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Playwright James Iljames has served as the artistic director of the Wilma Theater during the 2021-2022 season. Photo: The Wilma Theater
Playwright James Iljames has served as the artistic director of the Wilma Theater during the 2021-2022 season. Photo: The Wilma Theater

Philly playwright James Iljames archives Pulitzer win for ‘Fat Ham’

The playwright’s winning play premiered as a streaming production with Philly’s Wilma Theater.

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In the past 15 years, playwright James Iljames has been making a name for himself.

Becoming a Wilma Theater collaborative partner in 2020, winning five Barrymore Awards in his career, and co-founding the Orbiter 3 playwright collective are only some of his accolades.

Moving forward at the Wilma Theater, Iljames has served the theater’s Artistic Director role during the 2021-2022 season.

Iljames’ play Fat Ham premiered at the Wilma Theater in April 2021, under direction from Morgan Green. The work has now won the playwright a Pulitzer Prize.

A pivotal member of Philly’s theatre scene for over 15 years, Iljames’ Fat Ham considers Shakespeare’s Hamlet from Black, queer and southern perspectives. 

Fat Ham follows a queer college student named Juicy who identity, the haunting of his late father, and further themes of vengeance.

Iljames described his relationship with Shakespeare as fraught in a Philadelphia Gay News interview.

His reasoning is based on college curriculums that frame Shakespeare as the pinnacle of the artform, employing a rather restricted perspective.

Announced on May 9, the 2022 Pulitzer Prizes welcomed Iljames as an awardee.

Iljames won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, winning for Fat Ham. Sylvia Khoury's Selling Kabul and Kristina Wong's Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord were named as finalists.

Fat Ham is set to start its New York run this Thursday, May 12. First up on the run is The Public Theater near Broadway.

Following its New York debut, Fat Ham will move on to the National Black Theater in Harlem.

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