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 Exceptional Inclusion programming. 

Director of Education: Matt Loehrke, MA (he/him/his)

Matt’s 20-year career in Theatre for Young Audiences has taken him to over 40 states and seven countries performing and teaching with the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT). He also served the education departments of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Northwest Children’s Theatre and School (Portland, OR), and OpenSpot Theatre (Detroit, MI). For the past 10 years, Matt served MCT in their touring department and as their Education Director. His work for the Missoula community was awarded in 2019 by Arts Missoula as their Arts Educator of the Year. He holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Linfield University and an MA in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
“Being a military kid (Coast Guard), I had the opportunity to live in a variety of communities. While my house kept changing, I found my home with theatre as the process of moving and joining a new community felt hand-in-hand with being part of a production. I am overjoyed to bring my experiences and passion to my ancestral home of Ohio to serve TCT and the greater Cleveland area!”

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.