Our Team at Talespinner Children's Theatre
Executive Artistic Director: Heather Utsler-Smith, MFA (she/her/hers)
Heather Utsler-Smith first found her love of Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) as a Teaching Artist with the Phoenix Theatre for Children (now CATCO is Kids) in Columbus Ohio. She is a proud graduate of Bowling Green State University, where she earned her bachelors degree in Theatre, with a dual specialization in Acting/Directing and Youth Theatre/Puppetry, and also Eastern Michigan University where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Applied Drama and Theatre for the Young, and a Master’s Certificate in Arts Entrepreneurship. She comes to Talespinner Children’s Theatre after having previously worked with theatres throughout Ohio and Michigan, and having served as the Performing Arts Director for the Broad-Y Academy and founder and Director of the Theatre Institute in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Some favorite directing credits include This is Not a Pipe Dream for Bowling Green State University’s Treehouse Troupe, a touring TYA company, Little Women, Into the Woods, Children of Eden, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood for the Theatre Institute, and music directing and choreographing the regional premiere of Gideon and the Blundersnorp for Children’s Theatre Workshop.
“Theatre allows us the opportunity to step into the shoes of others, helping us to understand ourselves and the world around us more deeply and with greater empathy. I am excited for the opportunities Talespinner Children’s Theatre has to share theatre experiences with Cleveland’s young people and families, and I am honored to lead a company with such an incredible tradition of partnership, community building, and artistic excellence.”
Heather is additionally an experienced Accessibility Designer. She brings her passion for utilizing the principles of Universal Design, and fully incorporating access tools into the entirety of productions and theatrical spaces, and looks forward to the continued growth of Talespinner’s accessibility programming.
Director of Education: Matt Loehrke, MA (he/him/his)
Production and Operations Manager: Ren Twardzik (they/them/theirs)
Ren 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. Some of their selected credits are reasons to be pretty at The Nerve in Dayton, Christmas Carol, Second City and Two Trains Running at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Coriolanus at Requiem Theatrical and MacBeth at Inbocca Performance.
They specialize in found theatre spaces and love being able to bring theatre to people. After being away from the Cleveland for almost a decade, they are so excited to be back in the to work with the wonderful arts community they grew up with.
Teaching Artists at Talespinner Children's Theatre
Lorna graduated from Bowling Green State University with a BA in Musical Theatre in 2020. In addition to TCT, she has worked with Children’s Theatre Workshop in Toledo, Ohio, and toured with Missoula Children’s Theatre during the summer of 2022. As someone who started performing onstage at 8 years old, Lorna understands the importance of theatre in a young person’s life, and is delighted to be able to give a similar experience to her students at TCT and beyond.
De’Aja Mon’e is a Cleveland native. De’Aja is a recent graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, finishing with a Bachelors in Fine Arts degree in Acting. Recent performances include “Greenwood, An American Dream Destroyed” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Karamu House Theatre. Most recently, De’Aja was featured as “Tabitha” on the T.V.Series “Figure it Out” which was featured on channel 3 news and will be released on Tubi this year. De’Aja has always had a passion for performing arts education and is so excited to begin cultivating creatively with the students. De’Aja takes great honor in not only helping the students develop as artists, but also in being a positive role model to the students.
Will Potts is an actor and teacher. Originally from Chattanooga TN he graduated in 2021 with a BFA in acting from Baldwin Wallace and has pursued a career spanning CPT Beck center and CPH, and he is very excited to start his Talespinner teaching with his first class this year! He loves to act, and loves to create and is very excited to see what we can create together.