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Best Theater Actress New York 2011 - Kate Valk

Readers' Choice: Sutton Foster

It's the eyes that grab you first: round and liquid, and with a stare intense enough to make you squirm in your seat whenever it strafes you. But this performer has other distinctive qualities: that high forehead, that lank hair, the habit of throwing herself into any role with such intensity that you think she might just tear it—or herself—in two. A consummate theater actress, Kate Valk works almost exclusively with the Wooster Group, rarely in film or television. But even allowing for such restrictions, she doesn't lack for range. In the past decade, she has played Phaedra, Ophelia, Gertrude, the Emperor Jones, an astronaut, a jewel thief, the devil, a cancer-riddled illustrator, a sinister landlady, a randy naval officer, a Chekhovian narrator, and several others. Valk can play men and women, black and white, young and old, ancient and modern, but she marks every role with a particular joy and an enthusiasm that borders on the unhealthy. At 55, she could pass as a grand dame, but she seems to have more energy than actresses half her age. The eyes have it.

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