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An image of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Photo: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images.
An image of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Photo: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images.

Philly’s Wilma Theater to return donation from group close to Russian oligarch a week before presenting Ukrainian war play

The Philly theater has announced plans to return the donation of Roman Abramovich shortly before presenting the 2017 Ukrainian play.

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The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia has revealed intentions to return a donation from a group known for being backed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. 

The announcement came about a week before the theater’s set presentation of Bad Roads, a 2017 Ukrainian play that focuses on war.

Abramovich is the former Governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The Russian oligarch is a billionaire who also owns Millhouse LLC and Chelsea, a Premier League football club.

Since Russian oligarchs hold power and influence over some political figures in their country, the world’s eyes have been trained on the group more closely since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked Joe Biden to not sanction Abramovich over worries of sabotaging further peace talks with Russia.

Worldwide, donations from Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Putin regime have been criticized in recent days. 

Prior to Russia’s invasion, donations from oligarchs based in the country were typically accepted among Western organizations and institutes.

In Philly, Abramovich made headlines for the Wilma Theater’s return of a donation he made to the institution. Abramovich has become known as a frequent donor to arts organizations worldwide.

The donation from the group close to Abramovich was to support a production of The Cherry Orchard at the Wilma Theater. The theater has now withdrawn entirely from the partnership.

The Cherry Orchard is the final play from Anton Chekhov, a Russian playwright. The play was originally written in 1903.

Since 2018, the Wilma Theater had been planning their production of The Cherry Orchard

Russian director Dmitry Krymov was set to helm the production. Krymov has since spoken against Russia's invasion. 

MART, the group whose ties to the Wilma Theater were cut, is a nonprofit foundation that supports contemporary Russian culture on international stages.

The foundation claims to be non-governmental and has admitted to receiving support from Abramovich. 

MART and the Wilma Theater alike have confirmed the severing of their partnership. The Wilma Theater initiated the partnership’s end through request. 

The Wilma Theater is set for their presentation of Bad Roads on Thursday, March 31. The presentation will be free.

Bad Roads — from Ukrainian, Lviv-based playwright Natal'ya Vorozhbit — takes place in 2014; follows a journalist on a trip to a war torn Ukraine to research a conflict on the front line.

The play focuses on the experience of being a woman during wartime. The presentation will raise funds for the Voices of Children Foundation through donations.

The Voices of Children Foundation is helping children in Ukraine affected by the current conflict. 

Bad Roads will be presented at the Wilma Theater on March 31 at 7:00 p.m.. The theater is requiring masks to be worn and proof of vaccination to enter.

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