HotHouse History


When Blanka and Jiri Zizka founded The Wilma Theater out of Philadelphia’s Wilma Project in 1979, their aim was to create European-style theater experimenting with content and form. The American regional theater scene, which was pioneering cutting-edge work outside of New York City, provided the ideal model for their vision.  In the years since, however, they watched that model transform: in order to attract subscribers and prevent deficits, regional theaters nationwide have fallen into a routine assembly line approach of creating and rehearsing, focusing on budgetary growth of institutions and defining success by box office income, while sacrificing experimentation and exploration. In 2011, Blanka realized that the Wilma’s founding focus on creating bold, inquiring, and adventurous art was at risk of being swallowed up by the regional theater model’s demands.  She needed to re-focus the Wilma on the art-making and the theater’s mission, which seeks to create living, adventurous art; engage artists and audiences in imaginative reflection on the complexities of contemporary life; and present bold, original, well-crafted productions that represent a range of voices, viewpoints, and styles.

Starting with our 2011 U.S. premiere of Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s Our Class, we made a conscious choice to return art to the forefront of how we run our organization. Our Class was emotionally intense and physically demanding of its actors, and Blanka wanted to find a method that would allow them to fearlessly use the totality of their bodies. Since then, the Wilma has invested in artistic development by hosting workshops led by an array of international master teachers, such as Attis Theatre’s Theodoros Terzopoulos, and Troubleyn Theatre’s Ivana Jozic, among others.