The historic Washington County Playhouse opened its doors in 1985. It has been operating continuously since that date in its current location. Nestled behind Hagerstown’s City Hall on Cramer Alley, The Playhouse produces live stage productions paired with delicious meals.
Washington County Playhouse has always been a small business that is family and privately owned. Current owners Laura and Shawn Martin are the fifth family to own and operate the thirty six year old theater. The Martins were preceded by Loretta and Jeff Czerbinski, Kelly Jenkins Moreland and Dixie Odermatt, Don Wiswell, and Bruce Levin.
The Martins purchased The Playhouse in 2015. During their tenure, it has experienced a renaissance in Hagerstown’s Arts and Entertainment District and City Center.
The Playhouse is a non-union professional dinner theater where all performers are paid.
The Playhouse’s sole mission is to entertain.
For 38 years, The Playhouse has been a community gathering place where people of good will can be entertained (or entertain others) and make memories! Laura and Shawn are committed to preserving this historic venue, ensuring that The Playhouse exists for future generations to enjoy, while continuing to enhance the quality of life in Hagerstown, Washington County and beyond.
Laura J. Martin (Owner, Producer) has been involved in professional and community theatre for most of her life as an actor, director, choreographer, technician, and teacher.
A born and raised West Virginia Mountaineer, Laura was directing her siblings, complete with old dance costumes and “levels”on the steps of their back porch as a young child. She spent her childhood involved in church choir, dance classes, 4-H, high school choirs, show choirs, and community theatre at the Apollo Civic Theater and Old Opera House.
Laura is a graduate of the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts and studied theatre education at Fairmont State University. She holds a Regents Bachelor of Arts Degree from Shepherd University and taught grades K-8 for seven years. Laura “retired” from the classroom in June of 2014, and shortly thereafter was approached about purchasing The Playhouse (where she and her husband, Shawn, had met in 2007).
Laura is a Certified NRA Range Safety Officer and founding member of the Hagerstown chapter of The Armed Women of America. She is currently working on her instructor certifications to further empower women.
Laura currently serves on the Hagerstown Community College Arts Advisory Board.
In 2014, Laura completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification. Her focus is in yoga for bigger bodies and has trained fellow yoga teachers on how to teach inclusive yoga for many body types. In 2015, Laura committed to a health and wellness journey. As she found her healthiest, strongest self, she started an online health and fitness coaching business. Laura believes in holistic health, sustainable nutrition (with treats on the side), and functional fitness. Laura has a passion for mindset and doesn’t care about six pack abs, but instead helps her clients find more energy, better sleep, and joy in “lifting the heavy things” of life (both physical and metaphorical).
Laura’s greatest joy and passion is found in teaching Children’s Theatre. Laura knew from the time she was in middle school that she didn’t want to be on Broadway, but instead wanted to teach theater. Laura has created and taught for many summer theater camps including Artistic Endeavors, STAGE Camp, and, of course, summer camps at The Playhouse. She focuses on the real life skills that children participating in theater learn and develop – working as a team, listening to others, meeting a deadline, making choices, taking risks, pushing boundaries, leaving a comfort zone, and especially using one’s body as our greatest instrument.
Laura loves being #crazyauntlala to her niblings and friends’ kiddos. She loves to travel and is always up for an adventure. She is the proud furmamma of Georgia (Pug) and Wicket (Pomeranian).
Laura would also like it to be known that as a child, she was the Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia Ice Cream Eating Champion for her age group. So, yes, she’s always up for some Dairy Queen.
Shawn R. Martin (Owner, Producer) was born in Hagerstown, Md at Washington County Hospital, just a few blocks from The Playhouse.
He was raised in Chambersburg, Pa where he grew to love entertainment and business during his education in The Chambersburg Area School District. Shawn graduated from Chambersburg Area Senior High School where he was a member of the nationally recognized CASHS Glee Club, Choristers and, the male singing group, The Esquires. All under the direction of Feree LeFevre.
Shawn is also a graduate of The Cumberland Valley School of Music, where he was the first recipient of The Molly Darr Messner Merit Scholarship, and studied vocal performance with the late Margaret “Peggy” Weeks (Peabody Conservatory) and Corey E. Rotz of The Washington Opera.
An accomplished vocalist, Shawn has performed throughout the United States and Europe, in places such as The Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, Pa., The National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and even the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Shawn has performed professionally at venues such as Totem Pole Playhouse (America’s Oldest Summer Stock Theater) and The Washington County Playhouse where he has starred in, directed, and produced countless plays, musicals, concerts and revues over the past 30 years.
From 2000 to 2015, Shawn worked as a National Recruiter, Manager, Training Manager, and Sales Representative for True Blue Inc., a publicly traded company, where he connected thousands of individuals with employment. As he and True Blue were committed to creating a diverse workforce, a large percentage of the job seekers Shawn helped were women, people of color and other previously marginalized groups.
A man of faith, Shawn was baptized on May 18, 1980 at Calvary United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Pa and was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church on April 7, 2012.
In addition to his duties as an owner and producer, Shawn oversees the food and beverage service at The Playhouse. He cooks for guests in the playhouse kitchen prior to each and every performance.
In his limited time away from The Playhouse, Shawn enjoys going to the shooting range, attending films, spending time with his pets, and cheering and booing the faces and heels of World Wrestling Entertainment.
In 2015 Shawn and his wife Laura became the owners and producers of The Washington County Playhouse. They reside in Hagerstown, Md.
Rebecca Marie Malachowski (Associate Producer and Marketing Director) is a graduate of The Catholic University of America, where she received her Bachelor’s of Music in Musical Theatre, along with her Master’s in Business.
Rebecca found her way to The Playhouse through an open call for GREASE in the fall of 2022, and was cast as Marty for the recent production in winter of 2023! After a great two month run, she found herself working full time for The Playhouse!
Some of Rebecca’s other favorite roles include Elle Woods in LEGALLY BLONDE, Smee in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, Cosette in LES MISERABLES, and Carlotta in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Rebecca is very passionate about accessible theater, and bringing the arts to all! In addition to her career onstage, Rebecca is also a director, choreographer, and photographer.
In her free time, Rebecca loves to explore nature, read, and spend time with friends (and their dogs)! Rebecca is a proud girlfriend to a Naval Officer, Jack! Hooyah!
Shannen Banzhoff (Social Media Director & Administrative Assistant) is a graduate of Shepherd University, with a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance – Musical Theatre, and a Bachelors Degree in Music Education.
Shannen has served as Social Media Manager/Director since the fall of 2016 and has been assisting with Administrative work at The Playhouse for even longer!
Outside of The Playhouse, Shannen taught in the Theatre Department at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts for many years. She frequently also performs at and choreographs for multiple theatres in the MD and WV areas.
Shannen is an Award-winning choreographer and performer with a wide knowledge of Musical Theatre repertoire.
Shannen is also a self-taught Graphic Designer whose organization & attention to detail prove instrumental in her many behind-the-scenes roles at The Playhouse.shannenbanzhoff.weebly.com
Travis Fouche (Lighting & Sound Design) has been involved in technical theatre for over 25 years. Recent credits include Lighting & Sound Designer for Xanadu, Clue, Grease, and Little Women at The Playhouse. Other local credits include Sound Engineer for Shepherd University productions and Lighting & Sound Designer for productions at The Old Opera House. Past experiences of note include technical director with Master’s Commission Mid-Atlantic, and master electrician for UMBC’s production of Alchemy of Desire/Dead Man’s Blues.
Charlemagne McNeil (Resident Costumer) has her Associates Degree in Theatre from Hagerstown Community College where she worked for over two years in the costume department under the instruction and mentorship of Robin L. Shaner. Some of Charlemagne’s favorite acting credits from HCC include Marmee in LITTLE WOMEN THE MUSICAL, Madge in Ken Ludwig’s THE GAME’S AFOOT, and Mrs. Webb in OUR TOWN.
Upon graduation from HCC in 2017, Charlemagne began costuming at the Playhouse. Her first solo costuming venture- “Gigi” – began her costuming career, an adventure she never could have imagined. She has costumed for other local theatre companies over the years, but has always considered the Playhouse her home.
Some of Charlee’s favorite Costuming credits at the Playhouse include GREASE(2023), BONNIE AND CLYDE(2020), SWEENY TODD (2019), THE ADDAMS FAMILY: A NEW MUSICAL(2017), LUCKY STIFF(2022) and VANITIES(2021).
Along with her work at the Playhouse, Charlemagne works full time as an Instructional Assistant at St. Mary Catholic School in Hagerstown where her students give her many reasons to smile each day. In her very limited free time, Charlemagne enjoys volunteering for youth group and choir at her church parish, spending time with friends, and camping with her family. To God be the Glory!