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May 11, 2023

Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theater and Academy connects Huntsville kids to their futures

  • , community impact

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Today, we’re introducing you to one of our Community Foundation of Huntsville’s Digital Inclusion Fund grant recipients, Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy, a Alabama based nonprofit that uses the theater to help kids develop real world skills. Karen Mockensturm, Executive Director, shares how they’re implementing technical theater and performing arts training for local youth with Google Fiber’s support for their tech theatre lab. 

At Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy (FPCTA), we teach life skills through stage skills. It’s our goal that every child who walks through our doors leaves empowered to be an advocate for themself and feels inspired to tell their own story.

This mission started at an unusual time. As you may know, Huntsville is also known as “Rocket City” due to the development of the, yes, rockets in our city that put the first people on the moon. In accordance with this fact, FPCTA was founded in 1961 — the same time our city population was massively expanding due to a large influx of people supporting the aerospace and scientific communities. 

This was part of a major expansion of Huntsville’s arts community. Along with FPCTA, the Huntsville Ballet was founded; the Huntsville Arts Museum had a major expansion; the Youth Symphony was founded; and our Huntsville Symphony went professional. Simply put: This was a time when our region was majorly defining its arts and culture landscape.

Since then, we’ve had more than a million people come through our doors. Today we serve as a gateway for children’s theatre and professional culture arts in the area, at this point serving around 31,000 people a year. 


For the most part that means teaching performing arts skills, but there’s always been an element of technical theater that permeates what we do. Through our eight-person-space STEAM Lab, we teach the foundations and the intricacies of lighting design, audio engineering, set design, props making, costume design, and more. 

This is why we’re incredibly excited that the Google Fiber Digital Inclusion grant has supported us to launch our tech theater lab which is key to preparing today's students for pre-advanced manufacturing, audio engineering and other creative industry careers. This is the pilot program for a part of our planned capital expansion which includes a 100% accessible, 35,700 square foot theatre arts campus. This brand new facility will feature a new 355 seat theater, a flexible black box space, classroom spaces, a dance studio — and a full tech lab, including separate film and music studios.

I was hired in 2012 as Executive Director with the charge of making sure that our organization would move smoothly into the next iteration of our long-term legacy. In knowing we have support through so many channels and seeing our theater step into a bigger pair of shoes, I know we’re well on our way to accomplishing exactly that.

Posted by Karen Mockensturm, Executive Director, Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy