With the 20/21 theater season, many organizations haven’t had their typical run of new shows and open curtains. Instead, in the age of COVID-19, establishments have had to figure out a new way to get stage shows going to both entertain and provide escapes for audiences— but luckily, getting creative is in most theater’s wheelhouses.
Take the Wilma Theater, the arts organization has been using this time to truly pivot their future plans, and have recently announced a few expansions to their 20/21 season—including changes to their production of Will Arbery’s “Heroes of the Fourth Turning” and by producing HotHouse Shorts, a series of original digital productions created by their company of theater artists.
The changes come from the Wilma’s four co-artistic directors: Founding Artistic Director Blanka Zizka, who has been with The Wilma since 1981, along with Philadelphia-based performer and playwright James Ijames, co-founder of New Saloon (a Brooklyn-based experimental theater company) Morgan Green, and an award-winning director with over 40 productions under his belt, Yury Urnov. Each of these Co-Artistic Directors—personally selected by Zizka—have an understanding of the Wilma’s past artistic practices and values and have been tasked with bringing their insight, skills and artistic talents to the popular theater over the course of the next three years. However, maneuvering through a pandemic couldn’t have been what any of them had planned, yet the model has been pivoting well so far.
“While in the midst of the pandemic, we stand by the core values of our mission—to create living, adventurous art,” said Lead Artistic Director Yury Urnov in a statement. “We’ll continue using this moment as a call to experiment, and as an opportunity to invent new art forms.”
For starters, the Wilma’s regional premiere of “Heroes of the Fourth Turning” directed by Blanca Zizka will be produced as a fully-staged professional production but will be captured in a secluded home in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. According to the release, the description of the play reads: Four Catholic conservative friends gather at a backyard party in Wyoming and their reunion sparks riveting debates that are by turns hilarious, repulsive, and surprisingly seductive. The celebrated work was the winner of the 2020 Obie Award for Playwriting, Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, and named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times. It was also a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Everyone on the team for this show—which includes HotHouse company members Sarah Gliko, Justin Jain, Jered McLenigan, Campbell O’Hare and award-winning performer Mary Elizabeth Scallen— all self-quarantined for two weeks before the start of the production process and will travel to the site-specific location, an Airbnb house located in the Poconos where they will rehearse and produce the play. Subscribers who purchased a WilmaPass will be able to redeem tickets from their package to access the production and individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.
That’s not all the Theater has in store: According to the release, the HotHouse, Wilma’s resident ensemble of theater artists, has been hard at work creating a series of original digital productions, similar to their critically acclaimed “Code Blue” production that was released earlier in 2020. Six additional Hothouse Shorts will be produced and released starting in late October 2020 through winter 2021. Each of these digital productions will be their own experiment in form and content, from heartfelt personal narratives to groundbreaking music videos to intriguing audio tours. These programs will be available free of charge on the Wilma’s website.
Other additions to the line-up to keep an eye out for at the Wilma include a limited engagement of the new online interactive performance “State Vs Natasha Banina,” directed by Igor Golyak and performed by Darya Denisova and producing their previously announced productions of James Ijames’ “Fat Ham” and “Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time,” created by New Saloon (co-founded by Wilma Co-Artistic Director Morgan Green). The state of both of those works will depend on the “state of the health crisis” in respect to safety concerns for theater staff and audience members. There will also be re-released digital works from the Wilma while they investigate methods of collaborations with theaters across the country to share their work with audiences.
Audience members can also buy a WilmaPass for this year, a package that can be used at any time during the 2020/21 season with three tickets running for $99.For more information and to receive updated information on showtimes visit wilmatheater.org