(President and CEO) is a Tony® Award-winning, Emmy nominated producer-entertainment executive. As a principal of TheatreDreams, he has co-produced Neil Simon's Dinner Party, starring Henry Winkler and John Ritter, the smash musical hit, Urinetown, which completed a two-year run at The Henry Miller Theater in January 2004, and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, starring Vanessa Williams.
Wilker organized TheatreDreams with Bill Becker after his resignation as President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in April, 2000. When his leaving the Kennedy Center post was announced, The Washington Post published a highly laudatory editorial about his 10-year tenure. (view article)
In the fall of 2007 TheatreDreams was engaged by the troubled Carnival Center of the Performing Arts (now the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County) in Miami to provide interim management services. Over 14 months under Wilker's leadership, TheatreDreams:
-helped secure a $30 million naming gift;
At the Kennedy Center, Wilker oversaw a $120 million/year arts and entertainment organization. When he assumed leadership of the Kennedy Center it was $7 million in debt, experiencing ever-declining attendance and progressively fewer productions while increasing debt by almost $2 million per year. Although he was operating a non-profit organization under the strictures of government, in less than 5 years, Wilker:
- paid off all debt;
Wilker brought a new dimension of creative leadership to the Kennedy Center. He created a PBS series, "Kennedy Center Presents," as well as the "Mark Twain Comedy Awards" on Comedy Central. He instituted national tours of Kennedy Center theatrical and family entertainment, free concerts, circus and cabaret productions, a psychographically designed schedule of offerings aimed at broadening the appeal and scope of the Kennedy Center.
Wilker dramatically expanded the Kennedy Center product line by presenting and producing jazz, country music, international productions, comedy, and productions aimed at a family audience. He established four different jazz series, including Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center, which is now broadcast throughout the U.S. over National Public Radio. Most recently Wilker introduced the Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli to America by presenting him in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Then, in the fall of 1998 he presented Bocelli in 27 concerts throughout the U.S., grossing over $28 million.
Wilker's proven eye for discovering mass-market productions does not end with Andrea Bocelli. He co-produced several musical theater productions that played successfully on Broadway and toured throughout the United States. These shows include the acclaimed, Tony® Award revivals of Guys and Dolls, The King and I, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The Who's Tommy, as well as the Tony® Award winning best musical of 1997, Titanic.
Wilker earned the Kennedy Center more than $2 million in profits and five Tony® Awards from these productions. Guys and Dolls alone returned more than 160% to investors. Wilker was a co-producer of The Music Man.
Prior to the Kennedy Center, Wilker served as President of Playhouse Square Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, where he:
- supervised the largest theater restoration project in the world, creating a four-theater, 10,000 seat performing arts center;
developed, built and operated a 750 car parking garage;
Wilker has either built or renovated eight theaters, and served as Director of Properties for the Shubert Organization as well as Vice President of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Foundation. Wilker is a graduate of the University of Illinois (PhD) and the University of Massachusetts (MFA).