The Kitchen Theatre Company recently named Cornell alum, David Winitsky ’93 as Interim Producing Artistic Director. KTC is an important part of the local Ithacan theater scene. “I’m so excited to be at the Kitchen. It’s in depth, it’s high quality and it really creates great conversations.” said Winitsky.
Winitsky is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of New York’s Jewish Plays Project and has held the positions of General Manager at HERE Arts Center in New York and Producing Director at Playwrights Theater of New Jersey. As a producer, he has developed many plays in New York and has directed or assisted on Broadway, off-Broadway, and regionally at Papermill Playhouse, California Shakespeare Company and Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, as detailed in a press release.
Winitsky holds an MFA in Directing from Northwestern and received his B.A. in Mathematics from Cornell, where he was a College Scholar. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer in the Performing and Media Arts at Cornell teaching PMA 3711: Sitcom Jews: Ethnic Representation on TV and Stage, 1948-2020. In a press release, Winitsky said, “When I was in Ithaca 30 years ago, a group of my acting teachers started this crazy company called the Kitchen Theatre … I am so humbled and honored to return to Ithaca to lead this now-thriving institution through what promises to be a truly unforgettable year.”
While the theater is facing setbacks due to the pandemic and has since pushed back its upcoming season to begin in January 2021, Winitsky will work to continue having important conversations through theater within KTC and the broader Ithaca community.
One way that the Kitchen has continued to virtually engage with their audience is through The Kitchen Virtual Script Club, where participants come together online to read and discuss a script. Winitsky will carry on with this and other virtual efforts, asserting confidently that “creativity is like water — it will find a way out.” When speaking about his goals for his time as Artistic Director, he said, “ultimately, my goal is to continue to grow [KTC’s] record of success and tradition, and to do it in this crazy environment.”
Part of KTC’s success is due to their focus on “creating space for important conversations,” exploring the human experience from multiple perspectives and being “committed to producing new work and to being an inclusive, diverse and accessible space for artists and audiences,” as outlined on their website. Since the beginning of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, KTC has denounced racism and police brutality and has vocalized their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying in a statement online, “we recommit ourselves to antiracism and equity in our policies, procedures, staffing, season planning, and community engagement and recognize that we must actively assess and reassess its unrecognized biases and strive to be a safe space for people of every background.” The theater has made donations to the NAACP, Multicultural Resource Center and the Black Theatre Network. Recently, they supported and promoted Black Fem’s United virtual Juneteenth Cabaret event at Ithaca College.
When talking about KTC’s commitment to diversity, Winitsky said,“If we’re having a conversation in the theater about people who are represented on that stage, those people need to be in that conversation.” He stated that this means “talking about the tangible ways that we are working to make our space an inclusive space, and that goes to how we approach our leadership, our board, our senior staff, our artists, the stories that we tell, the actors and the bodies that appear on our stages, and hopefully our audiences.”
In an interview, he stressed the importance of exploring and reflecting the diversity of Ithaca’s community, and using this time in the pandemic, during which the theater cannot perform, to continue being activists and to address the needs of the people of color in our community. Winitsky expanded on KTC’s pledge to spark important conversations, saying that the theater must “make sure that we’re never talking about somebody, we’re talking with somebody and engaging about how we all work together.”
Ultimately, art and theater will stand to convey important messages and process our emotions about this monumental moment in history. “I hope that the work we’re going to do when we get back to the theater will be a way for audiences to come together and feel something, having an experience and engaging in a conversation that makes them understand more deeply the moment they live,” said Winitsky.
Emma Leynse is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.