The Wilma Theater to Receive 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award

Tony Awards

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Alex Mecklosky
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May 22, 2024 11:30 AM

The Tony Awards Administration Committee has announced that, based on the recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association, The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will be the recipient of the 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The honor, recognizing a regional theatre company that has displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally, is accompanied by a grant of $25,000, made possible by City National Bank’s generous support.

“We are delighted to announce The Wilma Theater as the recipient of the 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award,” said Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing and Jason Laks, interim president of the Broadway League. “The Wilma has made outstanding contributions to the world of theatre over the course of 45 years, maintaining an unwavering dedication to contemporary theatre and a commitment to the arts that began with its visionary introduction of avant-garde theatre to Philadelphia in 1979.”

Established in 1973 as The Wilma Project, the Wilma challenged the Philadelphia cultural community to create theatrical productions of original material and to develop local artists. From 1973 through 1979, the Wilma dazzled the Philadelphia public by presenting work with renowned avant-garde theater artists. In 1979, Blanka and Jiri Zizka, political refugees from Czechoslovakia, forged a creative relationship with the Wilma as artists-in-residence and gained acclaim for their bold, innovative productions. With a dynamic, physical production style and original music accompaniment, the Zizkas’ original adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” focused a new spotlight on the Wilma.

Emboldened by the creative gains made under Zizka’s leadership, the Wilma was poised to launch an artistic leadership model merging artistic collaboration with a new operating structure. In February 2020, the Wilma unveiled the Next Chapter initiative, its iterative leadership model where a cohort of Co-Artistic Directors alongside Managing Director Leigh Goldenberg foster shared governance and artistic vision with diverse voices. James Ijames, Morgan Green, and Yury Urnov joined Zizka in this leadership. Following Zizka’s retirement in 2021, Wilma solidified the model with three co-artistic directors. Lindsay Smiling, a founding member of HotHouse, assumed a leadership role vacated by Ijames in 2023.

Due to their strong collaborative leadership team and pivot to making high-quality digital theater, the Wilma was able to stay fully staffed and operational through the shutdown of performance venues across the country in 2020 and 2021. The digital work garnered local, national, and international audiences, including productions of “Heroes of the Fourth Turning” named the best of the year in 2020 by The Wall Street Journal and nominated for a Drama League Award. The Wilma’s 2021 digital production of “Fat Ham” was named one of the best virtual productions in 2021 by The New York Times, which stated that “The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia perfected beautiful film-stage hybrids,” and the play won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama following its digital world premiere. In 2023, “Fat Ham” went on to Broadway, with Wilma Theater as co-producer, and received five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play. The team recognized that their digital theater work created an opportunity for the Wilma to expand points of access to their productions, inspiring us to make a strategic commitment to continue this work. In 2024, with support from the Knight Foundation, Wilma launched the Digital Theater Lab to imagine and expand the possibilities of streaming theater.

Wilma’s 2024-25 season features productions led by each Co-Artistic Director, and the return of Co-Founder Zizka and includes “The Comeuppance” (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), “The Half-God of Rainfall” (Inua Ellams), “Archduke” (Rajiv Joseph), and “A Summer Day” (Nobel Prize winner Jon Fosse). The Wilma aims to have their work continue to be a catalyst for catharsis, a catalyst for conversation, and a catalyst for change.

The 77th Annual Tony Awards, hosted by Ariana DeBose, will air live from the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City on Sunday, June 16, 2024 (8:00-11:00 PM, LIVE ET/5:00-8:00 PM, LIVE PT) on the CBS Television Network, and streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S.

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Alex Mecklosky

As a native New Yorker, Alex has always loved everything involving theatre. With a degree in Theatre and New Media from Marymount Manhattan College, Alex realized that, since he was not talented enough to be on Broadway, the next best thing would be to write about it!