Karen Mockensturm, Executive Director
Karen Mockensturm holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Florida. She is a former arts administrator at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, one of America’s premiere regional theaters. Her tenure at the Walnut included seven seasons, where she also served as Casting Director for over 50 productions including national and international co-productions. A member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Screen Actors’ Guild and the American Federation of Radio & Television Artists, Karen’s 16 year professional acting career (as Karen Hinton) included work in radio, television, film, improvisational comedy, and regional theater across the country. Favorite roles include: She in Maybe Baby, It’s You!, Viola in Twelfth Night, Frenchy in Grease, Kyra in Skylight, and Mary in Vanities. Some of Karen’s most important work off stage was as a teaching artist and acting instructor at the Walnut in Philadelphia and with the Roundabout Theatre Company, Creative Acting Company and Broadway Classroom in New York City.
Karen relocated to Huntsville in November of 2002. After almost a decade in the transportation industry, she was honored to take the helm at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater & Academy in 2012. Under her leadership, Fantasy Playhouse has experience unprecedented growth in both programatic reach and revenues and was awarded the Huntsville/Madison County’s Non-profit of the Year Award in 2017.
Karen serves as the 2018 President for the Women’s Economic Development Council and with the Alabama Artistic Consortium, the Arts Huntsville Assembly, and the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education. She is a member of Mayor Tommy Battle’s Arts & Culture Advisory Council. An alumni of Leadership Greater Huntsville’s Class 31 and Focus 28, she received the Madison Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Award for Excellence in Service and Leadership and was recognized by the Girl Scouts of North Alabama as a 2018 Woman of Distinction.
Karen believes in the power of theatre and arts education to serve as a change agent in today’s digital world and is deeply grateful to be in part of a community that values creativity in all its forms.
Renée Gardiner, Business Manager
Renée S. Gardiner has a BS in Elementary Education and an MS in Special Education. She taught for three years in Virginia public schools prior to raising and homeschooling her children. During twenty years of military travels, Renée volunteered with many organizations including Scouts (BSA, GSA, AHG), the Red Cross, Officer Wives’ Club, and MCCW. Upon moving to the Huntsville area in summer 2008, she quickly became involved in community theater as child chauffeur, backstage security, and usher. She became Fantasy’s House Manager in the 2010-2011 season, was elected to the Board of Directors in April 2011 and served as Treasurer 2013-2018. Renée and her husband, Scott, a retired Army Officer, have five children.
Melanie Berry, Marketing Associate
Melanie Berry has a long-standing love of storytelling, whether on a page or onstage. She attended the University of Montevallo, where she double-majored in English and French and wrote several plays, one of which debuted in UM’s blackbox. She also holds an MA from Auburn University in English Literature. Her work there included public writing for ColoredConventions.org, focused on bringing 19th century black organizing to digital life. As marketing associate, she uses behind-the-scenes and backstage content to tell Fantasy Playhouse’s story across multiple social media platforms. She is also at Fantasy as a teaching artist and patron service representative. When not creating theatre magic or following local organizations on Instagram, she writes historical fiction for children and young adults.
Rebecca Brown, Graphic Designer
Rebecca graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York in 2011. She earned a BFA in Graphic Design with a Minor in Marketing and a Concentration in Communications. Rebecca returned back to her hometown of Huntsville, AL after college and has been working at Simple Helix as a Graphic Designer/Web Developer since. She enjoys the challenge of crafting a compelling visual message that informs, influences and engages others. She currently lives in Fayetteville, TN with her husband and 1 year old son.
Dennis Griffin, Volunteer Facilities Manager
Candice Cooper, Education Director
Candice Cooper is the Education Director at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy. Ms. Cooper holds a BA in theatre from Jacksonville State University. Since graduating, she has worked at several theatres along the eastern U.S. ranging from Alabama to New York as a director, stage manager and educator. Ms. Cooper has been the Director of Education and Production, as well as a faculty member and Director of the Musical Showcases for Acting For Young People (AFYP), a highly regarded children’s theatre in the Washington, DC area. Prior to working with AFYP, she spent four years with Virginia Stage Company, a large regional theatre in Norfolk, VA, as the Education Associate and Tour Manger. She has served on the faculties of Imagination Stage, Educational Theatre Company, Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre and Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts. Ms. Cooper is thrilled to be back home in the Madison area with her husband and daughter.
Kailey Burkhardt, Education Coordinator, Lab 87 Director
Kailey Burkhardt is the Education & Outreach Coordinator at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy. She is a senior at the University of Alabama in Huntsville double majoring in theatre and English. She began taking classes at FPCT in 2003 and has now appeared both on and offstage in 20 of their productions including Alice in Wonderland (Alice), Sleeping Beauty (Snapdragon), and A Christmas Carol (Martha Cratchit) for which she earned a Wings nomination for Best Female Youth. Along with assisting and teaching classes, Kailey has also student directed for the Academy and assistant directed 2015’s The Snow Queen.
Active in the community theatre scene, Kailey has also performed and assisted in directing productions with HCCA (The King and I) and Theatre Huntsville (Lend Me a Tenor). UAH credits include Agnes of God, Suddenly Last Summer, Rantoul and Die, Spoonlake Blues, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kailey is the UAH Theatre Department’s work study student. She oversees the upkeep of the prop and costume shop. This past summer she earned her first professional credit as the ASM of New Country, off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre with Fair Trade Productions and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre.
Dana Clark, Education Coordinator, Lab 87 Coordinator
Dana Clark holds a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Mississippi and an MM in vocal performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. While in school, Dana taught tap dance and private voice. As a part of her graduate program, she served as a teaching artist at Boston schools, teaching basic music concepts to grades 1-5. Dana has also choreographed for many organizations, including Mississippi: The Dance Company, University of Mississippi Theatre, and the Kate Smith D.A.R. High School Show Choir in Grant, AL. She received an Honorable Mention in the contemporary category from the Panoply Choreography Competition 2010. She has worked as an assistant director with Huntsville Community Chorus Association, and continues to participate both onstage and offstage with UAH Theatre, Fantasy, and Theatre Huntsville. Dana currently runs musical theatre workshops and leads one of the weekly story times at the Downtown Huntsville Public Library.
Rita Burkholder, Costume Shop Manager
Betcei Butler, House Manager Ushers@FantasyPlayhouse.com