The students were able to make connections from the themes in the play to content we study in class.  The entire process has greatly enhanced the learning of our students. Thank you for making a difference in the lives and learning of our students.  This is an experience they will never forget!

Carl Ackerman, Constitution HS

Wilmagination provides fully subsidized, project based theater residencies in Philadelphia high schools. Pairs of teaching artists work in concert with classroom teachers to customize a unit that integrates a Wilma stage production—its themes, narrative techniques, and styles— into their pre-existing course curriculum. Each residency culminates in students performing their own theatrical response to the play for an invited audience. Lessons guide students through every aspect of the theater making process: developing an informed critical eye as a viewer, adapting written work for the stage, acquiring the physical, vocal and improvisational skills necessary to communicate effectively as performers, and ultimately, learning the delicate art of creative collaboration while working in groups to compile, adapt, revise and rehearse an original piece of theater for the stage.

In keeping with its classroom-specific approach, Wilmagination is uniquely flexible in timeline, grade level and thematic content, all of which is negotiated with the classroom teacher before the start of the project. While the average residency is approximately 14 sessions, we do residencies of all different lengths, sometimes spread out over the course of an entire school year and other times condensed into 2-4 weeks to better coincide with specific curricular units.

Why Theater?

The immediacy of live theater, the sense that anything can happen at any moment as the action unfolds before us in real time, makes it a compelling tool for teaching sophisticated literary texts and complex historical periods. As students respond critically to the play, write their own pieces inspired by its themes, work in groups to synthesis their responses and develop them into a performance, they exercise the higher-order cognitive skills that the common core standards emphasize. The creative, collaborative and performance based nature of the process hone the 21st Century skills that employers are demanding: written and verbal communication, critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, and collaboration. Students who have completed our residencies consistently report that it had a significant impact on their self-confidence, public speaking skills, and their ability to work effectively on a team. Teachers report a deeper level of student engagement, more active class participation, and improved grit, or willingness to persevere through the most difficult and frustrating parts of a project. Ultimately though, it’s the final performances and the students’ reflections on the process of creating those performances that become the most powerful testament to the impact of a Wilmagination residency.

Program Elements

  • 2 Wilma teaching artists work with a class 1-2 days a week for the duration of the residency.
  • Teaching artists begin by introducing students to some of the basic elements of theater and performance.
  • Teaching artists prepare students for the play they will see at the Wilma by introducing key themes, theatrical styles and relevant historical background.
  • Students attend a production at The Wilma Theater, followed by a post-show discussion with the actors.
  • Teaching artists provide a variety of writing prompts and improvisational exercises to help students generate written material inspired by themes and/or styles from the play that are tied to the classroom curriculum.
  • Teaching artists work with students to compile their writing, assess strengths, identify common threads, and integrate selected material into a unified piece of theater.
  • The program culminates with the students staging an original performance for an invited audience either at their school or at the Wilma.


Wilmagination will return in the 24/25 Season, contact wilmaeducation@wilmatheater.org for more information.

Wilmagination Inquiry