PHILADELPHIA — Blanka Zizka, the artistic director of the Wilma Theater here, had reached a breaking point.
About seven years ago, she was putting on a new play featuring actors from New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and “the room was filled with egos and fears,” Ms. Zizka said. It felt all too familiar: “starting a production trying to get the fear out of people.”
“It takes a long time to build trust,” explained Ms. Zizka, who defected from Czechoslovakia in 1976 with her husband, Jiri, and joined the fledgling Wilma three years later. “That sense of discontinuity was really painful. I thought, if that’s what theater means in the United States, I don’t want to do it. One possibility was to retire, and the other was to change things.”
Ms. Zizka did not retire — she went rogue.
The Wilma now has a three-year-old resident acting company and welcomes shows whose daring aesthetics depart from the factory-setting naturalism of most American stages, especially regional ones.