Teaching Artists

Melanie Berry loves storytelling in any capacity, from acting to putting pen to paper. She attended the University of Montevallo, where she double-majored in English and French. Her play “Irony Barks Past Midnight” debuted in UM’s blackbox theatre. She also holds a MA from Auburn University in English Literature, where she taught literature and composition. Her acting credits with Fantasy Playhouse include A Christmas Carol and Raggedy Ann and Andy. She enjoys working with Fantasy Academy camps and with Fantasy in the Classroom, where she directs crayons, pirates, and bookworms. When not teaching she writes, and is currently seeking representation for her debut novel.


Kelley Birney has had a long and extensive career and love affair with Film, TV and Stage. She first fell in love with acting while growing up in Huntsville, AL.  Kelley went on to attend the prestigious acting conservatory, The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. Kelley has carved out a career appearing in numerous national commercials, theatre productions, and independent films. Most recently, she returned to her musical theatre roots to co-write Monster’s in My Head, a WorryWoo musical. Kelley is also part of the team that developed the internationally acclaimed WorryWoo Developing Social & Emotional Intelligence cross-curricular program currently used in elementary schools across the globe.


Mariah Beachboard, an alumna of Mary Washington College (MWC) and the Fredericksburg Theatre Company, has taught acting and directing at Christian Youth Theatre Fredericksburg for eight years. During that time, she directed Mary Poppins, Honk!, Scapin, and The Canterbury Tales. For recitals and showcases, she often wrote plays which highlighted her students’ talents and new skills. She also taught acting and dance at The Performance Place in Fredericksburg, VA. As co-owner of Spoken Word Events, LLP, she produced marketing videos for the Spotsylvania Education Foundation.  She studies voice acting at Hollywood Huntsville, and is a finalist for the Rocket City Playwright Series.  Mariah Beachboard is thoroughly excited to be teaching Fantasy in the Classroom!


Stella Broussard began as a student in the FPCT Academy during middle school. She is currently working toward her BA at the University of Alabama in Huntsville where is concentrating on theatre and graphic design. She has most recently been seen as the Good Angel in UAH Theatre’s Doctor Faustus and as Woman in UAH Theatre’s ‘Dentity Crisis. She previously served as student choreographer and an ensemble member in Huntsville Community Chorus Association’s Fiddler on the Roof, performed various roles in Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater’s A Christmas Carol, Princess Anise in FPCT’s 12 Dancing Princesses, Ensemble in HCCA’s Aladdin Jr, and the Sea Witch in FPCT’s The Little Mermaid. She is an experienced dancer and vocalist.  Stella is a teaching artist in both Fantasy Academy and Fantasy in the Classroom capacities


Kailey Burkhardt is the Education & Outreach Coordinator at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater & Academy. She holds a BA in theatre and English University of Alabama in Huntsville. 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. Kailey is a teaching artist in both Fantasy Academy and Fantasy in the Classroom capacities, as well as the director of Lab 87. 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, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Eurydice.  In 2015, 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.


Chad Burkhardt bio coming soon!


Rita Burkholder currently owns Fig Leaf Costumes a costume rental and theatrical makeup store. She also writes and performs original music in her solo act Helen Keller’s Ukulele. She began working in the arts and theatre in Birmingham, Alabama. She taught children in a six week summer program for Hope Place Project at Space One Eleven from 1996-2000. She was also the artist coordinator for the Imagination Festival from 2000 to 2003, and ran a successful teaching studio for lamp-worked glass from 1998-2006. Upon returning to Huntsville, Alabama in 2004 she was one of the original working artists and performers keeping a studio at the Flying Monkey and Lowe Mill Arts Centre from 2004-2011. She has toured from New York City to Berlin to New Orleans performing original material, and has participated in the production of over twenty original outsider theatrical performances here in Huntsville via writing, costuming, set design, and editing. she has also had visual artwork displayed, and performed music at Panoply a number of times in the last ten years. She is currently writing a 2 hour solo show to be performed in Brooklyn, New York in may, runs her shop, and teaches costuming and makeup classes at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theatre.


Lauren Carlton has been teaching in the academy for several years and will continue to teach during our summer camp season. An active actor, mezzo-soprano, and teaching artist, Lauren has appeared with Rocket City Shakespeare, the Athenian Players, Oregon’s Astoria Music Festival, Greensboro Light Opera and Song, the University of Alabama Opera Theatre, Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra, and Ars Nova School of the Arts. Recent stage credits include Romeo and Juliet (Juliet), Richard III (Queen Elizabeth, Richmond), Coriolanus (Brutus), Eugene O’Neill’s The Web (Rose), Trifles (Mrs. Hale), The Gondoliers (Duchess of Plaza-Toro), Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlofsky), and Gianni Schicchi (Zita). Lauren holds a BA in journalism and a minor in opera studies from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her work as an arts columnist has been published in NewMusicalTheatre.com’s Green Room, OnStage, The Crimson White, and The Huntsville Times. She will be attending Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas in the fall of 2016 as a first-year MFA Performance and Pedagogy candidate.


Dana Clark is the Education Associate at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater & Academy. She 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 enjoys creating curriculum themed around current films and Broadway Hits: think Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemHamilton, and Thoroughly Modern Millie!


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.


Maegan Edwards A native of Huntsville, Maegan Edwards has been an assistant and teacher for over a decade. She has worked with numerous organizations including Merrimack Dance Your Dreams, Asbury Homeschool, and Community Ballet Association/Huntsville Ballet School as both a volunteer instructor and as a member of the faculty. Ms. Edwards has taken multiple Fantasy classes, was a member of the Fantasy’s Players, and Assistant Directed the group in 2012. Maegan has also worked as a Teaching Artist in FPCT’s Fantasy in the Classroom outreach program.  Ms. Edwards is currently attending school at Loyola in New Orleans pursuing a degree in Music Therapy. Ms. Edwards works closely with the PRISM project, and after graduation hopes to work with children with special needs or with the Veterans of America.


Tyler Henderson graduated with a BA in music from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an MM from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University while working as an Associate Instructor of Voice. A native of Huntsville, he was active in many local theater groups while attending Lee High School. While pursuing his Masters degree, he appeared with Cardinal Stage Company in Bloomington, Indiana as Edward Rutledge in 1776 and Grantair in Les Misérables, and a soloist with the Hendricks Symphony. Tyler is an experienced performer and instructor in the realms of straight plays, musical theater, oratorio, jazz, and opera.


Elaine Hubbard has performed, directed, designed, and choreographed award-winning shows for many North Alabama theatre companies through the years, including Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy, HCCA, The Whole Backstage, Independent Musical Productions and Theatre Huntsville. She holds a BS degree in theatre arts from Charter Oak College in Hartford, CT. In the 1990s she served as Artistic Director of Theatre ‘Round the Corner in Huntsville, providing over 50 productions to thousands of theatre patrons from the Tennessee Valley and beyond. Elaine is currently president of the Board of Directors at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and is a teaching artist for the Academy. In 2013 she was the recipient of the 45th annual Virginia Hammill Simms Award for her volunteer support of the arts in Huntsville. When away from theatre duties, Elaine enjoys quilting, gardening and genealogy. She and her husband John travel extensively and delight in being with their granddaughters, Riley and Eliza.


Lorie Hubscher has been active in Huntsville theater for thirty years as an actor, director, writer and teacher. She has been awarded several times for her work with Fantasy Playhouse, Theater Huntsville, and other organizations as a Wings Award recipient for Best Show, Best Director and Best Actress. Lorie received her degree in communication arts from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She currently works for the Huntsville Madison County Public Library at the Bailey Cove branch in Youth Services. She is married and the mother of two boys.


Andrea Jernigan has enjoyed Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater since childhood and finally fulfilled a childhood dream in 2001, when she began acting in FPCT shows.  She has also recently been seen on stage in shows with HCCA and IMP. In the past few years Andrea has participated backstage and with production jobs as well. Andrea has a BS in Secondary Education for Language Arts and an MS in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. For the past ten years, Andrea has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist in a private setting, but is now also working as an ESL teacher and teaching artist for Fantasy in the Classroom.


Melissa “Birdie” Jones began her adventures in stage management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville under the tutelage of David Harwell. Her UAH credits include The Tempest, The Consul, and Sunday in the Park with George. In the summer of 2012, she began her professional career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee, NC. In addition to her duties as ASM, she also spent time working with pyrotechnic effects and stage firearms, and learning the art of stage combat. She received a basic pass from the Society of American Fight Directors in knife combat. In 2014, she was hired by Phillip Otto at the Huntsville Ballet Company and is currently serving as their Production Stage Manager and Lighting Designer. Additionally, she has worked professionally with the Huntsville Arts Council and UAH Music Department. She is the General Manager for the choral group Ensemble Namárië. Birdie resides in South Huntsville with her husband and three angels masquerading as cats. When not making rehearsal schedules and chasing actors, she enjoys studying music, knitting, drinking good coffee, and baking.


Erica Juneac  is a recent graduate of the University of North Alabama. She fell in love with technical theatre while working at Norton Auditorium, where she gained experience with lights, sound, set-building, technical direction, and stage managing. She first stage-managed UNA Theatre’s production of The Inspector General and since then has dedicated herself to being the best Stage Manager she can be. Her other stage management credits include Schoolhouse Rock! Live, A Christmas Carol, Twelfth Night, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She loves working with everyone at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theatre, and looks forward to continuing doing what she loves most: theatre.


Lezlie Lanza has been involved in theatre in some capacity since she was 8 years old. As an actor, she has worked with Theatre Huntsville, Independent Musical Productions, Huntsville Community Chorus Association, Renaissance Theatre, Theatre ‘Round the Corner, and Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater. Favorite roles include Chelsea in On Golden Pond, Mrs. Wall in Holy Ghosts, Mrs. Davidson in Southern Hospitality, and her reoccurring role as Mrs. Mallard in The Mill Stories. Lezlie has a Bachelor of Science and certification in elementary education and theatre (grades 6-12) from Athens State University. She has taught public education in Huntsville City Schools for 24 years (grades 1-6). She has been a teaching artist with FPCT for twenty years with classes such as Write, Direct, and Perform Your Own Play; Musical Showcase: The Enchantment of Beauty and the Beast; Audition 101; and others.


Joan Leggett has been a teacher most of her life. Since moving to Huntsville almost twenty years ago, she added story telling to her resume, entertaining students in public schools as well as private gatherings. For the last few years, she has also been involved in theater at Fantasy and Huntsville Community Chorus. At Fantasy Playhouse, she enjoys teaching children ages five through twelve. She also teaches “Bible Story Time” at Trinity UMC and First Presbyterian of Huntsville. Joan has appeared in several Fantasy and HCCA shows.


Laura Luke has a degree from American River College and has taught preschool for many years. She wrote and directed her first play at 11 years old. While living in California, Laura joined the Actor’s Workshop of Sacramento where she took classes and soon found her way onstage. There she participated in over 20 one act plays and 15 full length plays. Laura was also a member of the Chautauqua Playhouse Children’s Theatre for seven seasons. She has directed several plays and has also worked as a costume and scene designer. Since moving to Huntsville in September 2017, Laura has become very involved in the local theatre community and is happy to be a part of the Fantasy Family!


Daphne McKinley has a long history working in the community with children. For over 17 years, she has served as a storyteller in the city and a summer reading volunteer for the Huntsville Public Library. Daphne also worked with Scholastic book fairs for 3 years as a BookTalker/Field Sales Representative. She has been a Girl Scout leader for ten years and a member of the Riverton Kiwanis Club. Daphne, a certified Kindermusik instructor, taught Kindermusik classes with the Fantasy Academy for ten years. She is currently a teaching artist in both Fantasy Academy and Fantasy in the Classroom capacities.


Kaylie Miller is a Teaching Artist for the after-school programs, Fantasy in the Classroom. She is a senior at the University of Alabama in Huntsville majoring in Theatre (Technical Concentration) and minoring in Business Administration. Kaylie has worked for FPCT as a Marketing Intern, Costume Assistant, and Academy Receptionist. She is heavily involved with UAH Theatre and serves as its Costume Shop Manager. In addition, she is a Costume Shop Apprentice for Fig Leaf Costumes and Tailor’s Apprentice for Master Lee’s Tailoring and Menswear.


Karen Mockensturm is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors’ Guild and the American Federation of Radio & Television Artists as Karen Hinton, Karen’s professional acting career included work in radio, television, film, improvisational comedy, and regional theater across the country.  A former casting director, 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, Mrs. Mockensturm relocated to Huntsville in November of 2002 and now serves as FPCT’s Executive Director. Favorite roles include: She in Maybe Baby, It’s You!, Viola in Twelfth Night, Frenchy in Grease, Kyra in Skylight, and Mary in Vanities. Karen serves as a guest teaching artist and curriculum consultant.


Charlotte Morris grew up in Huntsville and began her journey with Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy as Piglet in Winnie the Pooh. She went on to act in numerous FPCT shows throughout her childhood. Her mother and father even hopped on board behind the scenes. Charlotte graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and has since worked as an actress in both New York and Atlanta in off-off Broadway productions, independent film work, industrials, voiceovers, and commercials. She graduated magna cum laude from Georgia State University with a degree in education. After teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District for several years, she made her way home to Huntsville where she currently teaches middle school reading intervention in Madison County. She holds an MA in Education from UAH.


Phil Schrimsher is a Huntsville native who has had the pleasure of making Theatre his passion in some form or another for the last 12 years. He, currently, holds in AS with a focus on Elementary Education from Calhoun Community College, and is currently pursuing a BS in Elementary Education at Athens State University. Before moving back to Huntsville, Phil worked as a professional actor all around the southeast region of the US. Some highlights from this time include: Quintin Wilson in Rocket Boys at Theatre West Virginia, the Male Swing in Dreamland Drive-In with Dollywood Entertainment, and Bob Cratchit in Dolly Parton’s A Christmas Carol with Dollywood Entertainment. Phil still performs and, now, choreographs locally with companies in Northern Alabama, but his favorite thing to do now is get in the classroom and teach kids to move!


Sarah Grace Sheppard has been involved with Fantasy Playhouse from the age of 10. She has participated as an actress, stage tech, and assisted with costumes and loves everything related to theatre. Her past appearances in Fantasy productions include Juniper in “12 Dancing Princesses” and Touchstone in “A Christmas Carol.” Sarah Grace has had many years of dance training, and her love for working with children began with the Dance Connection program through Alabama Youth Ballet. She is currently an Electrical Engineering student at UAH and enjoys working with both Fantasy Academy and Fantasy in the Classroom.


Melissa (Missy) Rice’s parents have claimed that she entered the world tap dancing! Melissa holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Baylor University.  Acting career highlights include being a founding member of Unexpected Company in Florida and performing in Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel) , Camelot (Guenevere US), A Romantic Comedy (Allison St. James), Sweet Angelina (Angelina) and Steel Magnolias (M’lynn) in regional theaters. Melissa has been the Arts Director at Rice Preparatory School in California, Owner of AfterSchool Action Arts Academy, Teaching Artist at Hub Performing Arts School, and librarian/theater teacher at Harmony Science Academy.  Directing credits include: Annie, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, Dear Edwina, A Midsummer Night’ Dream and Schoolhouse Rock.  She coached an award-winning performing team honored at the 2010 Junior Theatre Festival. More recently Melissa has owned a theatrical children’s entertainment company and has been using drama to facilitate social connection and communication with individuals with developmental disabilities, teaching theater classes at High Point Village in Lubbock, TX and currently with Exceptional People in Community here in North Alabama. Melissa is the Special Stages Program Manager at FPCT.


Aisha Richardson bio coming soon!


Kim Rozek began teaching preschool in 2002 while living in Hochspeyer, Germany.  Following her return to Alabama, she continued working with children while employed at Sci-Quest, Hands-on Science Center.  In 2009, she launched the Sprouting Scientist preschool program teaching weekly classes to children ages 2 to 5.  Currently, she is working at the Downtown Branch of the Huntsville/Madison County Public Library conducting story-times at numerous preschools throughout the area.  Kim brings with her a lifelong love of the theatre.  She has been a volunteer with Broadway Theater League for the past 7 seasons and is excited to be joining the Fantasy staff.


Sherri Ryan recently retired from Madison County Schools after several years of teaching theatre at Sparkman High School. She has directed 15 musicals and performed in over 35 productions. Sherri is a Wings Award winner for Lead Actress, Supporting Actress and Featured Performer. She continues to stay active in the Huntsville theatre community. Sherri holds a bachelors degree in theatre and television production from the University of North Alabama and a masters in special education.


Samantha Smith is a teaching artist Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater & Academy. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. She has worked with various theater programs as an actor, stage manager, and production manager over the past ten years. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in English Education. Samantha has been married to her amazing husband, David, for two years.


Jacinda Swinehart-Johnson studied Musical Theatre at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa. She has been a working actress for over a decade, with such companies as Playhouse Jr., The Pittsburgh Playhouse, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, West Virginia Public Theatre, E&M Theatrical, Live Theatre Workshop, Studio Connections, Arizona OnStage Productions, Theatre Huntsville, Independent Musical Productions, and was a company member at both The Great American Playhouse in Oro Valley, Arizona, and The Gaslight Theatre in Tucson, Arizona’s famous musical melodrama theatre, running for over 38 years. Jacinda is the proud founder/owner of The Rocket City Sweethearts, Huntsville’s Premiere girls trio singing the fun and flirty tunes of the Nifty 50’s and Swingin’ 60’s! Jacinda is a teaching artist in both Fantasy Academy and Fantasy in the Classroom capacities.


Alison Zeigler became a “Fantasy Kid” many years ago as a dancing stone statue in FPCT’s production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” A dancer since age 3, she has always enjoyed the performing arts, and has performed at the 1983 World’s Fair, with the Famous Maroon Band’s Flag Line, in Panoply of the Arts, in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and in a production of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Her favorite role is cheerleader for her own “Fantasy Kid”. You may also find her volunteering in various capacities with the talented theatre companies around Huntsville including FPCT, and she is dedicated to supporting Fantasy’s growing arts education programs as well as our production programs at the VBC Playhouse.


Teaching Artist Assistants

Maddie Austin, Theresa Gardiner, Holly Huhlein, Elena Ontiveros, Davis Ouriel,

Ryan Rorick, Morgan Rozek, Abigayle Williams, Lab 87 Conservatory Actors