Jennifer Wintzer is stepping from one stage to another.
On Wednesday, she joins the staff of COCA, assuming the newly created position of artistic director of theater. Wintzer comes to the job from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, where she has been associate artistic director.
Wintzer spent more than a decade as an arts administrator and educator in New York City, working with venues including Lincoln Center Theater, MCC Theater and Second Stage Theatre. At COCA, she will oversee theater and voice programming and pursue collaborations with other St. Louis theater companies and organizations. She will also supervise operations at COCA’s new Berges Theatre, to be completed early next year.
Recently, Wintzer spoke about her new position. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q • What are some of the responsibilities that you’ll be taking on in the new job?
A • I’m going to be producing, I’m going to be directing, and I’m going to be teaching. How am I going to juggle those? Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past, probably, 15 years. So those are certainly all things that I was already doing in the various roles that I’ve had.
Q • What kind of programming are you interested in presenting at COCA?
A • There are two plays that are extremely inspiring to me in terms of my aesthetic as an artist. At Lincoln Center Theater, I had the opportunity to work on “War Horse,” which is a play based on a young-adult novel. It’s exciting for me for work to be rooted in young people. It’s exciting for me to be working on pieces that include music, that include large-scale puppetry, as “War Horse” did.
“Water by the Spoonful” is also an extremely important play to me in terms of the poetry and the family and cultural connections, that (Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes) writes about.
Q • How did you become interested in theater?
A • As a young child, actually. I’m the daughter of a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and he was a singer and a trumpet player. I would come home to hear him singing or playing music, and I said to him one day that I wanted to audition for a play, and he took me (to the audition). Now, I’m in an arts education organization that has theater as one of its disciplines. I hope that a place like COCA can convince young people that it’s a home for them.
Q • You’re a graduate of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, with a BFA in musical theater. And New York is still the go-to theater scene in America. How would you compare pursuing a career in St. Louis?
A • I feel like the past five years of working in St. Louis have been some of the most creative years that I have had. While it was extremely exciting to be a young artist and producer in New York, being in St. Louis, you can get things done so much faster. And you can get to know the community so much easier.