Happy World Theatre Day!

Posted on: 27 March 2013

Written by: Anonymous

March 27, World Theatre Day: where internationally, thespians and their compatriots take a moment to forthrightly celebrate their art. The International Theatre Institute initiated the occasion in 1961 and has been utilizing its worldwide reach to help share the International Theatre Day Message ever since. Italian actor and playwright Dario Fo, who is arguably one of the most widely-accomplished world theatre playwright, was chosen to speak today on the message of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. His thoughts, which can be heard here, have been translated and recited in more than 20 different languages. You can read actor Julian Sands read the message in English below.

In his World Theatre Day message, Dario Fo mentions the expulsion of Commedia dell’Arte actors from Italy long ago, as the government was looking to control the large audience that enjoyed their work. Fo continues by noting that today’s actors don’t face the problem of their audiences being quelled, but instead confront the issue of not having a place to address an audience at all... in part because they lack an audience to address.

As an American, I find this piece of Fo’s message most interesting. The challenges we’re facing in the US are exactly those Fo describes: those who choose to express themselves through theatre can’t find a place to address an audience, much less find an audience to address. The government isn’t chasing the actors out because the attendance is too great‒ society is simply chasing the actors out. The answer to the inevitable question of why this is happening...well, that’s anybody’s guess at this point. We are a nation in the midst of quiet political unrest, in persistent conflict with each other about what’s really important to upholding the principles upon which we built ourselves. I came to the UK with a desire to look at theatre’s lasting role in British society. There is a real historical precedent for producing and presenting theatre in Britain, and despite the funding cuts that have been taking place recently, it is clear that British theatre has a greater stronghold in society than American theatre in terms of societal importance and staying power. The idea of the performing arts as valuable to the US has faded over time, and the movement to change that perspective is not as strong as I, for one, would like it to be. I hope what I learn of theatre here in Britain, I can use to help bring the importance of theatre back to America.

And so today, World Theatre Day, as Cardboard Citizens’ Glasshouse is being performed at Holloway prison, I can only think of the overwhelming importance of what the audience at that show is experiencing. The actors are fortunate to have a place to act, as well as an audience. The audience is fortunate to have the actors onstage before them, being something of a mirror. Theatre in every capacity, allows us to look at ourselves as individuals, as a society, and perhaps most universally, as humans, by watching others illustrate a reflection of ourselves. No matter our background or personality, we can find a bit of our human selves, as a collective, in theatre.

At the end of his message, Dorio Fo offers a solution to the crisis he presents: that all of us who wish to learn the art of theatre be expelled and organize themselves. It seems to me that theatre is not just comprised of those who learn it, as it shows all of us an impression of who we really are. Theatre is, in essence, the combined effort of everyone who has ever lived. To expel those who take interest in the theatre, is, in a greater sense, to expel us all. Waxing a bit hackneyed now, I must mention that Shakespeare quotation, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

And thinking from an international perspective, it seems he’s not wrong. Happy World Theatre Day.


With thanks to

Arts Council England Lottery funded