Friday, July 11, 2014
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News: Wilma Theater website reports death of Jiri Zizka

The cofounder of the modern Wilma has died, a banner across the site announces.

News: Wilma Theater website reports death of Jiri Zizka

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Jiri Zizka

By Howard Shapiro

The Wilma Theater posted a banner across its website late Wednesday to announce that Jiri Zizka — a cofounder of the modern Wilma on Broad Street and a major force in Philadelphia’s evolution as a vibrant city for live theater — had died.

No details were posted and no one was reachable at the theater after 10:30 p.m., when word of the posting began to spread. Zizka, with his wife, Blanka Zizka, came from Czechoslovakia and formed a relationship with the theater company they would take over and move into new directions. Blanka Zizka continues to lead the company, among the city’s largest, which is currently presenting the play Body Awareness.

The banner on the Wilma Theatre’s website read, simply, “Remembering Jiri Zizka, 1953-2012,” and included a picture of a smiling Zizka in a signature baseball cap. There was no accompanying report.

Zizka was born in Prague and became co-artistic director of the Wilma in 1981. He directed more than 70 productions, and in 2010 moved into a consulting relationship with the theater in order to pursue other artistic endeavors, according to biographical material on the site. 


Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727 or

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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