Know Theatre names Fringe Festival vet new creative lead

Know Theatre of Cincinnati is turning to an established stage director with deep connections to the local acting community to serve as its new creative leader.

The board of trustees for the Over-the-Rhine-based company announced on Monday it had selected Bridget Leak as its next producing artistic director.

The East Price Hill resident has a diverse range of in-house and freelance assignments, including stints with national theater organizations such as Cleveland Play House, Manhattan Theatre Club in New York and Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. She also has ties to a number of regional favorites, like Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and Xavier University.

Bridget Leak

Leak, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in directing from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, co-founded Queen City Flash with her husband, playwright Trey Tatum. The local organization focuses on cultivating new works and providing broader access to the arts through free community programming.

No stranger to OTR, Leak has directed 12 productions in conjunction with the Know Theatre of Cincinnati over the years.

“I am ready to collaborate with our local artists and audiences alike,” noted Leak, who emphasized a desire to continue The Know’s “long legacy of connecting our region to stories risky and beautiful, told both at the cutting edge or too close for comfort.” 

“Cincinnati has a vibrant arts community, full of daring artists and passionate audiences, both hungry for the weird, the wild, the bold,” she added. “I see The Know as the perfect institution for these two forces to intersect.”

A creative shakeup in OTR

Leak’s selection concludes an eight-month national search to find a successor for Andrew Hungerford, who served as The Know’s producing artistic director for the past 10 years. In October, he outlined his plans to leave following the company’s 26th season.

The Know’s former associate artistic director, Tamara Winters, stepped down in September to pursue other opportunities.

Andrew Hungerford

Those changes marked a major creative shakeup for The Know, which has grown into one of the region’s most dynamic small arts organizations since its founding in 1997. Today, it hosts a mainstage season, a second-stage season focused on local artists and Play(under)ground, a post-show program designed to strengthen the relationship between performers and their audience. It’s also the organizer of the annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

Leak’s productions have won six Fringe Festival awards.

Board President Kathryn Hoffman led the search for Hungerford’s replacement, with assistance from the rest of the board, Know staff, key artists, stakeholders and community members.

“Bridget is the most prepared person in the room at all times,” Hoffman said of Leak following what she called an “exhaustive” and thorough search process. “She possesses the talent, organization, and relationships with other artists and organizations that will allow Know to grow our community of artists, donors and audiences.”

What to ‘Know’ about this new era

Hoffman said Leak’s collaborative leadership style will create a “new chapter for the organization that will bring new and old audiences back to the theater.” She referred to her newest hire as a “relationship builder by nature and is ready to hit the ground sprinting.”

One benefit working in Leak’s favor was her history of working with many of the leaders, actors and crew members associated with The Know. Hungerford, for example, worked with Leak on “a delightful variety of projects at the Know over the last decade” – from “Serials!” to the mainstage, and various points in between.

When she assumes her new role May 1, Leak will become the fifth producing artistic director in the Know Theatre of Cincinnati’s 27-year history.

“I’ve watched her spectacular work at the Fringe and theaters around Cincinnati captivate and move audiences, subverting and expanding expectations of what theater can be,” Hungerford said of Leak. “I’m thrilled to pass the producing artistic director baton of The Know to an artist of Bridget’s caliber and expect this theatrical playground to thrive under her leadership.”

The Know’s board of trustees plans to host an official introduction for Leak on May 6 during Frontiers Unknown, an annual fundraiser to benefit the organization’s future. It’ll take place at 8 p.m. at Covington Yard in Covington, Ky.

“The Know is incredibly fortunate to enjoy such a committed community who continually show their love,” Hoffman said. We encourage everyone to join us… to welcome Bridget and celebrate our next producing artistic director.”

Know Theatre of Cincinnati

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