World Theatre Day - 27 March

World Theatre Day is the creation of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). It is celebrated annually on the 27th March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion. One of the most important of these is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The first World Theatre Day International Message was written by Jean Cocteau (France) in 1962. It was first in Helsinki, and then in Vienna at the 9th World Congress of the ITI in June 1961 that President Arvi Kivimaa proposed on behalf of the Finnish Centre of the International Theatre Institute that a World Theatre Day be instituted. The proposal, backed by the Scandinavian centres, was carried with acclamation. Ever since, each year on the 27th March (date of the opening of the 1962 "Theatre of Nations" season in Paris), World Theatre Day has been celebrated in many and varied ways by ITI National Centres of which there are now almost 100 throughout the world. Each year a figure outstanding in theatre or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field, is invited to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. What is known as the International Message is translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world and printed in hundreds of daily newspapers. Colleagues in the audio-visual field lend a fraternal hand, with more than a hundred radio and television stations transmitting the Message to listeners in all corners of the five continents.

About celebration created by the International Theatre Institute ITI

World Theatre Day Message read in 40 languages

A long time ago, Power resolved the intolerance against Commedia dell’Arte actors by chasing them out of the country.

Today, actors and theatre companies have difficulties finding public stages, theatres and spectators, all because of the crisis.

Rulers are, therefore, no longer concerned with problems of control over those who express themselves with irony and sarcasm, since there is no place for actors, nor is there a public to address.

On the contrary, during the Renaissance, in Italy those in power had to make a significant effort in order to hold the Commedianti at bay, since these enjoyed a large audience.

It is known that the great exodus of Commedia dell’Arteplayers happened in the century of the counter-Reformation, which decreed the dismantling of all theatre spaces, especially in Rome, where they were accused of offending the holy city. In 1697, Pope Innocent XII, under the pressure of insistent requests from the more conservative side of the bourgeoisie and of the major exponents of the clergy, ordered the demolition of Tordinona Theatre which, according to the moralists, had staged the greatest number of obscene displays.

At the time of the counter-Reformation, cardinal Carlo Borromeo, who was active in the North of Italy, had committed himself to the redemption of the “children of Milan”, establishing a clear distinction between art, as the highest form of spiritual education, and theatre, the manifestation of profanity and of vanity. In a letter addressed to his collaborators, which I quote off the cuff, he expresses himself more or less as follows: “Concerned with eradicating the evil weed, we have done our utmost to burn texts containing infamous speeches, to eradicate them from the memory of men, and at the same time to prosecute also those who divulged such texts in print. Evidently, however, while we were asleep, the devil labored with renewed cunning. How far more penetrating to the soul is what the eyes can see, than what can be read off such books! How far more devastating to the minds of adolescents and young girls is the spoken word and the appropriate gesture, than a dead word printed in books.  It is therefore urgent to rid our cities of theatre makers, as we do with unwanted souls”.

Thus the only solution to the crisis lies in the hope that a great expulsion is organized against us and especially against young people who wish to learn the art of theatre: a new diaspora of Commedianti, of theatre makers, who would, from such an imposition, doubtlessly draw unimaginable benefits for the sake of a new representation.

World Theatre Day Message read in 40 languages


Message of Brett Bailey

Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests.

Under trees in tiny villages, and on high tech stages in global metropolis; in school halls and in fields and in temples; in slums, in urban plazas, community centres and inner-city basements, people are drawn together to commune in the ephemeral theatrical worlds that we create to express our human complexity, our diversity, our vulnerability, in living flesh, and breath, and voice.

We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine. To wonder at technical dexterity, and to incarnate gods. To catch our collective breath at our capacity for beauty and compassion and monstrosity. We come to be energized, and to be empowered. To celebrate the wealth of our various cultures, and to dissolve the boundaries that divide us.

Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests. Born of community, it wears the masks and the costumes of our varied traditions. It harnesses our languages and rhythms and gestures, and clears a space in our midst.

And we, the artists that work with this ancient spirit, feel compelled to channel it through our hearts, our ideas and our bodies to reveal our realities in all their mundanity and glittering mystery.

But, in this era in which so many millions are struggling to survive, are suffering under oppressive regimes and predatory capitalism, are fleeing conflict and hardship; in which our privacy is invaded by secret services and our words are censored by intrusive governments; in which forests are being annihilated, species exterminated, and oceans poisoned: what do we feel compelled to reveal?

In this world of unequal power, in which various hegemonic orders try to convince us that one nation, one race, one gender, one sexual preference, one religion, one ideology, one cultural framework is superior to all others, is it really defensible to insist that the arts should be unshackled from social agendas?

Are we, the artists of arenas and stages, conforming to the sanitized demands of the market, or seizing the power that we have: to clear a space in the hearts and minds of society, to gather people around us, to inspire, enchant and inform, and to create a world of hope and open-hearted collaboration?


Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and the artistic director of THIRD WORLD BUNFIGHT. He has worked throughout South Africa, in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK and Europe.

His acclaimed  iconoclastic dramas, which interrogate the dynamics of the post-colonial world, include BIG DADA, IPI ZOMBI?, iMUMBO JUMBO, medEia and ORFEUS. His performance installations include EXHIBITs A & B.

His works have played across Europe, Australia and Africa, and have won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007). He headed the jury of the Prague Quadrennial in 2011, and was a juror of the International Theatre Institute’s ‘Music Theatre Now’ competition in March 2013.

He directed the opening show at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in Johannesburg (2009), and from 2006-2009 the opening shows at the Harare International Festival of the Arts. From 2008-2011 he was curator of South Africa’s only public arts festival, ‘Infecting the City’, in Cape Town. In 2014 he will deliver the International Theatre Institute’s World Theatre Day message to UNESCO.

Photo: ©Pascal Gely


Message of Dario Fo

This year World Theatre Day was observed by an unusual action: actors and directors from 27 countries all over the world were reading the message written by theatre guru Dario Fo in different languages, from English to Zulu. In this project Russia was represented by Feodor Dobronravov, who acts in Fo’s play “Accidental Death of an Anarchist”. Dario Fo, who is a famous dramatist, playwright, theatre director, actor and a founder of his own company, says about theatre always being a high risk area. In old times it was subject to authorities’ persecution (for example, in the century of the counter-Reformation people were called to destroy theatres as the manifestation of profanity and of vanity), and today it experiences the consequences of economy crisis. Probably every country has a reason to expand on this topic and “the confusion of languages” in ITI videos sounds almost like a symphony. And once again it proves viability of the theatre.  Even one of its major oppressors Cardinal Carlo Borromeo recognized tremendous influence of the theatre on minds of people: “How far more penetrating to the soul is what the eyes can see, than what can be read off books! How far more devastating to the minds of adolescents and young girls is the spoken word and the appropriate gesture, than a dead word printed in books.”

Meanwhile in Russia World Theatre Day was decided to celebrate… at night, in order not to distract a potential audience from performances during the day. Theatre goers received a unique opportunity to visit places which were closed for them during the day – behind the curtain and in rehearsals; as well as lectures, exhibitions and master classes. As many as seventeen Moscow theatres gave up their night sleep and had full house.


Dario Fo, born 24 March 1926, is an Italian satirist, playwright, theatre director, actor, composer and recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. His dramatic work employs comedic methods of the ancient Italian commedia dell'arte, a theatrical style popular with the working classes. Fo's work is characterized by criticism of organized crime, political corruption, political assassination, the doctrine of the Catholic Church and the conflict in the Middle East.

Fo’s first theatrical experience was collaborating on satirical revues for small cabarets and theatres. He and his wife, the actress Franca Rame, founded the Campagnia Dario Fo–Franca Rame in 1959, and their humorous sketches on the television show Canzonissima soon made them popular public personalities. They gradually developed an agitprop theatre of politics, often blasphemous and scatological, but rooted in the tradition of commedia dell’arte and blended with what Fo called “unofficial leftism.” In 1968 Fo and Rame founded another acting group, Nuova Scena, with ties to the Italian Communist Party, and in 1970 they started the Collettivo Teatrale La Comune and began to tour factories, parks, and gymnasiums.

Fo wrote about 70 plays, coauthoring some of them with Rame. Among his most popular plays are Morte accidentale di un anarchico (1974; Accidental Death of an Anarchist) and Non si paga, non si paga! (1974; We Can’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!). As a performer, Fo is best known for his solo tour de force Mistero Buffo (1973; Comic Mystery), based on medieval mystery plays but so topical that the shows changed with each audience. His later works, some of which were written with Rame, include Tutta casa, letto e chiesa (1978; All House, Bed, and Church; Eng. trans. Adult Orgasm Escapes from the Zoo), Clacson, trombette, e pernacchi (1981; Trumpets and Raspberries), Female Parts (1981), Coppia aperta (1983; The Open Couple—Wide Open Even), L’uomo nudo e l’uomo in frak (1985; One Was Nude and One Wore Tails), and Il papa e la strega (1989; The Pope and the Witch).

His plays, especially Mistero Buffo, have been translated into 30 languages and, when performed outside Italy, they are often modified to reflect local political and other issues. Fo encourages directors and translators to modify his plays as they see fit, as he finds this in accordance with the commedia dell'arte tradition of on-stage improvisation.

Fo currently owns and directs a theatre company with Franca Rame.

Upon awarding him the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee highlighted Fo as a writer "who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden

Photo: ©Guido Harari


Message of the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day

I'm honored to have been asked by the International Theatre Institute ITI at UNESCO to give this greeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day. I will address my brief remarks to my fellow theatre workers, peers and comrades.

May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life's work. And may the best of you - for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments - succeed in framing that most basic of questions, "how do we live?" Godspeed.

Photo: Christian Coigny

World Theatre Day Message Authors 1962-2012

  • 1962 Jean COCTEAU
  • 1963 Arthur MILLER
  • 1964 Laurence OLIVIER - Jean-Louis BARRAULT
  • 1965 Anonymous/Anonyme
  • 1966 René MAHEU, Director General of UNESCO
  • 1967 Hélène WEIGEL
  • 1968 Miguel Angel ASTURIAS
  • 1969 Peter BROOK
  • 1971 Pablo NERUDA
  • 1972 Maurice BEJART
  • 1973 Luchino VISCONTI
  • 1974 Richard BURTON
  • 1975 Ellen STEWART
  • 1976 Eugène IONESCO
  • 1977 Radu BELIGAN
  • 1978 national messages
  • 1979 national messages
  • 1980 Janusz WARMINSKI
  • 1981 national messages
  • 1982 Lars af MALMBORG
  • 1983 Amadou Mahtar M'BOW, Director General of UNESCO
  • 1984 Mikhaïl TSAREV
  • 1985 André-Louis PERINETTI
  • 1986 Wole SOYINKA
  • 1987 Antonio GALA
  • 1988 Peter BROOK
  • 1989 Martin ESSLIN
  • 1990 Kirill LAVROV
  • 1991 Federico MAYOR, Director General of UNESCO
  • 1992 Jorge LAVELLI - Arturo USLAR PIETRI
  • 1993 Edward ALBEE
  • 1994 Vaclav HAVEL
  • 1995 Humberto ORSINI
  • 1996 Saadalla WANNOUS
  • 1997 Jeong Ok KIM
  • 1998 50th Anniversary of ITI - Special Message
  • 1999 Vigdís FINNBOGADÓTTIR
  • 2000 Michel TREMBLAY
  • 2001 Iakovos KAMPANELLIS
  • 2002 Girish KARNAD
  • 2003 Tankred DORST
  • 2004 Fathia EL ASSAL
  • 2005 Ariane MNOUCHKINE
  • 2006 Victor Hugo RASCON BANDA
  • 2007 Sultan bin Mohammed AL QASIMI
  • 2008 Robert LEPAGE
  • 2009 Augusto BOAL
  • 2010 Judi DENCH
  • 2011 Jessica A. KAAHWA
  • 2012 John MALKOVICH

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