Ontaria Kim Wilson: Building Bridges through Human Connection in Theater

MFA Directing

Ontaria Kim Wilson is a graduate student in the School of Theater, Film, and Media Arts studying Directing. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Temple in Theatre/Acting, she decided to return for her MFA. She has been working on various projects both an Temple and in the Philadelphia theatre community. Ontaria’s work is centered in human connection and empathy, and her personal philosophies on the role of theatre have helped her become an essential and leading member of the theatre community at Temple and in the city of Philadelphia.

Ontaria Kim Wilson on campus

How did you come to choose Temple for grad school?

I first came to Temple in the early nineties – I did a year straight out of high school. I realized that I needed to have some sort of income, so I went into the work force, took classes at Community College of Philadelphia, and simultaneously functioned as a founding member of Rennie Harris Puremovement. Just before the pandemic hit, I completed my associate’s degree at Community College and returned to Temple to complete my undergrad in the Theater program. I received my BA in Theatre with a concentration in acting. My plan, post grad, was to move to Atlanta. I didn’t think about doing a master’s program at all, but after I had a few conversations that piqued my interest, I decided to apply. I got in, and now I am here pursuing my MFA in Directing!

What sort of projects have you been working on for your graduate program?

The first production for my MFA program was the Chekhov shorts, in which all the directors in the MFA cohort paired up to direct a few of Chekhov’s plays. I directed The Proposal. After that, I was the assistant director for Dance Nation. I was paired with Suli Holum (Director) who is a member of Wilma Theatre’s Hot House Company. I assisted Suli and learned from her pedagogy, which really helped inform some of my current practices as a director – specifically my practices on intimacy and how it should be managed in a creative setting. The most recent show I directed was the Philadelphia premiere of From Okra to Greens, A Different Type of Love Story by Ntozake Shange. It was an honor to direct a piece that no one really produces. Having a Philly premiere of one Ntozake Shange’s was a career highlight for Temple University’s Theatre Department.

How have your experiences in grad school prepared you to face challenges you might encounter in your field after school?

Coming out of the pandemic, I was an ensemble member in the Williamstown Theatre Festival ‘s world premiere of Alienation (Directed by Michael Arden). At that time, we had all just started venturing back outside – we were a group of people who came from different parts of the country, meeting fresh out of a state of isolation. We didn’t know what theatre was going to look like, or how it would continue to exist. But we pulled together and showed the world that theatre is here to stay. The beauty of creating theatre gave us the hope we needed. In a time when the theatre is thought to be in a state of crisis, my Williamstown experience accompanied with the masterful guidance of my professors here at Temple is preparing me to be a leader in the continued renaissance and revolution of theatre.

Where and how do you find community at Temple?

In the theatre department, we have a lot of trust in our community. I think this comes from the fact that when you’re truly passionate about what you do, you want to see your peers prosper just as much as yourself. Our work requires us to be transparent and vulnerable with each other, which has caused our sense of community to naturally build and strengthen over time. Theatre is all about responding to what we see and reflecting the heart and core of humanity, so I think that makes it easy for us to feel close to each other.

What advice do you have for potential grad students at Temple?

Don’t be afraid of time! One of my biggest reasons for initially not wanting to do grad school was because it was a three-year program, and I couldn’t see myself in school for another three years. However, these have been some of the most profound years of development in my career. Grad school opened doors I would not have imagined, and it’s allowed me to cultivate my artistry and build my network. Our society puts so much stress on time and age, but I have learned that those things shouldn’t hold you back from doing what you love to do.