The Merc Playhouse in Twisp recently introduced Ki Gottberg, a theater professor at Seattle University, as its new artistic director. Gottberg, also a longtime playwright, actor and director, begins her three-year contract Sept. 1 and will succeed Julie Wenzel, who served as director for four years.
As the artistic director, Gottberg is charged with planning the season of the playhouse and selecting plays that best fit the actors, directors and community. She also plans to continue teaching theater three days a week at Seattle University.
“It feels like a kind of wild experiment,” Gottberg said. “It’s kind of as close to pure as you can get — people who are doing it because they love it.”
When the position opened up after Wenzel’s decision to step down, applicants flooded in and the competition was tough. But Managing Director Jane Hubrig said the decision was clear when they met Gottberg.
“We feel incredibly lucky to get someone of her caliber,” said Hubrig, referring to Gottberg’s national presence in the theater world, with plays from Seattle to New York.
But Gottberg says the move to directing in Twisp doesn’t feel like a step down — far from it.
“It feels like a breath of fresh air, and it feels a little crazy for me to do it,” Gottberg said. But she said she asks herself, “What possibilities are there?”
“I don’t like to get locked into the idea of what theater is supposed to be,” she said. “I like to play around with the idea of what it can be.”
The recently renovated playhouse will begin its 2013-2014 season with Gottberg directing a Readers’ Theater production of “Memory House” by Kathleen Tolan. The season includes four productions and multiple Reader’s Theater, plays with limited rehearsal and two showings, throughout the season. Gottberg envisions big things for the Merc, including a summer theater program.
Gottberg’s vacation home in the Methow area makes the job an easier transition than it would be otherwise, she says she has spent a lot time skiing and swimming in the area and “escaping” the city. And Hubrig believes that her knowledge of the area and its community will make her even better for the position.
“She has this energy and this happy demeanor,” Hubrig. “She’s just ready to dig in and become a part of what we’re doing.”