a Tiger, has been presented in Seattle, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. You Have Made a Story On My Skin, an interactive show about scars will be seen in CulturalDC's Mead Theatre Lab series in the fall of 2016.
Casey Kaleba (Resident Fight Director
) staged violence for BST's The Maid's Tragedy, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet and Co-Directed The Bloody Banquet.  A Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, Casey has arranged fights for more than four hundred productions throughout the country, including extensive work with the Folger, Round House, Signature, and Rorschach Theatres.  He designed blood effects for Faction of Fools’ Titus Andronicus and Constellation Theatre’s Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as the Men at Arms: Reforged web series, and he serves as an audition choreographer for Marvel Universe Live.  Casey has been an instructor at Catholic University, the University of Mary Washington, University of Maryland - Baltimore County, as well as a guest artist for Fight Directors Canada and the Nordic Stagefight Society. He founded and fostered Tooth & Claw Combat Arts into the largest stage combat training program in the DC area: www.toothandclawcombat.com
Claire Kimball (Resident Dramaturg) is a dramaturg, theatre practitioner, teacher, and scholar of early modern drama.  She previously taught high school theatre arts where she directed main stage productions, sponsored a  thespian troupe, and established an annual Shakespeare festival. Over the years, Claire has served as an actor, a stage manager, a script editor, a literary tutor, a textual consultant, a festival judge, and a guest lecturer on early modern drama. She also spent six years as an editor for The Shakespeare Standard.  Her previous dramaturgy credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost (dir. Dr Jacquelyn Bessell, ASC), and The Tempest (dir. Shakespeare’s Globe Associate Giles Block, ASC).  Following several years of research on Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton’s The Bloody Banquet, she worked as a production dramaturg with Brave Spirits Theatre under directors Casey Kaleba and Charlene V. Smith for the first professional staging of the play in almost four hundred years. Claire received her BA from Washington College where she graduated with Departmental Honors in English. She received her MLitt in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in association with the American Shakespeare Center. Her academic and theatrical interests explore the contemporary actor-body relationship in the rehearsal and performance of early modern play texts. Claire has presented her research to the Blackfriars Conference, the Comparative Drama Conference, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Southeastern Renaissance Conference. Her work developing a rehearsal methodology for staged dismemberment in early modern drama appeared in the anthology Renaissance Papers 2008 (pub. Camden House).
Jessica Lefkow is a native of Washington DC.  She is an actor, a teacher, a director. She has dubbed kung fu movies, bad porn, and kiddie cartoons. She has run a student-led independent theater company, winning grants from local government to survive. She has spent two seasons, 30 years apart, touring the U.S. with Shakespeare plays, a Moliére, and a Wilde. She followed the man she’d marry overseas. In India, she began to direct, turning professional when she moved back to Hong Kong a few years later.  She toured Asia performing the lead role in Margaret Edson's Wit.  She returned to America in 2003, then traveled back yearly to Hong Kong to direct for her producer there. She has directed a fat handful of new works in critically-acclaimed first productions, garnering a Helen Hayes Award (Best New Play) for one of them. She has performed with a number of DC-area and American regional theaters, in works classical, contemporary & devised. She has taught theater across three continents, to children, adults and everyone in between. She has completed a mid-career MFA in Classical Acting.  Jessica is a member of SAG-AFTRA. Next up, adventure.

James T. Majewski has performed with Brave Spirits in The Maid's Tragedy, Henri IV: the Re-Gendered Henry IV Repertory, and the acclaimed Capital Fringe production of The Bloody Banquet. James performed in WSC Avant-Bard’s Les Justes, and originated the role of The Young Man in Factory 449’s premier production of Magnificent Waste. Additional credits include the titular role in Lean and Hungry Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet, as well as roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, and Twelfth Night (VpStart Crow). James holds a degree in Philosophy from the Pontifical College Josephinum, and received his training both from the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and at George Mason University under the direction of Ed Gero. This fall he begins his MFA work at CalArts.
Briana Manente has called the DC area home for the past four years. Graduating from The Catholic University of America with her M.F.A. in Acting in 2015 Briana’s passion for classical theater and text led her to play Hotspur, Coleville, Clarence, and of course Mouldy in Brave Spirit’s Henri IV: the Re-Gendered Henry IV Repertory. Other DC and MD credits include: Mercutio and Friar Lawrence in Juliet and Romeo with Catholic University, Portia in The Merchant of Venice with Catholic University,  Dori in Danny Boy with Unexpected Stage Company, Countess and Mariana in All’s Well that Ends Well with Blood & Courage: the under-30 company of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet with Shakespeare in the Parks Prince George’s County, Dusty in Stone Tape Party with NuSass productions, First Witch in Macbeth with Theatre Prometheus, and soon Emilia in Othello with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Briana has also appeared in several productions with DC Capital Fringe and DC’s Source Festival over the years. While in her graduate program, Briana developed and performed: Children of an Idle Brain: A One-Woman Romeo and Juliet, staring her childhood stuffed animals that toured to local schools and was featured by Unexpected Stage Company as their 2015 season opener. Briana is also a freelance makeup consultant and is looking to become a certified actor-combatant as soon as she has the time. She looks forward to many more years of verse and violence with Brave Spirits Theatre.
Victoria Reinsel (Co-founder)
is a classically-trained actor, teaching artist, and director, and a proud Equity Membership Candidate.  Acting credits include: Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Lavinia inTitus Andronicus, Anne Page/William Page/Rugby in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Lady Mortimer/Peto in Henry IV, Part 1, Cloris/Pallas/Luna in The Rehearsal, First Fairy/Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Sordido in The Revenger’s Tragedy at American Shakespeare Center (ASC); Soothsayer in Julius Caesar and Maria (u/s)/Ensemble in Twelfth Night at Orlando Shakespeare Theater (OST); Woman 2 in the D.C. premiere of My First Time at Rasa Arts Collective; Arviragus/Helen/1st Citizen in Cymbeline at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC); Henry VI’s Consciousness in Hal Harry Henry at Shakespeare East; Caliban/Ferdinand/Antonio in The Tempest and Norfolk in Henry VIII with The University Wits; and Marina in Pericles at Mary Baldwin College (MBC; MFA production directed by Tina Packer). Other credits include Much Ado About Nothing (Co-Director) OST’s The Young Company; The Merry Wives of Windsor (Text Coach) at OST (Dir: Jim Helsinger); Cymbeline (Dramaturg) at CSC; The Insatiate Countess (Workshop Director) with MBC’s M.Litt/MFA program; and Much Ado About Nothing (Director) at Marlboro College. Victoria holds a MFA and MLitt in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance with a concentration in acting from MBC in partnership with the ASC, and a BA with High Honors in Theatre/Literature from Marlboro College. She has trained at Shakespeare & Company, OST, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and the British-American Drama Academy in London. Visit her website at www.victoriareinsel.com.
  Zach Roberts (Resident Music Director)
Ian Blackwell Rogers played the Duke, Antonio, and Launce (with his little dog) alongside Brave Spirits founders Charlene V. Smith and Victoria Reinsel in BST’s inaugural production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ian reunited with both Charlene and Victoria in their fifth anniversary production, playing the King in The Maid’s Tragedy. In between, he played Stanley, Tyrrel, and the Lord Mayor in BST’s Richard III, and Theseus and Oberon in their The Two Noble Kinsmen / A Midsummer Night’s Dream repertory. Ian is a Resident Company Member of Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, where he’s been privileged to undertake many wonderful roles in BSF’s stripped-down, Shakespearean staging conditions, playing Hamlet, Macbeth, Prospero, Shylock, Petruchio, Malvolio, Touchstone, and Leontes. With BSF, Ian played Dericke, the Tarleton role, in a staged reading of The Famovs Victories of Henry the Fifth at ASC’s Blackfriars Theatre. He returned to Blackfriars in The Tragedy of Messalina, Empress of Rome, playing the cuckold Claudius and the actor Menester in a staged reading co-produced by Brave Spirits and Nu Sass Productions. Ian is a member of Pallas Theatre Collective, where he played Adolphus Cusins in Major Barbara, and Gonzalo in The Tempest. He played Edgar Allan Poe in A Dream Within a Dream, an immersive theater project for the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival. He’s also worked with Scena Theatre, in Public Enemy, The Plague, The Chairs, and The Insect Play. Adhering to the Michael Chekhov technique at Stanislavsky Theatre Studio, Ian portrayed Bazarov in Brian Friel’s Fathers and Sons, and Raskolnikov in a from-scratch, workshop adaptation of Crime and Punishment. In several remounts of a fast-moving, four-actor adaptation of The Three Musketeers, Ian has played Athos, Richelieu, and the Duke of Buckingham, featuring exciting sword fights. Ian will play Gurov in Quotidian Theatre Company’s adaptation of Chekhov’s story The Lady with the Little Dog.
Hannah Sweet


Jessica Aimone, Graphic Designer
Claire Kimball, Production Photographer
Shelby Sours, Box Office Manager

Our Board

Kelly Elliott
Abigail Issac Fine
Briana Manente
Amanda Michaels
Melissa J. Sites
Charlene V. Smith
Keith Smith
Shelby Sours

Our Memberships

Brave Spirits Theatre is proud to be a member of The Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA). For more information visit www.stahome.org.

STA was established to provide a forum for the artistic, managerial, educational leadership for theatres primarily involved with the production of the works of William Shakespeare; to discuss issues and methods of work, resources, and information; and to act as an advocate for Shakespearean productions and training.

Brave Spirits is proud to be a part of the diverse theatrical landscape that is the DC Metropolitan region and a member of theatreWashington. Together, with the region’s dynamic professional theatre community, theatreWashington creates and invigorates audiences, strengthens the region’s theatrical workforce, and celebrates excellence on Washington stages to build and an even more vibrant community for all.


We believe strongly in the smart and curious actor. We love learning about the early modern theatre and researching critical and performative histories of the plays we perform. Through such investigations, we become better artists. To that end, here is our (by no means complete!) list of recommended reading.


Barton, John. Playing Shakespeare.

Berry, Cicely. The Actor and the Text.

Crystal, David. Think on My Words.

Kaiser, Scott. Mastering Shakespeare.

Kaiser, Scott. Shakespeare's Wordcraft.

Hall, Peter. Shakespeare's Advice to the Players.

Linklater, Kristin. Freeing Shakespeare's Voice.

Rodenburg, Patsy. Speaking Shakespeare.

Wright, George T. Shakespeare's Metrical Art.


Callaghan, Dympna. A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare.

Orgel, Stephen. Impersonations.

Palfrey, Simon and Tiffany Stern. Shakespeare in Parts.

Shapiro, James. 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare.

Shapiro, James. Contested Will.

Taylor, Gary. Revinventing Shakespeare.


Shakespeare in Production

The Arden 3rd Edition

The RSC Shakespeare

The Bedford Shakespeare