The Wilma Theater to Honor Co-Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka at FÊTE 2022

A Toast to Blanka! will feature a special appearance by John Douglas Thompson (“The Gilded Age,” “Mare of Easttown”) and more.

By: Jun. 07, 2022

The Wilma Theater to Honor Co-Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka at FÊTE 2022

The Wilma Theater announced today that Fête 2022 will honor retiring Co-Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka, who recently departed the company after 40 years in the position. Fête 2022 will be held on Monday June 13, 2022.

Join host Co-Artistic Director and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright James Ijames and special guests in this one-night-only event as we raise a glass to Co-Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka in honor of her retirement from the Wilma! Celebrate Blanka's incredible legacy of innovation within the Wilma and throughout the Philadelphia theater community.

It is a party 40 years in the making with food, drink, and surprise performances from Philadelphia artists who have been inspired by Blanka's spark throughout her years. After all that excitement? Dancing! Celebrate with us in style as we honor Blanka, a world-renowned artist, who has led the Wilma with curiosity, courage, and care for years we will not soon forget.

Fête 2022 will begin with gourmet food and drink pre-show at the Kimmel Center's Balcony Bar overlooking the Wilma Theater. This will be followed by A Toast to Blanka! live on the Aurora stage hosted by James Ijames. A Toast to Blanka! will feature a special appearance by John Douglas Thompson ("The Gilded Age," "Mare of Easttown") and other surprise guests, a conversation with Blanka Zizka about her years at the Wilma and influence in the Philadelphia theater community, and much more. The evening will conclude with an afterparty under the stars at the PHS Pop Up Garden on South Street for everyone to celebrate together, and most importantly dance!

Blanka Zizka had been Artistic Director of The Wilma Theater since 1981. In January 2016, The Vilcek Foundation announced Zizka as recipient of the Vilcek Prize, which is awarded annually to immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research and the arts and humanities. She received the Zelda Fichandler Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation in 2011, and was a Fellow at the 2015 Sundance Institute/LUMA Foundation Theatre Directors Retreat. For the past six years, she has been developing practices and programs for local theater artists to create working conditions that support creativity through continuity and experimentation. She has directed over 70 plays and musicals at the Wilma. Most recently, Blanka directed Describe the Night, There, Romeo and Juliet, When The Rain Stops Falling, Tom Stoppard's U.S. premiere of The Hard Problem, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Hamlet, Paula Vogel's world premiere Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq, Richard Bean's Under the Whaleback, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Tadeusz Słobodzianek's Our Class, Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, and Macbeth, which included an original score by Czech composer and percussionist Pavel Fajt. Her recent favorite productions are Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched, Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love and Rock 'n' Roll, Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice (which featured an original score by composer Toby Twining, now available from Cantaloupe Records), Brecht's The Life of Galileo, Athol Fugard's Coming Home and My Children! My Africa!, and Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9. She collaborated closely with Dael Orlandersmith on her plays Raw Boys and Yellowman, which was co-produced by McCarter Theatre and the Wilma and performed at ACT Seattle, Long Wharf, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Blanka was also privileged to direct Rosemary Harris and John Cullum in Ariel Dorfman's The Other Side at MTC. For the Academy of Vocal Arts, she directed the opera Kát'a Kabanová by Leoš Janácek. She has collaborated with many playwrights including Paula Vogel, Richard Bean, Yussef El Guindi, Doug Wright, Sarah Ruhl, Tom Stoppard, Linda Griffiths, Polly Pen, Dael Orlandersmith, Laurence Klavan, Lillian Groag, Jason Sherman, Amy Freed, Robert Sherwood, and Chay Yew.

The Fête is the Wilma's main fundraiser for the season, and the money raised will support our amazing artistic programming as well as our community outreach and educational programs that serve so many of our Philadelphia neighbors. This support is critical in ensuring that the Wilma can continue creating adventurous art for the Philadelphia community and beyond.

Event tickets begin at $250, with sponsorship opportunities starting at $1,500 and can be purchased at or by contacting Jessica Betts at 215-893-9456 x109.

The Wilma creates living, adventurous theater. We engage artists and audiences in imaginative reflection on the complexities of contemporary life. We present bold, original, rigorously crafted productions that represent a range of voices, viewpoints, and styles.

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, including the Bread & Puppet Theatre, Mabou Mines, Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, The Wooster Group, Ping Chong & the Fiji Company and Spalding Gray.

In 1979, Blanka and Jiri Zizka, natives of Czechoslovakia, forged a creative relationship with the Wilma as artists-in-residence, and gained acclaim for their bold, innovative productions. The Zizkas assumed artistic leadership of the organization in 1981, and during their tenure the Wilma Theater established a national reputation for provocative work ranging from the international drama of Bertolt Brecht, Athol Fugard, Eugene Ionesco, Joe Orton and Tom Stoppard to new American plays by Tina Howe, Romulus Linney, Quincy Long, Doug Wright, Amy Freed and many others, as well as premiering Jiri Zizka's original adaptations of classic novels. CBS News called the Wilma "one playhouse that has emerged from the shadow of the Great White Way to make history on its own."

In February 2020, the Wilma radically changed its leadership structure. Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka invited three additional artists from a variety of histories and experiences to share leadership in a cohort structure, which will last until spring of 2023. Each year, one cohort member acts as lead Artistic Director, with input and support from other cohort members. It is an experiment in shared leadership. In Summer 2021, Blanka stepped back from the Cohort for a consulting role as Artistic Director Emeritus; the Cohort now includes Yury Urnov, James Ijames, and Morgan Green. They work alongside Managing Director Leigh Goldenberg as the leadership of the organization.

During the pandemic, the Wilma has become a leader in digital theater. The May 2020 virtual Fete was one of the first all-digital fundraisers. The digital production of Heroes of the Fourth Turning was 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 by James Ijames 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." Fat Ham was also honored with the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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