The King of the Animals

Written by: Gail Nyoka

Directed by: Dar’ Jon Bentley

Dar’Jon Bentley (he/him) (Director) has appeared in over several theatrical and film productions around Cleveland and Pittsburg Area. You may have seen him recently as “Camper #1” in American Rust on Showtime Channel,  “Chuck DM Biggs”, “Pontius Pilate”, “Dorante”, and “Eddie Carbone” at Baldwin Wallace University and may other productions. You may have also seen his film work with the films like “Boiling Point (48 Hour Horror Film Festival)”, “Madam and Her Madam”, and a variety of other ones too! Dar’Jon currently works at Cleveland Playhouse as a Teaching Artisit working with grades Kindergarden through 6th grade! Two years ago, as an actor, Dar’Jon walked across the stage as Tortoise and Covid-19 took that away.  So now, with a fresh mind, he has come back to do the show some justice and reinvent the show for a new audience. A native of Cleveland, Ohio,  Dar’Jon can be reached at

Anthony (Andy) Zicari (he/him) (Production Stage Manager) is a proud Cleveland Heights native and product of the fantastic performing arts programs in the CHUH school district. While earning a BA in Musical Studies at Oberlin College and Conservatory, he found his calling in stage management, and worked on shows for Oberlin’s Theatre and Opera Theatre Departments, as well as for schools and theatres across the Greater Cleveland area, including Dobama Theatre where he was this season’s Production Intern. Andy sends thanks to his parents, his loving partner, and Ren for welcoming him aboard the SS Talespinner!

Dionne Atchinson (she/her) (Woman, Hare, Fairy) was one of the original company members of The King of the Animals. She has returned this energetic and exciting production for another round! 

Matt Loehrke (he/him) (Spider, Bird, Lion) is excited to be making his TCT (and Cleveland) debut! He holds a B.A in Theatre Arts from Linfield University and an M.A. in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Matt toured extensively with the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) performing and teaching in over forty states and seven countries. For the past five years, Matt worked at the home office of MCT as their Education Director creating workshops, scripts, and classes. His work was awarded in 2019 by Arts Missoula as their Arts Educator of the Year. Some of his favorite roles from the MCT mainstage include Horton (Seussical), Jacob Marley (A Christmas Carol; The Musical), and Grandpa Joe (Willy Wonka). He also taught and performed for three years with the Northwest Children’s Theatre & School in Portland, OR, and is the Class Director for OpenSpot Theatre’s programming in Ohio. When not onstage, Matt enjoys making (and having) tons of fun as the Entertainment Manager for Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, and spending time with his wife Anna and their puppies, Kiwi and Mojo.

Micki McNiece (she/her) (Chief Bird, Elephant) is excited to be in her first production with Tailspinner Children’s Theatre.  Micki  is a kindergarten teacher who holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education  and a minor in Theater.  When she was about 9 years old, she fell in love with acting after seeing a production of The Hobbit and has been involved in theater ever since.

Micki has performed in various productions at The Fine Arts Association, Chagrin Valley Little Theater, The Clague Playhouse, Twin Masks Performing Arts Center and even in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She has directed productions and sponsored a drama club at her elementary school. 

She hopes that this show inspires the children in the audience to fall in love with the theater arts as she did.  Her performances are dedicated to the students at Chestnut Elementary School.  Chestnut Rocks!

Thanks to Mike and to the cast and crew of The King of the Animals!

Will Potts (he/him) (Tortious, Python, Leopard) is so excited to make his debut at Tale spinner this year! You may have seen will in She Kills Monsters (Orcus) or in Last days of Judas Iscariot (Judge). He is so excited for you to see this show and would like to thank his family and friends for the endless support. 

Eli B. Fuentes Aguirre (they/she) (Understudy) is a proud Chicanx Cleveland-based actor making their Talespinner debut with King of the Animals! They received their A.A. in Theatre Performance from Sinclair Community College in Dayton and their B.F.A. in Acting from Baldwin Wallace University (where they also double majored in Spanish), and have worked in theatre education through Talespinner and Cleveland Public Theatre education programs. Some favorite theatre credits are Marisol in Marisol at Cleveland Public Theatre and Valentina in Valentina y la sombra del diablo at Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center. They are an avid dancer at salsa/bachata/merengue events in the Cleveland area, and also love walking outside and journaling.


Design Team: 

Costume Designer: Melanie Boeman

Light Designer: Josh Heidinger is excited to be back at TCT! He’s been the resident designer for Talespinners Children’s Theatre since 2015. He’s also designed for MorrisonDance, Dancing Wheels, LatinUs Theatre, and Cleveland Public Theatre. He also works for/has worked for GroundWorks Dance Theatre, NEOS Dance, Heinz Poll Summer Festival, Canton Ballet Company, and The Cleveland Ballet.

Set Designer: Patrick Ciamacco

Original Props and Puppet Designer: Lydia Chanenka

Original Scenic Painter: Carrie Williams

Technical Director: Rachel (Ren) Twardzik joined Talespinner in 2021 and was a part of the effort to reopen TCT; they are so excited to be working in children’s theatre again. They are a graduate of the University of Dayton in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Technical Theatre. They’ve worked for several theaters in Ohio, mostly as a stage manager but also as a light designer, a scenic carpenter and painter. Currently they are the Operations and Production Manager at Talespinner Children’s Theatre.