Teresa’s Weekly Update: Remembering Jiri Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.”

-Tom Stoppard, Arcadia, directed by Jiri Zizka at the Wilma Theater, 1996-97, the first production in their new home on the Avenue of the Arts.

Last week I learned the sad, sad news that Jiri Zizka, co-founder of the Wilma Theater, has died, and my heart goes out to his family, his friends and colleagues. I worked very closely with him in my six years as managing director of the Wilma, and learned never to waste the potential of the imagination and most definitely not to fear big ideas. One example: after years and many obstacles of trying to build a new building in Philadelphia, we finally set a ground breaking date. For the festivities, we decided to re-enact the fitting myth of Sisyphus, and I imagined us perhaps rolling a two foot boulder up and down a ramp. Jiri insisted it be “giant, like 20 feet in diameter.” The next thing I knew, a boulder was rolling through the streets of Philadelphia to community acclaim!

Jiri’s passing gives special resonance to the original focus of this Update, the approaching deadline for the Alan Schneider Director Award nominations. Following Alan’s death in a 1984 London traffic accident, the Alan Schneider Memorial Fund was established by TCG, the Acting Company and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. The award is designed to identify and assist exceptional directors whose talent has been demonstrated through work in specific regions, but who are not known nationally. Check our website for the guidelines and the application form. The nomination deadline is February 1.

The recipient of the 2005 Alan Schneider Award was Michael John Garcés, and we released his I AM THEATRE video last week. His charming story about cutting his ponytail to fill in for an actor who went missing at the last minute is a reminder of that oldest and most essential of theatre clichés—the show must go on!

The show will go on…for the Wilma Theater, the Philadelphia theatre community and all the artists and audiences Jiri’s work touched. For a moment, though, we stop and give our profound thanks to one of the two artists who fled Communist Czechoslovakia to found a daring theatre company over a converted garage on Sansom Street.

“There is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.” We will pick up what has fallen and continue the procession. We will keep the boulder rolling.