Theater veteran will start new job in September

Ki Gottberg

Ki Gottberg

 

BY LAURELLE WALSH

Seattle actor, playwright, director and theater professor Ki Gottberg will start as The Merc Playhouse’s new artistic director in September, Managing Director Jane Hubrig announced this week.

Gottberg takes over for Julie Wenzel, who stepped down after four years as artistic director to move to Anacortes, Wash. with her family.

“I’m picking up where Julie left off,” Gottberg said. “I think Julie was very good for The Merc, and I will leave the [2013-2014] season as she planned it. My first year will be a rich year with lots of variety.”

“The applicant pool for this position was extremely competitive,” said Hubrig. “We had over 35 applicants, most of whom were extremely well qualified. Narrowing it down was difficult, but once we met Ki, the decision became clear. She’s got a million ideas, a ton of energy, and a great big smile.”

Gottberg has taught theater at Seattle University for the last 25 years; graduated from the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program in 1983; and grew up in the Wallingford District of Seattle, where she graduated from Lincoln High School in 1970.

She plans to continue teaching at Seattle U. while working as artistic director at The Merc.

Gottberg is no stranger to a full, busy life, having worn many hats in the Northwest theater community for decades. “I’m a person who likes to be in the thick of it; theater is not an easy realm in which to make a living,” she said. “I’m also a real hard-working gal – it’s how you become a better artist: by working.”

When Gottberg received the notice from a university colleague about The Merc’s opening, she recalls thinking, “Wow. This could be an exciting and interesting opportunity. I’m gonna go for that.”

“Twisp’s little theater is such a gem,” Gottberg said. “I look forward to working in a community with people who want to do theater because they love it.”

 

Already planning

Gottberg says she wants to get to know the artistic community of the Methow Valley from the get-go, and plans to run general auditions in September “to meet a lot of people, find out what people’s skills are and what they are interested in. I hope to attract some of The Merc’s regulars, as well as some people who haven’t been involved in the theater yet.”

She also plans to draw on some of her connections within Seattle’s theater community to offer acting classes and “encourage people to get outside their comfort zone. Acting classes can be the best way to get people loosened up and thinking about possibilities,” she said.

Gottberg started out as a visual arts undergraduate and got involved in acting because she “wanted to work collaboratively with people. I thought of theater as an art form with many minds,” she recalls.

She soon joined Actor’s Equity and appeared onstage at a number of Seattle- and Portland-area theaters, began teaching part time, and started writing for the stage under the mentorship of Cuban-American avant-garde playwright María Irene Fornés. Gottberg’s scripts eventually won her a National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Residency.

Gottberg’s plays have been produced at theaters in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

She was instrumental in getting the 150-seat Eshelman Stage built at Seattle University’s Lee Center for the Arts, where in 2011, she collaborated with designer Carol Wolfe Clay to develop the play Little World, “a whimsical piece with puppets about how one woman deals with grief,” she said.

A number of her pieces have also been produced at Seattle’s New City Theater through her writing residency there, including her one-woman show, Frontier: Valley of the Shadow, for which she won a Seattle Times Footlight Award for solo work in 2009.

Gottberg will be residing in Mazama, where she and her husband, Marty Cole, purchased a cabin five years ago. They had vacationed in the Methow Valley with their daughter for years before that, she said, camping at Pearrygin Lake in the summer and coming back to ski in the winter. They hike the Maple Pass loop each summer and climb up to Goat Peak to bring chocolate to Lightning Bill in his lookout, she said.

Gottberg will kick off The Merc’s 2013-14 season by directing a Readers Theater production of Memory House by Kathleen Tolan in September. She will also direct The Merc’s Christmas show, an adaptation of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Guest directors will come in for the remaining main stage shows, which include the “Broadway Dance Review,” Over the River and Through the Woods by Joe DiPietro, and a children’s theater production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. Several Readers Theater plays will round out the season.