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About Us

Once upon a time (in 2007, to be exact), under the shade of a tree in historic Shepherdstown, there began some performing arts classes for youth.  Eventually, the teacher and students made their way to Princess Street, where a group of actors had created a home.  They continued their work, and they grew and grew, adding more classes, workshops, activities, and performances both dramatic and musical.  They shared their gifts with hundreds of people over the years, until one day it was decided that they should take over the little space on a corner of Princess Street. 


And so they did. 


Now they are known as the Black Box Youth Playhouse.

The End (not really).

Laura Richards Bakin,
Managing Artistic Director

The founder of the Black Box Youth Playhouse, Laura offers 40 years of experience in the performing arts as an actor, director, teacher, producer, and manager.  On stage she has performed and directed with a variety of theater companies from Florida to New York.  She spent many years teaching both children and adults around the D.C. area.  She was an administrator at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. for eight years, and the artistic and managing director of the Rhapsodic Theater Company in Virginia before settling in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia with her family.  She has written over 20 plays and musicals, directed over 100 shows, and has conducted countless workshops, seminars, and private classes.  Laura is also a published author of both juvenile and adult fiction. 

Mendy Cockrell,
Program Manager

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Mendy first found fun on a stage as a forensic speech competitor in elementary school. (She can still remember how Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!) In high school, she progressed to larger audiences in choral performances and stage plays under the guidance of dedicated music and drama directors. Since not pursuing a theater major, she found herself in university with time to spare for merely two plays, thus performing became a distant memory. Several years later, Mendy had children and a desire to share with them the joy of theater when she met the newly-settled Laura Richards Bakin.  Hurrah!  Mendy enrolled her children in Laura’s productions and  offered behind-the-scenes support.  When asked to join the Black Box team, she happily accepted and enjoys putting her art and communication skills to continued use while helping keep the arts accessible.
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