Under the groundbreaking plan, four co-Artistic Directors will share and collaborate to lead the acclaimed regional theater.
This afternoon, the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia announced a groundbreaking artistic leadership plan. Building on the regional theater’s esteemed 40-year history, the Wilma will embark on a new artistic vision called The Next Chapter. Under this plan, three new Co-Artistic Directors have been hired by the Wilma’s Board of Directors to collaborate alongside Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka.
Beginning in 2020, Zizka will share the artistic leadership with three acclaimed directors and artists: Morgan Green, James Ijames, and Yury Urnov. Each of the three new Co-Artistic Directors will come to the Wilma with their own unique artistic voice, viewpoint, and style. Each of these Co-Artistic Directors, personally selected by Zizka, also have an understanding of the Wilma’s past artistic practices and values.
The idea for and values of the Next Chapter were shaped by Zizka’s work with the Wilma HotHouse, the theater’s five-year-old resident artist company that trains together and incubates new work. Guiding principles for the HotHouse that will inform the Next Chapter include risk, rigor, vulnerability, and collaboration.
“I’m thrilled for these three artists to join me in the artistic leadership of the Wilma,” Zizka said. “Together we will create a new energy; develop new ideas and aesthetics; invigorate our programing; and in collaboration with the rigorous artistry of Hothouse actors bring a new richness and excitement into the Wilma productions.”
Founding Co-Artistic Director Blanka Zizka will remain in a central role as one of the four Artistic Directors in the cohort. Following the 2019-2020 season, her last as sole Artistic Director, Zizka will also continue to oversee the artistic practice of the HotHouse Company.
“The Wilma Next Chapter is an exciting, bold rethinking of how to run a major regional theater,” Wilma Board Chair John Rollins said. “We are creating a new artistic leadership model based in collaboration, trust, and multiplicity of voices. I am excited for our audiences and supporters to embrace this new vision and to see it impact the national scene.”
Additionally, the theater’s board announced the appointment of a new Managing Director, Leigh Goldenberg. A seasoned arts administrator in the city of Philadelphia and currently the Executive Director of Theatre Philadelphia, Goldenberg will oversee the operations, marketing, fundraising, and finances of the Wilma.
HOW THE NEXT CHAPTER WILL WORK: The three new members of the Wilma’s cohort of Co-Artistic Directors will be contracted for a multi-year term, beginning this season (2019-20) to begin planning. The four-member Artistic Director team, including Zizka, will together collaborate on the next three Wilma seasons (2020-’21, ‘21-‘22, and ‘22-’23). The cohort will also share the responsibilities of running the Wilma, along with the Managing Director and administrative staff.
Each new Co-Artistic Director will spend one of these upcoming seasons as Lead Artistic Director. For their season, they will take the lead in selecting the shows and the productions’ artistic teams, in collaboration with the three other Co-Artistic Directors. In the other years of their tenure, they will plan and prepare their own upcoming season; advise that season’s Lead Artistic Director; develop new work and other artistic ventures; and support the Wilma’s fundraising and marketing.
Yury Urnov will be the Lead Artistic Director for the 2020-21 season, James Ijames will be the Lead Artistic Director for the 2021-22 season, and Morgan Green will be the Lead Artistic Director for the 2022-23 season.
ABOUT THE CO-ARTISTIC DIRECTORS:
Morgan Green is thrilled to work alongside Blanka, James, and Yury as part of the Wilma’s Next Chapter Cohort. She hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and is a co-founder of New Saloon, a Brooklyn-based experimental theater company. Morgan directs new plays which bend and twist theatrical form, musical revivals that aren’t exactly the way you remember them, dance shows full of hype, deconstructed classics with a feminist lens, and is beginning to explore film. In 2016, Morgan received the Award for Outstanding Director from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for New Saloon’s Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time a production most recently seen at The Public Theater’s 2019 Under the Radar Festival. In 2017, Morgan lead the first ever director-driven season at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut including Far Away, a dystopian Caryl Churchill play, and a fresh take on Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. Morgan has held artist residencies at Mabou Mines, Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and is an Affiliated Artist with New Georges. Her work has been seen at The Public Theater, The Bushwick Starr, Ars Nova, The Invisible Dog, The New Ohio, Marin Theatre Company, Z Space, and more. Morgan is an alumna of Bard College and a proud member of SDC. MorganClaireGreen.com
James Ijames is a Philadelphia-based performer and playwright. He has appeared regionally in productions at The Arden Theatre Company, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, The Wilma Theater, Baltimore Center Stage, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, and People’s Light. James’ plays have been produced by Flashpoint Theater Company, Orbiter 3, Theatre Horizon, Wilma Theater (Philadelphia, PA), The National Black Theatre (NYC), Steppenwolf Theatre, Definition Theatre (Chicago IL), Shotgun Players (Berkeley, CA), and have received development with PlayPenn New Play Conference, The Lark, Playwright’s Horizon, Clubbed Thumb, Villanova Theater, Wilma Theater, Azuka Theatre, and Victory Garden. James is the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist recipient, and he has two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America and two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size with Simpatico Theatre Company and Gem of the Ocean with Arden Theatre. James is a 2015 Pew Fellow for Playwriting, the 2015 winner of the Terrance McNally New Play Award for WHITE, the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize winner for ….Miz Martha, a 2017 recipient of the Whiting Award and a 2019 Kesselring Prize for Kill Move Paradise. James is a founding member of Orbiter 3, Philadelphia’s first playwright producing collective. He received a B.A. in Drama from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and a M.F.A. in Acting from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. James is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University and resides in South Philadelphia.
Yury Urnov: Born in Moscow, Russia, Yury graduated from the Russian Academy of Theater Art (GITIS) in 2000 with an MFA and since then has directed over 40 productions in his home country, Europe, and Africa.His recent professional directing credits in the US include Hedda Gabler and Ubu Roi at Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco, award-winning Thr3e Zisters at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, The Pillowman at Forum Theater in DC, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Putin on Ice and One Hour Eighteen Minutes with ACME Corporation Theater of Baltimore, and also KISS, Marie Antoinette and You for Me for You at Woolly Mammoth Theater in DC, which Yury is a proud company member of since 2014. In 2009-2011 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Towson University, MD where he still teaches as a Visiting Assistant Professor. Yury serves as an Associate Director of the Center for International Theater Development, Baltimore. During his 20-year long partnership with the CITD Yury participated in and co-produced multiple US-East European cultural exchange projects. He also translated plays of Martin McDonagh, Sarah Ruhl, and Edward Albee into Russian, and several contemporary Russian plays into English.
Blanka Zizka has been Artistic Director of The Wilma Theater since 1981. Blanka is the founder of the Wilma HotHouse: a resident ensemble of theater artists, formally launched in 2016 to serve as an incubator for artistic investigation and experimentation. At the Wilma, she has directed over 70 plays and musicals. Most recently, Blanka directed Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph, There by Etel Adnan, Romeo and Juliet, James Ijames’ Kill Move Paradise, the world premiere of Christopher Chen’s Passage, her play Adapt!, Andrew Bovell’s 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. Her other favorite productions are Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched, Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love and Rock ’n’ Roll, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, 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. Blanka was honored to be selected into the 2017 Class of the Innovators Walk of Fame by the University Science Center, which spotlights local innovators. She is a recipient of the 2016 Vilcek Prize which is awarded annually to immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society. She received the Zelda Fichandler Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation in 2011, and she was a Fellow at the 2015 Sundance Institute/LUMA Foundation Theatre Directors Retreat.
ABOUT THE NEW MANAGING DIRECTOR:
Leigh Goldenberg leads mission-driven and creative organizations, with a commitment to Philadelphia. Since January 2017, she has served as the Executive Director of Theatre Philadelphia, the region’s theatre marketing and leadership organization. During her tenure, she started Philly Theatre Week, a region-wide celebration of theatre performance supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Leigh also drove changes to the Barrymore Awards program with an eye towards inclusion and representation including the implementation of gender inclusive performance awards. Previously, she worked with Wash Cycle Laundry, a triple-bottom line laundry and linen service that delivers by bicycle and creates jobs for vulnerable adults, for which she oversaw expansion into two new markets. In Philadelphia, she has held marketing positions at Arden Theatre Company and Lantern Theater Company, as well as consulted for PlayPenn, Tiny Dynamite, and Public Citizens for Children and Youth. In New York City, she co-founded Stone Soup Theatre Arts, a politically and socially conscious theatre company; was a member of the first Producer’s Lab at Women’s Project; and worked in administrative or production capacities with HERE Arts Center, The Pearl Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, and MCC, among others. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in Theatre Production and Management. Leigh is the President of the South Philly Food Co-op, a community-owned democratically-controlled organization opening a grocery store in Spring 2020. She chairs the Friends of Kirkbride Elementary School, and serves as a Democratic Committee person in the First Ward. Leigh is an alum of Leadership Philadelphia’s Connectors and Keepers and Philly Girls Do Good, which celebrates women leaders in community development, and was a Rad Girls nominee for Connector of the Year in 2018. Her work has been featured in local and national outlets including The New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, Fast Company, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and American Theatre Magazine. She has written for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Love Notes, and Spoke Magazine and she has appeared on ABC’s The $100,000 Pyramid and the DIY Network’s Kitchen Impossible. She lives in South Philadelphia and rides her bicycle around town, often on a tandem with her husband and kid to theatre events and Phillies games.