End of an era – Wilma Theater’s Co-Founding Co-Artistic Director Blanka Zizka steps back.
Philadelphia’s cultural scene got a punch in the face when, on June 30, the Wilma Theater announced that within a month (on July 31), its Co-Founding, Co-Artistic Director Blanka Zizka would step back from the theater she co-founded with the late Jiri Zizka. As dosage Magazine reported previously (and this is the part that cushions the blow), the three other members of the Wilma’s current Co-Artistic Director Cohort – Yury Urnov, James Ijames, and Morgan Green – would lead the Wilma, along with its recently anointed Managing Director Leigh Goldenberg and that Blanka would stick around the Wilma as it’s Artistic Director Emeritus, starting with the 2021-22 season, and would continue to work the Wilma’s HotHouse Company, while providing counsel and crafting special projects, such as organizing the Wilma’s archives.
On a personal note, having attended Wilma events since its time on Sansom Street and watching the Broad Street Wilma erect, grow and blossom, not seeing Blanka at every moment in her theater (and it will always be her theater) will be sad and strange. That said, having the Cohort Trio (worst band name ever) with Goldenberg has its own brand of promise at its root. “I’m honored to be entrusted with the future of the Wilma, and excited to work with the Cohort as we return to physical space with our artists and audiences,” penned Goldenberg.
This is Blanka’s exit statement.
“In 1978 in Philadelphia, together with my husband Jiri Zizka, I encountered the artists working in a small collaborative company called the Wilma Project.
Even though extremely young and barely speaking any English, Jiri and I had enough audacity to adapt and direct George Orwell’s Animal Farm for the company. Animal Farm was a forbidden book during the oppressive regime in the former Czechoslovakia where we grew up. In Prague we read a carbon copy of a typed up translation in secret and were so impressed by the ironic depiction of what we considered our situation that the text had to become our first theatrical work in our new country.
This was the new beginning of the Wilma Theater, as we renamed the company in 1981, when we opened our first 100-seat theater on Sansom Street. I’m only mentioning the beginnings to demonstrate the scope of time I have been involved and dedicated to the Wilma.
This year, working for the Wilma from a distance, I came to a conclusion that it’s time for me to let go. And it’s a good time, indeed, for the Wilma to make a full transition. I’m very excited about the new Wilma leadership: the Artistic Cohort, led by Yury Urnov, James Ijames, and Morgan Green; Managing Director Leigh Goldenberg; and the new Executive Committee of the Board (led by Wray Broughton). Along with the Wilma HotHouse Acting Company, this is an amazingly talented, courageous, knowledgeable, and collaborative group of people ready to carve the new path for the Wilma. It will be a different Wilma, but I know that the spirit of curiosity, generosity, artistic interrogation and vigor, collaboration, and care will be valued and further explored.
I’m very excited about the Wilma’s future.”