Intiman Theatre earlier today named Kate Whoriskey the replacement for Tony winner Bartlett Sher as artistic director of Intiman Theatre. She arrives this month to begin what the press release calls a "multi-year transition process" wherein she and Sher work in tandem until Sher’s departure and Whoriskey’s official succession in 2011. Sher, as reported here earlier, recently extended his contract for another year.
Whoriskey’s an exciting choice—she’s young, smart, and (hey!) a woman—although the three shows I’ve seen her stage were a mixed lot. She made her Intiman directorial debut in 2000, during Sher’s first season, with a whimsical, dreamlike production of Ionesco’s The Chairs that showcased an impressive gift for visuals. That same surreal knack proved to be all she had to offer Intiman’s The Lady from the Sea, however, in which Ibsen’s text drowned beneath Whoriskey’s admittedly arresting design metaphors (the morose heroine, trapped with only her memories, spent the evening dragging her tulle gown across a floor covered with ragged scraps of cardboard). Blue/Orange, one of those overpraised is-it-the-patient-or-society-that’s-crazy? scripts, also had a striking set with overwrought dramatics. (Yet Whoriskey knew a promising actor when she found one: The show provided an early opportunity for Sylvester Foday Kamara, who recently gave one of the year’s best performances over at Book-It Repertory Theatre.)
But Whoriskey is, undoubtedly and most importantly, an artist who knows the things that theater can do better than television or the movies. She’s committed to working within the confines of a stage and illustrating how limitless its boundaries can be. She’s already talking big about supporting local artists, sending actors abroad, and reinforcing for the public the power of theatrical storytelling. I’ll be curious to see what she does with her own new power.