Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater to receive 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award

Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater to receive 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award

May 22 — The Tony Awards® Administration Committee has announced that based on the recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association, the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will be the recipient of the 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The honor will be presented at the 77th annual Tony Awards on June 16, 2024 in New York City.

Wilma Theater reflections on the award here.

The honor, recognizing a regional theater company that has displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theater nationally, is accompanied by a grant of $25,000, made possible by City National Bank’s generous support.

“We are delighted to announce The Wilma Theater as the recipient of the 2024 Regional Theatre Tony Award,” said Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing and Jason Laks, interim president of the Broadway League. “The Wilma has made outstanding contributions to the world of theatre over the course of 45 years, maintaining an unwavering dedication to contemporary theatre and a commitment to the arts that began with its visionary introduction of avant-garde theatre to Philadelphia in 1979.”

Established in 1973 as The Wilma Project, the Wilma challenged the Philadelphia cultural community to create theatrical productions of original material and to develop local artists. From 1973 through 1979, the Wilma dazzled the Philadelphia public by presenting work with renowned avant-garde theater artists. In 1979, Blanka and Jiri Zizka, political refugees from Czechoslovakia, forged a creative relationship with the Wilma as artists-in-residence and gained acclaim for their bold, innovative productions. With a dynamic, physical production style and original music accompaniment, the Zizkas’ original adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” focused a new spotlight on the Wilma.

The Zizkas assumed artistic leadership of the organization in 1981 and moved the Wilma to a 100-seat theater on Sansom Street. Within five years, the Wilma’s audience had grown dramatically, driving a decision to expand the theater to a new home. As Philadelphia launched a plan to create an arts corridor in the early 1990s, the Wilma Theater was chosen for a new 300-seat theater located on Broad and Spruce Streets in Center City. Opening in 1996, the Wilma was the first new theater built in Philadelphia in 40 years and a cornerstone of the new Avenue of the Arts. Designed by renowned theater architect Hugh Hardy, the theater maintained an intimate flavor with an expanded performance space and established an ideal home for the Zizkas’ artistic vision.

During the Zizkas’ tenure, the Wilma Theater established a national reputation for provocative theater. Over the years, the theater produced unforgettable works by Tom Stoppard, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright James Ijames, Pulitzer Prize and Obie Award-winner Paula Vogel, and Obie Award-winner Danai Gurira. In addition to hundreds of Philadelphia artists, Wilma has worked with Oscar Nominee David Strathairn, Obie Award-winner Zainab Jah, and Tony Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Their productions of “The Hard Problem” (Tom Stoppard, US Premiere), “Our Class” (Tadeusz Słobodzianek), “Angels in America” (Tony Kushner), “Yellowman” (Dael Orlandersmith, World Premiere, Pulitzer Prize finalist), and “Leaving” (Vaclav Havel, U.S. Premiere) solidified the Wilma’s position in regional theater as bold, adventurous, and groundbreaking.

Wilma’s 2024-25 season features productions led by each Co-Artistic Director, and the return of Co-Founder Zizka and includes “The Comeuppance” (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), “The Half-God of Rainfall” (Inua Ellams), “Archduke” (Rajiv Joseph), and “A Summer Day” (Nobel Prize winner Jon Fosse). The Wilma aims to have their work continue to be a catalyst for catharsis, a catalyst for conversation, and a catalyst for change.

The Regional Theatre Tony Award, initially called the Special Tony Award for Regional Theatre, began when a committee of senior ATCA members pitched the idea to then-Tony-producer Alex Cohen. The first award was in 1976 to Arena Stage (Washington, DC). Each year since ATCA has involved its nationwide membership in a confidential process which leads to a recommendation to the Tony Committee. For an updated list of all winners, click here.

Additional coverage:

May 22, 2024 Tony Awards website
May 22, 2024 Broadway News (Andy Lefkowitz)
May 22, 2024 Philadelphia Inquirer (Rosa Cartagena)

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