Advisory Board

Stephani Atkins

Stephani Atkins works as the Executive Director for StoryArk. In this role, she oversees the planning and implementation of creative writing opportunities for secondary students at The Shire. She also serves as the executive producer and host of the radio show Voices in the Valley heard every Saturday morning at 10 AM on KLBB 1220. In addition, Ms. Atkins leads The Shire’s Audio Drama Team as writing mentor and executive producer of the radio and podcast series HUSH. In her past positions, Ms. Atkins has headed up youth programming, developed curriculum, initiated new ministries and organized events for a number of non-profits including mega churches, public schools and advocacy groups. She just recently worked as a marketing director for Liberty Classical Academy and has been involved in public relations as a volunteer for various arts organizations. She has served on numerous boards including The Partnership Plan, Stillwater Public Library Foundation, Students Take Action Network, and Parents United for Public Schools. Ms. Atkins graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois with a liberal arts degree that focused on journalism, American culture and secondary education.

Randal Berger BW

Randal Berger

Randal Berger (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) has worked professionally as an actor, director, producer and educator since 1988. He received his BFA from Texas Christian University and thereafter began his career in Dallas/Ft. Worth. Since moving to the Twin Cities in 1991 Randal has performed on stage at The Old Log, The Ordway, The Fitzgerald, The Music Box, Pillsbury House, The Margolis Brown Company, The Minneapolis Theatre Garage, and The Playwright’s Center. He has also produced, performed and directed productions for the MN Fringe Festival. He is a founding member of The Burning House Group Theater Company (BHG) and has performed, directed, produced and taught with them since 1994. In addition to his teaching capacity with BHG, Randal has taught classes for Upstream Arts; an organization that enhances the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through arts education. Randal’s voiceover credits include the lead role of Kyle Katarn in Star Wars: Dark Forces audiobook trilogy series. He has performed in numerous on-camera and voiceover commercial campaigns for Hardy’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Mall of America, to name a few. His feature films credit include Herman USA and Ode to Joy, as well as starring in the 48-hour Film Festival’s "Best Film"Buddy Buddy. Randal has volunteered his time supporting his fellow actors, by serving on the regional board of AEA (Actors’ Equity Association). Presently he serves on both the Twin Cities local board and, as the Twin Cities’ sole representative, on the national board of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors’ Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). In 1992 Randal established and continues to run a small IT consulting company, Randal Berger Consulting, which serves small to medium sized business. He currently lives with his family in Stillwater, Minnesota, restoring their 1880’s Victorian house.

Jen Bertsch - Photo black and white

Jen Bertsch

Jen’s offered professional coaching and training for 10 years. With a direct and engaging style, she has a natural talent for digging deep and asking tough questions that get straight to the heart of an issue. Specializing in working with leaders of multi-generational organizations to create innovative, top-performing, and fun teams.

Helping people lead well and achieve more has been her passion. While at the Duluth Chamber, she drove an organizational rebrand, ran record-setting membership campaigns, and expanded programming to include one of Minnesota’s first young professional organizations in 2005. Her work earned her the Duluth News Tribune’s 20 Under 40 Award.

Her work starting Duluth’s young professional group earned her Duluth News Tribune’s 20 Under 40 Award. Sustainable cultures are what Jen does best. She created a team of 80+ internal coaches for a non-profit, helping community leaders become independent, engaged and confident. The team expanded internationally. With her husband and two kids, she enjoys the outdoors, local arts and building community wherever she finds herself.

Jen is a graduate of the Advanced Coaching Program at Coach U and has extensive training in personal branding. She currently serves as a guest lecturer at the College of St. Scholastica in a Graduate Studies program, she sits on the Board of Directors at LHB (a Minnesota-based architecture and engineering firm) and is President of her PEO Chapter, an organization that promotes education for women.


David James Carlson

David James Carlson has worked professionally in theatre, music and education since 1975 and is recently retired after 14 years with the Anoka Hennepin school district STEP Music Media Technology program. David was the course designer and teacher, focusing on studio recording, performance, tech, and radio broadcasting. He taught theatre at Minneapolis Community College for 5 years where he directed and designed the plays, 2 years at Lothian College of Design, and many other schools. He was an original company member for 8 seasons with Mixed Blood Theatre as a designer, actor and musician. He spent 5 years with the Sesame Street Live technical department, and was a technician/carpenter and special effects designer for the 1992 Super Bowl Halftime show. David has been an actor and musician for Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, Cricket Theater, History Theater, Ordway Theater and others. He has produced 3 original musicals, is writing his 18th script, is currently recording his 7th CD, does voiceover work and still performs at venues and festivals.


Susan Hovey

Susan Hovey is the artistic director of St. Croix Ballet. St. Croix Ballet offers classical ballet training for children and adults as well as performance opportunities throughout the year. It is the home of the annual Stillwater Nutcracker which has been part of the Stillwater community for 26 years. Susan has a BFA from Creighton University, and a Minnesota state teaching license from Hamline University. Susan danced professionally in the United States and Germany and owned and directed a ballet school in Kiel, Germany.


Gayle Knutson

Gayle Knutson is an independent filmmaker. Her dramatic short film, GRANDFATHER’S BIRTHDAY starring Robert Prosky (Hill Street Blues, Mrs. Doubtfire) won 23 awards worldwide including a regional Emmy. Gayle has also produced and directed award-winning short documentaries. Her work is now housed in permanent film collections at the Library of Congress, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Minnesota History Center. Along with her independent projects, Gayle has also produced and directed work for a variety of clients as diverse as 3M, American Express, PBS and private educational institutions. Gayle recently published her first children’s book, FULL OF SMILES. She also serves as curator for Marine Documentary Night, a film series in Marine on St Croix.

Rachael Kozlowski

Rachael Kozlowski is an experienced digital marketing consultant and professional actress. She is the VP of Marketing at the DemandQuest Marketing Institute in Minneapolis, offering classes in digital marketing and advertising, and is Google AdWords & Google Analytics certified. She also works as an on-camera and voice talent for film and commercial work and is represented by Moore Creative Talent.

Rachael is originally from St. Paul, MN and attended UW-Madison and AMDA. As an actress, she has performed Off-Broadway in New York as well as in San Francisco, Charlotte, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Mobile, Madison, and the Twin Cities. She was a company member of three improv groups, has taught acting & modeling across the country, and is known for her role as the angry wife in the Shakespeare “Ugly Stik” fishing commercial. She is involved in many Stillwater events and sits on the board of Community Thread. She is also currently directing the First Grade Plays at Stonebridge Elementary which she finds absolutely adorable.


Dr. Pat O’Keefe

Pat O'Keefe is a multifaceted performer who is active and in demand in a wide variety of musical styles and genres. He has performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras and wind ensembles, wailed away for belly dancers, and rocked samba in the streets. He draws upon this multiplicity of experiences and interests in his performances, which employ a "superb control of extended techniques," and have been described as "passionate," "explosive," and "breath-stoppingly exquisite." He is currently the woodwind player for the new music ensemble Zeitgeist, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has also performed and recorded with such groups as ETHEL, California E.A.R. Unit, and Cleveland New Music Associates. Pat is also drawn to the music of other cultures, and has studied Brazilian, Turkish, and Korean music with acknowledged masters. He performs regularly on both woodwinds and percussion with the groups Batucada do Norte, Choro Borealis, and Music Mundial in the Twin Cities.

Pat holds a BM (with Performer’s Certificate) from Indiana University, an MM (with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance) from the New England Conservatory, and a DMA from the University of California, San Diego. He has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and in 2015 he was awarded a Performing Musician Fellowship from the McKnight Foundation. He currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.


Jeannie Pacolt

Jeannie Pacolt lives in Hudson, WI, with her husband Gary. She has three children and 4 grandchildren. In 1986, Ms. Pacolt started the business, Lavender Thymes in downtown Hudson, where she enjoyed 23 years of owning and operating this successful business. As a business owner, she learned a great deal about all that owning a business entails: marketing, staff training, accounting, networking and much more. She now works full time with a dermatologist/surgeon at Dermatology Consultants in Vadnais Heights MN. As a performer, she started dance in her teens, in ballet and with a strong emphasis in jazz. Jeannie, with another dancer, initiated the dance program at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, where she has taught, choreographed, performed, and orchestrated recitals. She then focused on dancing and performing with various studios in the Twin Cities. For several years, she worked extensively with Scott Grossman, a well-known dancer, choreographer, and actor from L.A. She performed, under his direction, in the 1992 Super Bowl Halftime show as a main dancer with Gloria Estefan.


Christopher Russo

Christopher Russo launched his career with L’Oréal of Paris in New York City. His duties were teaching fashion makeup, hair coloring and appearing at important trade shows in and around the city and the country as a platform artist. His interest in furthering his makeup career brought him to Hollywood where he taught at a professional makeup school and designed/worked with a children’s theatre. As his previous travels with L’Oréal brought him throughout the midwest, Mr. Russo decided to settle there to continue his work. While there, he experienced one of the highlights of his career in working and designing for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Chicago Symphony under the baton of David Barenboim. Many opera and theater works have ensued since then and now Mr. Russo continues his career teaching in schools (former faculty member at The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) and theaters throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, most recently with the Minnesota Opera. Hi-Definition television and film work still continues, but that’s another story!


Brian Sweeney

For over 20 years, Brian Sweeney has been involved in helping launch numerous development, educational, and arts-related organizations in the St. Croix Valley.

He was co-founder of St. Croix Montessori, founding board member of St. Croix Preparatory Academy charter school, and co-founder of St. Croix Ballet, where he continues to lend his business and organization expertise. He was also part of the development team that developed Terra Springs, a condominium development on Main Street in Stillwater, which turned a former blighted city-owned property into 175 condominiums.

Brian is currently an affordable housing developer with the Kansas City-based Cohen-Esrey Affordable Partners. Based in Stillwater, he works in dozens of communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa where he is involved in the restoration of a number of historic properties for senior and workforce housing. A former Director of Planning and Economic Development Director for the City of St. Paul, Brian has also consulted with numerous charter schools in the Twin Cities, particularly as it relates to their facility needs.

Before moving to Stillwater 25 years ago, Brian worked in Washington, DC as a press secretary for a congressman and was a political appointee in a presidential administration working at both the Department of Interior and Department of Energy. He is a graduate of The George Washington University, Washington, DC where he was an Urban Studies major.


Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson has been a piano and voice educator for 32 years, with a studio of more than 50 students each week, in all ages from child to adult. She teaches all genres of music including musical theater, classical, and jazz, in both voice and piano. In theater, she works as a vocal coach for performers in community and high school theaters throughout the Twin Cities and Wisconsin. She has also acted as music director and orchestra master for several local theater productions, including The Music Man, Annie, Nunsense, 101 Dalmatians, and Bye Bye Birdie. As a classically trained singer, Cindy has performed as a soloist for several choirs and churches in the Twin Cities area and was the staff soloist at the Basilica of St Mary in Minneapolis. As a jazz singer, she has toured as a soloist with the Contemporary Christian group New Song Singers, and performed as lead vocalist with a jazz combo for the Presbyterian Churches. On stage, she has appeared as a principal performer in productions at various community theaters, including Nunsense, Gigi, The Music Man, Misbehavin', Nuncrackers, and The Sound of Music.




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