After decade, Know Theatre creative leaders decide to leave

After a combined two decades at the helm, the Know Theatre of Cincinnati’s creative team has made the decision to move on.

Associate Artistic Director Tamara Winters stepped down in September in order to pursue other opportunities as a director and fundraiser for the arts. Producing Artistic Director Andrew Hungerford plans to stay on through the remainder of Know Theatre’s 26th season.

Andrew Hungerford

Over the course of their tenure together, Hungerford and Winters have played a role in a combined 59 MainStage productions, 15 SecondStage productions, more than 100 new plays and touring educational shows as part of the Know To Go program. They’ve also helped direct the production of the annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

Winters described the Know as “Cincinnati’s theatrical heartbeat,” stressing the freedom, creativity and sense of self-expression it allows for the artists and the theater fans alike.

“I will be forever grateful for my time on this team, with these artists, and with this community, and I look forward to discovering what’s next for the Know,” she said.

A centerpiece of Hungerford and Winters time with the Know will be their efforts to make the performance arts more accessible.

They duo helped the Know introduce a free or reduced ticket price program, The Welcome Experiment, in 2014-15. Since then, they’ve helped the organization pioneer sliding-scale pricing and establish a long-term commitment to provide a living wage for artists.

The Know Theatre has featured 54% of MainStage plays authored by women and underrepresented gender identities, and 31% of written by BIPOC artists over the past 10 years.

Like other organizations, the Know Theatre endured COVID-19 and a global lockdown that fundamentally changed the theater-going experience.

Under Hungerford and Winters’ leadership, the organization developed a digital strategy – an audio play program called Radio Know, all digital and hybrid Fringe performances, video on-demand options and productions specifically designed for the screen – that the company continues to use, and benefit from, today.

Hungerford admitted the pandemic took a toll on him. However, he said prior to starting at the Know he had given himself a “hard limit” of 10 years. He referred to his time as artistic director as “a dream job, the kind that could fill a career.” But the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music MFA split time between the Queen City and his home in Los Angeles, and the job proved to be “all-consuming” over time.

“When I initially took on the role as producing artistic director after six years as resident scenic and lighting designer, it was an opportunity to provide service to a company and a community that I love, to continue making theater with incredibly talented artists, and to find ways to elevate voices and kinds of work that weren’t often seen on Cincinnati’s stages,” Hungerford said.

“I initially had a three-year contract, thinking that would be my full tenure. And then there was more that we all wanted to do, and it turned into five years. And then seven years,” he continued.

Leaders at small arts organizations know that the positions can be all consuming, he said. But he stressed there’s a “big difference between having an all-consuming job in one’s 30s and in one’s 40s.”

“I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved as a company and as an artistic community over the last 10 years, the inclusive representation we’ve cultivated on and off stage, and the amazing productions and audience experiences that we’ve created,” Hungerford added.

The Know Theatre board of directors publicly thanked both Hungerford and Winters for their commitment to the company over the past 10 years and nine-and-a-half years, respectively. The nine-member board’s joint statement commended their team for creating a “safe place for artists to play and create work that is relevant to the community and times that we live in”.

As for what’s next for the Know Theatre, that remains unclear. 

Its current MainStage season concludes with three consecutive world premieres, including a co-production with CCM written by Hungerford in April.

The Know board members voiced their intentions to begin a search for a new creative team in the coming days, and committed to transparency throughout the transition process.

Regardless of who’s picked to lead the Know next, its board promised it would remain an independent theater company.

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve striven to be a good steward of your theatrical playground, and I’m excited to see what innovations the next leaders of the company will bring,” Hungerford said.

Discover more from Movers & Makers

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.