Executive Director’s Blog

Buses are back on the roads in our home base in Huntsville and we’re geeking out over the benefits of arts and theater education. A message from our Executive Director Karen Mockensturm:

As a public advocate for theatre arts education, I can tell you that students involved in some forms of arts education (visual arts, dance, music, or theatre) are more likely to take part in a math or science fair, more likely to vote at an early age, and more likely to volunteer in their communities. I can tell you that there are studies that prove arts education involvement leads to higher Academic success.  I can tell you that for at risk students, involvement in arts education of some kind can make the difference between graduating from high school or not*.

These are data points- statistical numbers, the kind of digits that my acronym-loving area of Alabama (NASA! SLS! DOD! SMD! RSA!) goes loopy for when I present the argument for why local businesses and individuals should be actively supporting a children’s theatre. And while those data points do give me chills, they are only representative of the underlying reason why you or I should support theatre arts education: theatre arts education directly flies in the trend of digital isolation, getting students out from behind their screens and into relationship with each other. And when kids are in relationship, their world becomes a better place.

The job of an actor is to tell a story and theatre arts has a way of storytelling that engages students fundamentally it makes them more empathetic with each other as they identify the emotions of actors on stage or as they seek to understand the inner life of the character they are creating in the play they are performing.

Theatre arts promotes collaboration as students identify obstacles (How do we represent a medieval castle in our 5th period social studies classroom? How will Cinderella’s magical dress transformation happen onstage? How can we convince our audience that we are ancient mythical creatures slaying a dragon?) It helps them problem solve as a unit.  Theatre arts education is collaborative. Every team member is vital to the success of the performance– from the director, to the lead actor, to the stagehand who moves the smallest prop in place, to the wardrobe assistant, to the light board operator.

Theatre arts education is inclusive.  Theatre arts education invites difference. Students leave labels at the door when they walk into the  rehearsal room or theater. They are no longer the “popular one”, the “brainiac”, or the “strange one. Instead, they become one part of a creative team charged with telling the playwright’s story under the vision of a director.

Most importantly, theatre arts education  welcomes failure, encourages grit, and celebrates solution. For many kids, being part of a play or musical is the first time, they’ve felt   part of a team, the first time they’ve contributed to a successful group mission, and/or the first time they’ve felt validated for contribution. All while looking other people in the eyes.

A Word from Our Sponsor: PROJECTXYZ presents The Watsons Go to Birmingham

Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater (FPCT) presents The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963. The story is beloved by schoolchildren and teachers around the country as a celebration of the strength of family in the midst of hate and tragedy. FPCT is delighted to share this important story with area schools during student matinee performances. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 runs for eight performances in the Von Braun Center Playhouse February 16 through 25. Information and tickets at

This very special show is sponsored by PROJECTXYZ. PROJECTXYZ is a Huntsville-based technical solutions company using its expertise to solve problems and deliver results for clients in the United States and around the world. They provide research, design, development, integration, and sustainment of innovative solutions in engineering, logistics, information technology, and alternative energy.

We spoke with PROJECTXYZ Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Lewis about her company’s choice to sponsor FPCT’s production of The Watsons Go to Birmingham.

FPCT: What made you decide to sponsor The Watsons Go to Birmingham?

Ms. Lewis: Over a year ago, I was talking with Karen (Mockensturm-FPCT Executive Director) and she mentioned this new performance that you were working on. I got excited because there are some books that move you when you read them, and this story is one of them. I remember my family members telling stories about this time in their life and it was very similar to the experiences that the Watsons had.

FPCT: Why do think it’s important to support arts organizations?

Ms. Lewis: PROJECTXYZ believes that it is important to support local arts programs and specifically Fantasy Playhouse, because we believe these programs give access to students that might not have been exposed. Fantasy Playhouse is a non-profit organization that has been serving this community for years, by partnering with local schools and other community organization to bring the arts to life.

FPCT: We love that PROJECTXYZ’s slogan is “Solving Problems…Delivering Results”. Do you see a connection between arts education and problem solving that you might like to touch on?

Ms. Lewis: Art education is a vital part of a child’s education and can help solve some of the problems our kids are facing today.  Researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts leads to higher civic engagement, and more social cohesion. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status.

We are so grateful for PROJECTXYZ’s support of this production and delighted by the community response to this important work. We hope you will join us to see this favorite story brought to life.