People of Fairyland
Here are some of the people who make Children’s Fairyland the special place it is.
C.J. Hirschfield, Executive Director
C.J. joined Children’s Fairyland as executive director in 2002 after a distinguished 25-year career in cable television. But long before that, she visited Fairyland with her daughter, Micah. “I remember thinking Fairyland was unique, and that we are very lucky to have this special place in Oakland,” C.J. says.
Fairyland’s focus on reading readiness is one reason C.J. loves her position. She’s volunteered in community efforts to promote childhood literacy for many years. She served on the Oakland Library Advisory Commission for four years, including two years as chairperson, and for ten years on the board of the Oakland Parents’ Literacy Project, which sponsors family reading nights at low-performing Oakland elementary schools. C.J. also served as two-term chairperson of the board of directors of the California Attractions and Parks Association, which promotes park safety and high professional standards. She currently serves on the mayor’s education cabinet.
C.J. graduated from Stanford University with a degree in communications. She lives in Oakland and loves the fact that she can walk to work.
Ann Hyde, Facilities Manger
Is the carousel spinning? Is the Bubble Elf blowing bubbles? Are the birthday party areas ready for “showtime”? These are just a few of the questions Ann Hyde answers every day. In her role, Ann is responsible for all of the park’s day-to-day functions. Fortunately for us, she has lots of experience managing complex programs. She came to Fairyland in 2006 after spending nearly 30 years in the City of Oakland’s building maintenance division managing structural, plumbing, painting, and playground safety projects. Ann shares her three-and-a-half-acre home in Clayton with two spoiled llamas and a kelpie.
Randal Metz, Director, Storybook Puppet Theater
At age 10, San Leandro native Randal Metz won an audition to become a Fairyland Personality. He spent the next year portraying the Mad Hatter at Fairyland—and he never left. While still in grade school he apprenticed with Lewis Mahlmann, the creator of Fairyland’s Storybook Puppet Theater. Mahlmann taught him how to construct puppets, write scripts, and design sets. Later, he studied with TV puppeteer Lettie Shubert, Disneyland window designer Bob Baker, and Muppets head writer Jerry Juhl.
From 1979 through 1999, as Fairyland’s artistic director, Randal designed sets, taught the Children’s Theater Program, created publicity, and managed staff. Today, Randal takes great pride in directing America’s longest-running puppet theater and bringing high standards of creative excellence to every production.
To kids who think they might enjoy a career in puppetry, he says, “Stick to your dream and learn everything you can!” Randal has a B.A. in theater arts from San Francisco State University.
Lewis Mahlmann, Storybook Puppet Theater Director, 1967-1990
For over forty years, Lewis Mahlmann was responsible for bringing literature to life through his remarkable puppet shows at Children Fairyland’s Storybook Puppet Theater. Many generations of families enjoyed the gentleness and charm of his miniature classics. A prominent Bay Area puppeteer when our theater opened in 1956, Mahlmann served as puppetry consultant and builder while also designing Fairyland features such as the Japanese Tea Garden and the Emerald City Stage. His puppet-show creations — “Alice in Wonderland,” “Aladdin,” “Cinderella,” “Thumbelina,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and many others — are among Fairyland’s most beloved productions.
Lewis’s life was inspired by his art, his love of theater, and the many lessons he shared with those around him. His last gift to us was the promise that his puppet tales will continue to be presented in their original format at Fairyland’s Storybook Puppet Theater. “It was my way of showing people my art, to teach them good lessons. It’s a wonderful way of saying ‘I love you."
Doyle Ott, Director, Children’s Theatre Program
Doyle Ott oversees all aspects of Fairyland's Children's Theatre as well as establishing and maintaining community partnerships with arts and educational organizations via the use of the park's theatre facilities.
Doyle directs, performs, and teaches throughout the Bay Area. As a scholar, he presents and publishes research dealing with theatre and circus education internationally. In addition to his duties at Fairyland, Doyle lectures in theatre at Sonoma State University.
Doyle holds a Ph.D. in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University, an MA in Arts Education from San Francisco State University, and a BA from UC Irvine. He is also a graduate of San Francisco's Clown Conservatory and is an authorized Feldenkrais instructor.
Children’s Fairyland Board of Directors
Theresa Nelson - President
Ron Zeno - Vice President
Jamie Flaherty Evans