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 U.S. premiere of Our Class by Polish playwright Tadeusz Słobodzianek, directed by Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka. Beginning in a Polish primary-school classroom in 1925, Our Class follows 10 students—five Catholics and five Jews—over 80 years. Their initial childhood solidarity is compromised by deep-seated religious tension; following the Nazi and Soviet occupations, latent anti-Semitism transforms into violent acts of rape, assault, and ultimately, a massacre. The play raises important questions: How are neighbors moved to murder neighbors? How does one live with the aftermath of such atrocities?
To prepare for the production, Zizka traveled to Poland to meet with Słobodzianek and to visit Jedwabne, the site of the 1941 massacre referenced in the play. Special programming to accompany the production included appearances by Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors, a book dedicated to the massacre of Jews at Jedwabne; a showing of a documentary film based on Neighbors, a panel discussion held in cooperation with the National Museum of American Jewish History, and numerous post-show discussions.