Wilma Theater uses art to aid Ukrainians in need

Wilma Theater
The Wilma Theater on the Avenue of the Arts.
Plate 3 Photography

Art can inspire change, and in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine, artists are responding to the events the best way they know how—by using creativity.

On Thursday, March 31, the Wilma Theater opened ‘Poster Art for Ukraine’ to the public, and this exhibit also happens to coincide with the Theater’s staged reading performance of ‘Bad Roads’ by Ukrainian playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit’. Both the show and the display will use funds to give back to respective charities as well.

This new showcase came to fruition by a group of local Ukrainian American activists, and it’s sponsored by the Ukrainian Cultural Trust of Philadelphia.

The organizers’ official artist statement reads: “Before the war, many of these artists created illustrations for works of fiction and for children’s books. Since the Russian invasion on February 24, they have turned their talents into weapons to fight Russian aggression and propaganda. Not everyone can take part in combat, and this became their contribution to the resistance. These posters inform the world about what is happening in Ukraine. They are the artists’ witness to the destruction of their country and the suffering of their loved ones, and to the incredible resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people.”

Wilma Theater

The posters on display will be benefitting RazomForUkraine.org, a project created to provide urgent help and support in the face of the unforeseen situation in Ukraine. Razom was originally established in 2014, and was born out of the Revolution of Dignity (an event that took place in Ukraine in February 2014 at the end of the Euromaidan protests) with a similar focus to ‘Poster Art For Ukraine.’

Both the exhibition and the organization were founded with a want to help, even when not in the mix of catastrophic events. As their website officially states, many people sent funds and supplies to sustain the community built on the Maidan through the winter, but they also took to the streets in their own cities to raise awareness and amplify voices from Ukraine in the West.

‘Poster Art For Ukraine’ also received support of printing services from Fireball Printing, located in the Fishtown neighborhood of the city.

The Wilma Theater is part of an informal network of theaters around the world that are collectively responding to the current war in Ukraine by staging contemporary Ukrainian plays. As a release states, ‘Bad Roads’ was originally commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre in London, where it premiered in 2017. It later became a feature film, and one of Ukraine’s official submissions to the Academy Awards in 2021 for Best Foreign Film.

“It is important for us to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” said Lead Artistic Director of the Wilma Theater, James Ijames in a statement. “One of the values of the Wilma is a commitment to liberation. That is being threatened right now and anything we can do to support the Ukrainian people falls squarely in line with our mission and our values.”

‘Bad Roads’ featured members of the Wilma HotHouse Acting Company (a facet of the theater unique in the artistic world) and is directed by Co-Artistic Director Yury Urnov. The show benefits the Voices of Children Foundation, a non-profit Ukrainian organization providing psychological and psychosocial support to children, helping them overcome the consequences of armed conflict. This particular organization has also been using its efforts to help the country since 2015, and today, Voices uses its efforts to provide emergency psychological assistance, and also assists in the evacuation process.

Wilma Theater
Ukrainian playwright Natal’ya VorozhbitProvided

‘Bad Roads’ takes place in 2014 when a war is raging in the country and a journalist takes a research trip to the front line. While there, teenage girls wait for soldiers on benches, a medic mourns her lover killed in action, and more human instances happen with the backdrop of devastation. Originally commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre, ‘Bad Roads’ is described as a heartbreaking, powerful, and bitterly comic account of what it is to be a woman in wartime.

Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s critically acclaimed play (which hit the stage on the 31st) is just one part of her impressive catalogue. As a release states, other works include ‘The Khomenko Family Chronicles’ (Royal Court and BBC World Service; rehearsed reading at the Royal Court, 2006); ‘The Grain Store’ (RSC, 2009); and ‘Maidan: Voices from the Uprising’ (Royal Court, 2014). She is the co-founder of the Theatre of the Displaced in Kiev and curator of the Class Act project in Ukraine. The Wilma’s translation of ‘Bad Roads’ comes from award-winning poet and theater artist Sasha Dugdale. Tickets the show were pay-as-you-wish, but those looking to make an impact can check out ‘Poster Art For Ukraine’ or visit the Wilma’s website to see what they can do.

To learn more about the Wilma Theater (265 S Broad St.) and its efforts to help the ongoing situation in Ukraine, visit wilmatheater.org


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