Our team

  • Lisa O’Connell – Artistic Director

    A fierce advocate for regional theatre artists, Lisa O’Connell (she/her) is the founding Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, a catalyst for new works of theatre and PlaySmelter, Northern ON’s New Work Theatre Festival. Artists work created at PTD have received or been nominated for the RBC Tarragon Playwright Award, the Carol Bolt Award, Governor-General’s Award (Drama), RBC Emerging Directors Award, among others. Work created at PTD has been presented at Magnetic North Theatre Festival, SummerWorks, Canadian Stage, Tarragon, MT Space, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Theatre Aquarius, The Grand Theatre, among others. O’Connell is a two-time recipient of a Special Jury Award from Arts Awards Waterloo and has delivered the closing Keynote address at the Canadian Association of Theatre Researchers Conference. She was past Caucus Chair at the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, Advocacy Committee of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, Steering Committee Equity in Theatre and is the creator of Regional Women Lead, a national initiative to address gender parity for women in theatre. She is a recipient of a New Conversation Award (British Council/Canadian High Commission UK) for The Women’s Room with Lyth Centre, Scotland. O’Connell has been published in Canadian Theatre Review, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, among others. She divides her time between her artistic homes in Waterloo, ON and Sudbury, ON with her partner Mark Walton.


  • Matthew Heiti – Artistic Associate

    Born in a meteor crater, Matthew Heiti is a writer, actor, director and teacher working in North Ontario. He holds a BFA in Acting from Ryerson University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick. He has published a novel, The City Still Breathing (Coach House Books) and a play, Black Dog: 4 vs the wrld (Playwrights’ Canada Press). He has served as Playwright-in-residence with the Sudbury Theatre Centre and Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, working with emerging writers in Northern Ontario. He explores new work in strange places with Crestfallen (crestfallentheatre.com). In his spare time, he is usually working.


  • Jennifer Cornish – Associate Producer

    Jennifer Cornish: Trained by industry pros from Stratford, Shaw, Second City, and Kids in the Hall, Jennifer has worked in film and television, but says she has spent the best parts of her life onstage – a place she has been since age 8. A vital member of the Waterloo Region arts community, she is best known for her award-winning work in the Irish one-woman show “Myra’s Story” (Best Tragedy – United Solo Festival New York City, Best Production – London Fringe, Critic’s Pick – Hamilton Fringe.) Jennifer is a Region of Waterloo Arts Award recipient for Performing Arts.

  • Vanessa C Spence – Associate Artist

    Vanessa C Spence is a classically trained theatre actor, published author, playwright, producer, and arts educator. She is a creative entrepreneur with over six years of experience in the performance arts industry and social sectors. Vanessa is the artistic director of Virtu Arts, a production company that develops and creates live performance art that is shared in a virtual space to be enjoyed by all. At the root of her life’s work and her artistry, Vanessa seeks to inspire empathy and action by shedding light on the thought processes of women in marginalized communities. Her latest project entitled Stretch Marks, based on her self-published book of poetry explores the mental, emotional, and physical imbalances BIMOC (Black, Indigenous, Mothers of Colour) face through the many stages of motherhood. Part 1 of this three-part series focused on the moments leading up to a young woman’s decision of whether to become a mother or not. Vanessa is excited to continue the development of Stretch Marks Part 2 with the support of 2021 Women’s Room.

  • Tara Butler – Associate Artist

    Tara began her career with The National Ballet of Canada after graduating from the National Ballet School. She then danced for The Alberta Ballet and was Principal dancer for Canada’s Ballet Jorgen for 16 years. Bengt Jörgen created many lead roles in full length ballets for Tara including Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Anastasia, Coppelia, and The Nutcracker. She had the opportunity to guest perform internationally with The Hong Kong Ballet, The Ohio Ballet, Banff Festival Ballet and The Miami Hispanic International Ballet Festival. She has worked with many of Canada’s most sought after choreographers including Gioconda Barbuto, Roberto Campanella, Robert Desrosiers, Robert Glumbek, Allen Kaeja, Karen Kaeja, Malgorzata Nowaka-May, Crystal Pite, Kathleen Rea, and Wen Wei Wang. Tara worked on many creative dance project with Proartedanza, DNA Theatre, and Allison Cummings and was featured in Michael Greyeyes short dance film ‘Seven Seconds’. Tara was also part of the award winning dance film ‘Old Country’ by Allen Kaeja. Since moving to Kitchener and having her second child Tara has been teaching and coaching young dancers, choreographing, and performing as a freelance artist. Tara was invited to be a part Allen and Karen Kaeja’s Dance Ontario Lifetime achievement award performance in January 2020. Tara will be creating a full evening of dance which will be presented at The Registry Theatre in 2021 . She is thrilled to be sharing and creating with the community in partnership with Pat The Dog Theatre.

  • Kira Meyers-Guiden – Associate Artist

    Kira Meyers-Guiden (she/her) is a queer, feminist, theatre artist-scholar whose work is focused on 2SLGBTQIA+ representation and community resistance. She currently resides and is an uninvited settler on the traditional territories of the Michi Saagigg Nishnaabeg, which is colonially known as Peterborough, Ontario. She is a PhD student in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University where her research focuses on queer performance (auto)ethnography. She is an alumna of the inaugural writing unit, “The Women’s Room” by Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, which is where her work with Pat the Dog started. With the support of Pat the Dog (especially “art-mom” Lisa!), her show Queer Spawn has been showcased on stages throughout Kitchener/Waterloo, Toronto and Hamilton and virtually with National Theatre School’s #ArtApart festival. Kira has worked as an actor, playwright, co-creator, dramaturg and script consultant with various socially-aligned companies, including Page1 Theatre in KW. Her work has been featured in several academic conferences and theatre performance festivals throughout Canada and within the queer anthology, Swelling with Pride alongside her mother, Susan Meyers as co-contributor. Kira is passionate about creating queer theatrical work that strives to effect social change. More details at http://kirameyersguiden.weebly.com/ or follow on Instagram @kiraasha

  • Digital Catalyst Team – Rebecca Ballarin, Laurel Green

    Using digital tools as social technologies, the Digital Catalyst Team specializes in designing generous strategies for creating and hosting active and stimulating digital spaces using a variety of creative platforms. Taking a dramaturgical approach to digital placemaking, Rebecca Ballarin and Laurel Green create playful, accessible, and energetic methods to facilitate online connections with meaning and intention. They empower people to engage and express themselves; valuing presence, relationship-building, creative play, and collective decision-making. Bringing a wealth of experience creating and producing live theatrical events, they use sensorial prompts and low fi, analog approaches to facilitation that de-mystify digital tools and create opportunities for skill-building and resource-sharing. Working in deep collaboration is an essential part of the Digital Catalyst Team’s identity and their iterative processes for remote co-working and co-designing means they share the challenges and the joys of discovery.

  • Karen Thistle – Producer/PlaySmelter Festival

    Karen Thistle was born and raised in Sudbury where she grew up with both literary and imaginary friends. A playwright with an Honours B.A. in English and Women’s Studies from Laurentian University and a M.A. in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario, she has worked with public libraries and non-profit arts organizations. As a playwright she participated in the 2nd annual STC Playwrights’ Junction (2012) where her play “The Intermediaries” was first drafted and later included in the Public Reading Series of the 2nd annual PlaySmelter festival (2014). In 2017 she participated in the festival’s inaugural Producer’s Unit which lead to her joining PlaySmelter in 2018. She continues
    to meet and work with fellow playwrights in the Sudbury Writers Guild’s Inklings group.

  • Caitie Graham – E-Blast

    Caitie is a playwright, dramaturg, and arts educator in Toronto. She is currently Co-Director of the Young Playwrights Unit at Tarragon Theatre, where her first play was developed in 2013, and where she continues to support and mentor young artists. Select writing credits include Paradise Comics (originally presented as part of the 2014 New Voices Festival, then remounted in 2016 for Filament Incubator’s inaugural season); pose ball (Alumnae Theatre’s 2016 New Ideas Festival, and Tarragon Theatre’s Live Wires Series 2016); and GASH (Alumnae Theatre’s 2017 Fireworks Festival). She is a running-up recipient of the 2018 Ellen Ross Stuart Award. She is currently adapting her play GASH for a young audience, and was presented at the 2019 Ergo Pink Festival.