Our daughter has been involved in Black Box Players for four years starting when she was four years old. After trying many activities, she immediately felt at home in the supportive, nurturing, and inclusive environment that is Black Box Players. All children, regardless of ability or experience are welcome. We love that our daughter has been surrounded and encouraged by so many older girls who have been such positive role-models. Through her participation she has learned much about theater but most importantly, she has learned to work hard, to believe in herself, and to support the actors around her. I am so grateful for director Maryanne Thornton’s thoughtful leadership and the positive contribution Black Box is making in our family’s life as well as the greater Charlottesville community.

Kristin Link Ullrich

Congratulations on your 25th year of bringing the love of theater to so many of the kids, and adults, in Charlottesville. Your love of theater, and of children, have created a magical place where kids learn about growing up, and adults learn about staying young. It has been my pleasure to work with you for the last few years and watch your vision excite and mold the young. The seeds you plant in Charlottesville ripple far beyond. Thank you on behalf of future audiences everywhere! Truly, there is no place like home…


There’s one specific word that you hear repeatedly when talking about MaryAnne and Black Box. That word is family. That’s what MaryAnne has built. A family. The proverbial “Village”. From my very first Godspell rehearsal with her to just last week when she filled out a “job reference” for Erin we have been part of this amazing family. We have laughed together, cried together and even prayed together. I have watched both Erin and Jeffrey absolutely blossom in the family she has built. They have literally grown up in the Black Box family, even before they were able to walk or talk. Now, not only are they walking and talking they’re taking to the stage with abandon. Singing their hearts out. Acting silly. Making life-long friends. Our nuclear family would not be what we are today without our Black Box family. And there aren’t enough thanks in the world to let her know how truly she has blessed our little family.


We have loved being involved with Black Box, first as enthusiastic audience members, and for the last year as cast members. The chance to be up on stage has given the children so much confidence, and the opportunity for us all to be in a play together was a unique, fun, and rewarding experience. I admire MaryAnne’s eye for detail — the sets and costumes are always unbelievably professional looking. We hope for at least 25 more years of BBP!

Lisa Duval

I remember my first Thornton experience very clearly. Albemarle Children’s Theater was performing Bye Bye Birdie somewhere in the Woodbrook shopping center. It was the first show I ever brought 6-year-old Melanie to see, and not only did we love the show, but she was instantly hooked on the theater! The program listed audition information for the next show, The Sound of Music. Melanie couldn’t wait! She was thrilled to be cast as Marta in the show, and I was excited to jump in and help in any way I was able. So… I volunteered to “help” with costumes. That turned out to be a trial by fire, as I found myself responsible for 7 costume changes for each of 2 sets of 7 casts of children. But I honestly found myself just as hooked as my daughter! The past 16 years have been filled with countless auditions, practices, performances, and fabrics, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it all! We’ve been blessed to be part of the Black Box family and are thrilled to congratulate you on your 25th anniversary!!! May God continue to bless you as you begin your next 25!

Ellen Bender

It’s hard to say what my growing up years might have looked like without Showkids/A.C.T. I was, to say the least, addicted. A groupie through-and-through. My time here helped me meet some of my very best friends who taught me that being funny and silly and doing exactly what I wanted to do was much cooler than fitting into any traditional teenage mold. Thank you, MaryAnne, for giving up your Thursday evenings (and Tuesday and Monday and, well, sometimes every single night of the week – hello, Into the Woods) to give us a home away from home where we could laugh and learn and grow. I think of you and my time with A.C.T. almost every single day and I’m filled with thanks and happy memories. Lots of love!


In a complicated world in which it seems like you can’t turn around without bumping your head on a piece of bad news, we could all do with a bit more magic and goodness in our lives. Our family’s experience with Black Box Players is that it is an oasis of creativity and fun, a place where people of all ages can come together in an atmosphere that welcomes our inner heroes & villains, pirates & princesses, wizards and workhouse boys. MaryAnne’s supportive, focused, and (mostly) mellow direction, her inclusiveness of anyone with the initiative to give acting a whirl, and her vision for how to shape the people, props, and costumes available to her into magic on the stage makes BBP a truly special experience for actors and audience alike.


From the moment we saw our first Black Box show- we vividly remember Cate Wells as Annie- we were hooked! The invitation from the community to come and be a part of the fun proved irresistible . We have all enjoyed participating in shows, and the warm welcome from the cast and crew each time. Our family is very grateful to MaryAnne and BBP for providing a wonderful family theatre experience that gives everyone a chance to Shine! Happy Birthday Black Box Players!

Cecily & Family