The contemporary-theatre company announced that its new season will also include two Caryl Churchill plays (A Number and Cloud 9) in rep; Heather Raffo's Iraqi-women solo play, Nine Parts of Desire; Ken Ludwig's comedy Shakespeare in Hollywood; and DanceBoom!, the annual tribute to Philadelphia dance companies. All the plays in the season are Philly premieres.
"It's a pleasure to have been associated with Doug's I Am My Own Wife from the beginning, when we produced a workshop of the play," said Wilma co-artistic director Jiri Zizka. "I don't think anyone expected the play to take off with such a blast. It's even a greater pleasure to see it come back to us and close the creative circle."
The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Best Play Tony Award, and will appear in regional theatres throughout the world in the coming years. It concerns a German enigma, transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, and how she survived the Nazi and the Communists. One actor plays some 35 characters in the humor-laced drama about identity, perception and perseverance — in which the playwright is also a character hooked on solving the mystery of von Mahlsdorf. Co-artistic director Blanka Zizka directs a run Sept. 14-Oct. 23.
The Wilma's production of I Am My Own Wife "grows out of the theatre's long-standing relationship with Doug Wright, which dates back to 1996, with the Wilma's Barrymore-winning production of Wright's play Quills, also directed by Blanka Zizka," according to the season announcement. "The creative relationship growing out of this production led to Doug Wright's appointment as Artist-in-Residence at the Wilma in 2001. I Am My Own Wife was workshopped at the Wilma during his residency, before going on to critical and audience acclaim in New York, capturing numerous awards, including both the Tony and the Pulitzer. Doug Wright has maintained close ties with the Wilma as an Associate Artist and has introduced the theatre to other playwrights including Itamar Moses, whose play Outrage closed the 2004-2005 season."
Shakespeare in Hollywood by Ken Ludwig runs Nov. 23-Dec. 31 and is directed by Jiri Zizka. The comedy is set amid the Golden Age of cinema, where Shakespeare's Puck and Oberon "take a wrong turn in the wood near Athens and find themselves in the midst of the turbulent filming of Max Reinhardt's 1935 film of A Midsummer Night's Dream." The characters includes Reinhardt, the Warner brothers, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and Jimmy Cagney, who played Bottom in the film. Ludwig penned Crazy for You, Moon Over Buffalo and Lend Me a Tenor. Shakespeare in Hollywood had its world premiere at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
Heather Raffo's Nine Parts of Desire, Feb. 1-March 12, 2006, is the Off-Broadway sensation that tells the story of nine Iraqi women "whose lives have been upended by the history of war in Iraq and the legacy of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship." An artist, a mother, a young girl and an Iraqi-American woman in New York are among the women "for whom war is a daily event."
According to Wilma notes, the title comes from an old Muslim adage that "God created sexual desire in 10 parts; he gave nine parts to women and one to men." Raffo, an Iraqi-American, spent 11 years researching and interviewing a cross-section of Iraqi women, "exploring the complex reality of being female in modern-day Iraq."
The Wilma's production of Nine Parts of Desire will be the first original production of the show since its Off-Broadway run.
The Wilma season continues into spring with a festival honoring the works of renowned playwright Caryl Churchill. This festival is a tribute to her career. Anchoring a series of readings, workshops, and symposia will be two of her most well known plays, running in repertory: her first international hit, Cloud 9 (directed by Blanka Zizka), and her most recent Off-Broadway success, A Number (directed by a guest yet to be named).
"Set on a Victorian British estate in Africa and later in 1979 London, Cloud 9 is a biting social commentary that uses gender-bending and cross-dressing to humorously explore society, colonialism, marriage and family," according to the Wilma. "Surprisingly, although Cloud 9 has had several student and community productions, this will be the first time the play has received a professional production in Philadelphia."
Churchill's cloning-oriented A Number "addresses the age-old question of nature versus nurture with a contemporary twist. If you are not unique, are you still an individual? What constitutes identity? What are the bonds of family? These are just a few of the questions a father and his three sons confront in an Obie-winning play that is in turn stark, startling, funny and deeply moving."
Cloud 9 will play April 19-May 28, 2006. A Number will run May 9-June 4, 2006. They will play in rotating rep.
Fore more information about The Wilma Theater, call (215) 546-7824 or visit www.wilmatheater.org.