Love List: Tamara Winters

Tamara Winters is new to Know Theatre, but not to Cincinnati. She spent two years at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) a decade ago as a member of the intern company after her 2004 graduation from Ohio University.

Name: Tamara Winters

Age: 33

Title: Associate Artistic Director at Know Theatre

Hometown: Born in Monterey, Calif., but passed through Virginia, San Francisco and Athens, Ohio on her way to Cincinnati, which she says, “feels more like a hometown than any other place I’ve lived.”

Why we love her:

Because her job is her passion.

T

amara Winters is new to Know Theatre, but not to Cincinnati. She spent two years at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) a decade ago as a member of the intern company after her 2004 graduation from Ohio University. Under the watchful eye of ETC Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers, Winters worked on memorable productions including The Exonerated and I Am My Own Wife . She stuck around for a second season, helping Meyers with scripts and grant writing.

Then she was off to New York City to put her experience to work and learn more about directing by earning an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. About a year ago she saw an ad for the position of associate artistic director at Know Theatre. She landed in town just before the 2014 Fringe Festival, which the theater company produces annually.

“I have found what is, quite literally, my dream job,” she says. “I get to direct plays and get people excited to see plays and play with fun people I like — and also pay my rent. What’s not to love?”

She’s now staged nearly 20 plays, including her Know debut last fall, Bureau of Missing Persons. Soon she’ll be assembling Hearts Like Fists (March 27-April 25), a superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love. The villainous Doctor X sneaks into apartments and injects lovers with a lethal poison, but Lisa, a new member of the elite Crimefighters, intends to use love to overcome evil.

When Winters (now married to fellow OU grad and ETC intern Daniel) isn’t at work at Know’s Jackson Street theater in Over-the-Rhine, she likes to explore Cincinnati. “We just joined the observatory, partly because we’re fascinated with the cosmos and partly because it’s a deeply cool place,” she says. “I love that citizens once felt compelled to create a space where they could contemplate the stars.”

How do you define passion? How is passion different from love? What are you most passionate about? 

Passion is a fire in your belly that fuels you without depleting you. It’s like love set on fire, pushing you to be and do better. I’m passionate about finding ways to connect in this screwed-up, frustrating, isolating world. I think that’s what I do when I tell stories onstage — I find ways for you to connect with me, my actors, the writer and the person next to you in the audience.

What do you love about Cincinnati?

I love that it’s big and cosmopolitan enough to be full of brilliant artists and savvy audiences, yet small enough that I can get to know people who come to Know Theatre. The word “community” gets tossed around a lot, but when it comes to the theater scene in Cincinnati, it’s no cliché: Know is practically a community center for those who dig on indie-style theater.

It’s Friday night after a long week. Where would you love to be?

In my pajamas, mainlining Netflix, because I’m a bit of an introvert. In my job, I go hard: I talk to awesome patrons all day on the phone, I advocate for Know with funders, I spend 30-plus hours per week in rehearsal guiding actors. So when I have a Friday off, it’s time to let someone else take over the storytelling for a while.

What is a phrase or motto you live your life by?

Take the high road wherever you can. Don’t beat yourself up about it when you fail.

What’s the best lesson life has taught you about love?  

Love is not something that happens to you. Love is something you open yourself up to. Love can’t get a foothold if you close yourself off to possibility. You have to open that door — and not just once. For love to breathe and grow and survive, you have to be able to keep opening that door every time your fear wants to close you off. Love is work. That’s how you know it’s worth it. ©

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