Established in 1973, The Wilma Theater presents bold, original, well-crafted productions that represent a range of voices, viewpoints, and styles. In 2011, former artistic director Blanka Zizka founded the Wilma HotHouse Company as an incubator for artistic experimentation and a way to create long-term relationships and collaborations with local Philadelphia artists from diverse backgrounds. Beginning in 2020, the company established a new leadership structure with artists sharing artistic leadership in a cohort format.
The Wilma Theater produced the American premiere of Leaving, the first new play in 20 years by renowned playwright and former President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. The play focuses on the difficulties that a former Chancellor of an unnamed European country confronts shortly after leaving power. The play was translated by Paul Wilson, a former member of a Czech band called the Plastic People of the Universe, which helped to spark the human rights initiative Charter 77 under Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Wilson also translated Havel's presidential memoir. Oscar nominee David Strathairn played the leading role in the Wilma's production. Jiri Zizka directed on a set featuring doors up and across every wall and the entire surface of the floor. President Havel visited the Wilma and was interviewed before an audience of theater professionals during the run of the show. Subsequent to the performance of his play in Philadelphia, Havel directed a Czech film adaptation of Leaving. To view the transcript or film of President Havel's appearance at the Wilma, click here. Click here to read the transcript of an interview with Leaving translator Paul Wilson.