Fat Ham extended at Wilma Theater

From left, Fat Ham actors Brenson Thomas and Brandon J. Pierce. Photo by Johanna Austin.
From left, Fat Ham actors Brenson Thomas and Brandon J. Pierce. Photo by Johanna Austin.

South Philly native James Ijames’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fat Ham has received a second and final run at the Wilma Theater at 265 S. Broad St. 

Running from Dec. 27-30, the second extension of the Wilma Theater’s highest-selling show in more than a decade will offer seats starting at $32, with discounts available for students, groups and veterans.

“We are thrilled to feel the genuine enthusiasm, joy, and love emanating from audiences as they leave the theater,” said Morgan Green, co-artistic director of the Wilma Theater. “Fat Ham is a healing story, and we need more of it.”

The production, directed by Barrymore Award winner Amina Robinson, opened its 2023-24 season Nov. 24. Fat Ham’s second extension includes six matinee and evening performances. Tickets can be purchased at www.wilmatheater.org or by calling the Wilma’s box office at 215-546-7824.

Ijames’s story, based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is set at a BBQ in the South and centers on Juicy, who is Black, queer, and soft, and learning to love himself while attempting to find answers about his identity. He’s setting up the family backyard for a party celebrating his mother Tedra’s recent marriage to his uncle Rev when the ghost of his father Pap shows up. Pap claims Rev had him killed and demands Juicy avenge him. But revenge doesn’t come easy to Juicy, a sensitive and self-aware young Black man searching for his own happiness and liberation. From an uproarious family cookout emerges a compelling examination of choosing pleasure over harm.

The play is presented in the Wilma’s 300-seat theater and features actors Brenson Thomas, Donnie Hammond, Zuhairah McGill, Jessica Johnson and Wilma HotHouse members Brandon J. Pierce, Lindsay Smiling and Anthony Martinez-Briggs.

The world premiere of Fat Ham was originally presented at the Wilma as a filmed production directed by Green during the 2020-21 season. The play received the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama and debuted in New York for in-person audiences at The Public Theater, co-produced with the National Black Theatre.

In a first for a producing theater in Philadelphia, the Wilma co-produced Fat Ham’s successful spring 2023 Broadway run at the American Airlines Theatre that earned five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play.

“We are gleefully poised to produce Fat Ham as originally envisioned on the Wilma stage,” said Green. “James wrote a play that evokes undeniable joy, release and celebration, which inspired the effusive reception from the digital version to Broadway. I can’t wait to experience the rendition this incredible cast and creative team will bring to life.”

Actor and director Amina Robinson makes her Wilma directorial debut with Fat Ham. As a director, she became the first Black woman to win a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for the 2018 production of The Color Purple at Theater Horizon.

Ijames is no stranger to theater in his hometown, as well as other major cities. His plays have been produced by Flashpoint Theater Company, Theatre Exile, The National Black Theatre and The Public Theater in New York City, Timeline Theater in Chicago and more. 

He’s especially familiar with the Wilma, having previously served as one of the Wilma’s co-artistic directors before announcing he was stepping down in late 2023.

“I’m so incredibly excited to have Fat Ham in Philly at one of my favorite places, the Wilma,” shared Ijames. “The Wilma will always be an artistic home for me. I’m so thrilled to continue my relationship with the company and see this cast under the genius direction of Amina Robinson.”