About Us

Our Team

​As a youngster Jeffrey Peyton had a hard time in school, so hard he embarked on a 40-year pursuit of a vision that so many have often wished for but which few act on---that of transforming the learning culture.


Following a 2-year stint in the Army in 1970, Peyton began teaching high school English, while performing puppet theater. He became fascinated by the powerful response in children to puppets during the shows, and consecutive grants from the New Haven Foundation, he conducted workshops for every school, putting puppetry into the hands of every teacher.


Peyton soon patented a paper hinge device to simplify puppetry for teachers, and thus began a journey into play and communication that would take him into independent citizen science, brain science, engineering, play-based communication, play theory, and transformation— while at the same time developing tools and media that he would test and refine over the course of decades.


Jeff's vision: advance a way to bring play into classroom communication, and you would have the means to transform the learning culture. His invention of Play Language is a practical way to mainstream play into learning spaces at all learning levels. In 2004, Jeff was invited by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to present original papers on play to brain scientists. Peyton’s ‘play language’ has reached into classrooms around the world; his research is in the annals of Neuroscience. His project for advancing Play throughout the learning culture is Play Tectonics--”Moving Education Forward on the Power of Play”--which is now the focus of his attention with a growing team of engineers, artists and scientists.

Jeff Peyton

As in the geological science of ‘plate tectonics’, Play Tectonics is a way to MOVE the continental world of learning culture FORWARD on the power of PLAY. We are educators, scientists, engineers, and artists who are working to grow a grassroots movement in order to bring the teaching and learning of Play back to the hands of people. At Play Tectonics, we imagine a new face on education, one mirrored in the image of young people. The only way to achieve this is for adults in our communities to create a space for the children to lead way! It is time that learning cultures become playful.

In the spirit of PLAY, we respect that playful experience is a daily ritual for every human. In effective education, it is critical to partake in daily conversations of playful expressions with others. Through collaborative conversations, we learn to empathize and be human. See our history here!

We are a growing team of engineers, artists and scientists

Heidi Rugg is a puppetry artist, wet-felting fanatic, and general "maker." Her company, Barefoot Puppet Theatre, was founded in 1997 and has toured throughout the US and into Canada at venues including The Smithsonian Discovery Theater, The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, The Puppet Showplace Theater in Boston, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and numerous schools and libraries. In the world of puppetry, Heidi is recognized for her beautifully crafted puppets, top-notch character voice work, developing innovative (yet simple) puppet mechanisms, and curating the first ever “Naked Puppet Exhibit” at the 2015 National Puppetry Festival in Storrs, Connecticut. Heidi resides in Richmond with her husband and performance partner, Sam, and two daughters who are as different as raindrops and ribbons.


Heidi Rugg

Arthur Brill

Arthur Brill is a self-taught artist, and owner of Behind the Curtain, a visual and performing arts studio in Ashland Virginia, and producer of Ashland's Fourth Fridays and Summer Breeze free concert series.

From an early age (his parents tell him as young as six) he engaged in inventive self driven exploratory play, designing and creating games, models, props, and special effects, with a particular love for all things horror and Halloween. His elaborate Halloween costumes evolved into full blown home decorations with coffins and graveyards and unexpected surprises for Trick-or-Treaters. This playful passion for visual story creation later blossomed into a career which includes work in horror films, theme park haunted houses, and his own spooky productions including the Ashland Haunted History Tour and creating the new set and coffin for Virginia's own Bowman Body in 2015.


These explorations in design, engineering, construction, and installation in live entertainment spaces spread into work on Broadway, retail stores and malls, churches, and streetscapes. Brill is an expert in creating playful immersive themed environments that offer visitors unique experiences. It is Mr. Brill's fierce belief in self-driven play that allowed for an instant connection with Play Tectonics founder Jeffrey Peyton, and their collaboration on the giant Hinge for Makerfest 2017 at the Science Museum of Virginia.​

Penelope Fleming is a storyteller, actor, writer, teacher, and librarian. Her first exposure to puppetry was in college, when she operated a deaf puppet named Mandy Puccini in a troupe called Kids on the Block, whose mission it was to create awareness about differently abled folks. That experience established Penelope’s rapport with children and “set the stage” for her subsequent career.

After college graduation, Penelope toured with four different theatre companies, allowing her the opportunity to travel throughout the United States. She followed that up with eighteen years of teaching ages 3-18, primarily as a music & performing arts instructor and a librarian, but with a stint as an English teacher too.

Somewhere along the line Penelope began performing as a professional storyteller, appearing at venues such as the Washington Folk Festival throughout the northern VA, DC & MD area. In this capacity she served for many years as one of the directors within that region’s storytelling organization, Voices in the Glen.

Penelope became a resident of Richmond in the summer of 2016, diving right in to collaborative projects with Firehouse Theatre and the Science Museum of Virginia’s Carpenter Science Theatre Company upon her arrival. She also joined a play reading group, a book club, and a Saturday morning dance class.

Currently Penelope works in the Children’s Department at Varina Library. Additionally she enjoys membership in the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators as well as participating in community service activities with the RVA Beard League (along with her husband, who supplies the facial hair!).

Penelope Fleming

Emily Hall

Emily Anne Hall has 15 years of experience within the field of commercial art and design that include development of brand and marketing collateral for print, web and motion graphics. Emily’s previous 5 years experience working at Media General headquarters in Richmond, VA, and 10 years experience working for other creative firms, has developed her ability to problem solve for effective design solutions that successfully translate across all media platforms.

An efficient problem solver, Emily has a keen eye for clean, effective design solutions. She is an excellent communicator and empathetic listener for genuine customer service and public relations. Emily is driven with an objective to create good work, timely deliverables and a pleasant experience.

In May 2016, Emily acquired her masters in art education from Virginia Commonwealth University. Through her research endeavors of holistic place-based art education, Emily offers imaginative private art lessons and onsite puppetry through We Are Creatures, her storytelling mobile puppet theater concept. Emily's pedagogical interests in interdisciplinary relationships of art and ecology are the foundation of inquiry lessons that drive her teaching style. Emily fosters art making that is meaningful to the child, allowing for uncovering passion, and thus individual success.

Joshua C.L. Stepney was born in South Plainfield NJ, and raised in Asbury Park. With ancestral roots in Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, and Cameroon, in Virginia and Mississippi, he has worked most his life to understand and utilize the power of music and the arts for peace and community. Joshua is a self-taught musician, vocalist, woodworker, artist and general creative. With hopes to give independent artists of all disciplines a platform to do more for their local communities, he developed a youth program called the Peace Culture Club in 2013 while launching a consulting company called “La’Sol Promotions”. His ambition is to help underprivileged youth grow and learn about peacemaking techniques led him to create opportunities through the arts that may not have been otherwise possible for them. His experiences and training motivate him to be even more involved with his community. His prayer is to spread his message of love throughout this great nation, promoting the arts, peace/racial healing, and conflict resolution wherever he goes.

Joshua C.L. Stepney

Logan Hill

A. Logan Hill is a poet and arts educator currently living between Harrisonburg, Virginia and Richmond. He holds a B.A. in English from James Madison University (which he received in 2012), an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (2017), and spent his formative years touring with The American Boychoir School from 2002-2004. His work has most recently been published in the October issue of WHURK: Virginia Cultural Review and is forthcoming in the River City Poets Anthology.  He has given readings/presentations for the 2018 RVA Lit Crawl, the 2017 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, & the 2015 Beatnik Shindig.

Play and its importance as a 21st Century pedagogy embodies for Logan the same power and energy that the characteristics of Poetry, Music, Storytelling and other Paper Arts carries.  Play introduces practical applications for the implementation of specific methods into the learning culture like Experimentation, Interpretation, Chance, Improvisation, and the joy that is gained through Surprise, the information learned in sharing a secret.  Play asks us to challenge our creative abilities and to engage in and with our imaginations more deeply, to talk freely and openly, to be considerate and kind, to approach life with the effervescence of air and light.


Currently, Logan is a Writer and Managing Editor for the Pathway to Play Blog, the Workshop and Events Coordinator at Play Tectonics, as well as the Assistant Project Manager (working with Emily).  He is personally working on a manuscript of poems, a series of art prints, some children’s picture book projects, learning to play music again, writing songs, and always thinking about how to use puppets in his lessons. When he is not doing that, he is an advocate for political and environmental change and is an avid outdoor adventure enthusiast.

e: info@playtectonics.org cell: 804.363.6864

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