The Venice Theatre Biennale, founded in 1934, aka the “International Theatre Festival”, takes place annually in July. It is part of the Venice Biennale family of major exhibitions and festivals of Art, Architecture, Dance, Music, Children’s Carnival and Film.

In 2021, the 49th International Theatre Festival, took place from the 2nd-11th July; in a variety of locations in the city. Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, appointed as joint directors for the 2021/2024 editions of the Theatre Biennale. This year’s theme “Blue”, focused on their project of exploring “today’s Man and his multifaceted complexity”.

It was the first part of the program, that will be in the form of a “tetralogy”; with a different thematic matrix for each year, tied to a specific colour. The active principle used here, is the use of “colour”, as a vehicle to stimulate and raise our emotional responses; “in order to see the world in a different way”.




Venice Theatre Biennale -20211895. The history of “La Biennale di Venezia”, dates back from 1895; when the first International Art Exhibition was organised.

1930-31. The Venice Biennale was transformed into an autonomous board, by a Royal Decree of 1930 and the financing and the board’s articles of association were established in 1931. With this transformation, the Biennale passed from the control of the Venice City Council to that of the Italian fascist state.

Thanks to increased funds and the impulse provided by its president, Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata; new events were set up in the 30’s (Music, Cinema, and Theatre) and the Biennale took on the multidisciplinary character that it has to this day.


1934. The International Theatre Festival was held for the first time and after 1936, it became an annual event.

1942-47. Following the outbreak of hostilities during the Second World War, the activities of the Biennale were interrupted in September 1942.  It was not until 1947, that the Theatre Festival was resumed.

1968. Student protests hindered the opening of the Biennale. A period of institutional changes opened, ending up with a new Statute (1973).

1973. On 26th July, the Parliament approved the Organisation’s new statute. A “democratic” Board was set up (19 members), comprising representatives from the Government, the most important local organisations, major trade unions, and a representative of the staff. The Board was to elect the President and nominate the Sectorial Directors (Visual arts, Cinema, Music, Theatre).

1974-75. Theatre and cinema events were held in October 1974 and 1975, under the title Libertà per il Cile (Freedom for Chile).

1979. Under the presidency of Giuseppe Galasso (1979-1982), the principle was laid down whereby each of the artistic sectors was to have a permanent director to organise its activity.

1995. For the Centenary, the Biennale promoted events in every sector of its activity, including the 34th Festival del Teatro,

2004. On January, 15 the Biennale was transformed into a foundation.

2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Theatre and Dance international festivals, were rescheduled with new dates in the second half of the year, whereas the Film Festival and the Music Festival were confirmed in their original dates. In October, new artistic directors were appointed for the four-year term 2021-2024: Alberto Barbera (Cinema), Wayne McGregor (Dance), Lucia Ronchetti (Music) and Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, (Theatre).



Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, appointed as joint directors, for the 2021/2024 editions of the Theatre Biennale; focused on the project of exploring “today’s Man and his multifaceted complexity”.

(Authors and directors Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, trained at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico, with Luca Ronconi and at New York University, with Edward Albee. The eponymous ensemble was founded in 2005. Among their awards: Hystrio, Vallecorsi, Fondi-La Pastora, Studio 12, Oddone Cappellin for dramaturgy, and the Premio Gibellina/Salvo Randone for direction).





  • Establish real exchanges between disciplines,such as Dance, Music, the Plastic Arts, Architecture and Cinema; to promote young talents to give them a voice, visibility and the opportunity to experiment.
  • Develop original creations with the help of the creative residencies in the calls for the College Theatre (for directors under 35, authors under 40 and site-specific performances under 40); and with a cycle of Round Tables, Master Classes and Forums – assisted by an international team of scholars, professionals, journalists, artists and “maitres d’excellence”
  •  Provide the platform and stimuli, to develop imagination; in order to build the innovative architecture of tomorrow.



This year’s theme “Blue” in all its nuances, reflecting on Balzac’s “Comédie humaine” , was the first part of their program; that will be in the form of a “tetralogy”, with a different thematic matrix for each year, tied to a specific palette of colours.

The active principle here, is the use of “colour”, as a vehicle to stimulate and raise our emotional responses; in order to “see the world in a different way.”

“Why start with blue”? According to the Directors – “Because melancholy isolation and death have stopped us: the silence of the empty Theatres could be painted with the blue of the cold, that has engulfed the crews and artists of the performing arts, who have been idle for months…..a reflection upon the awareness of a new beginning, upon setting sail on an artistic course towards Neverland (which has been swept away by a pandemic that erases everything) to re-found, in this germinating expressive hotbed, a new cultural Renaissance that can return the Art of Theatre to the position it deserves, within Us, within the eternal magnificence of the divine”.



Essentially the program was developed, by incorporating:

  • Daily events, with the most important protagonists of the contemporary theatrical scene,
  • Productions made in the context of the Biennale College Teatro, the training project aimed at young artists.

The artists featured in Venice were: Krzysztof Warlikowski, Kornél Mundruczó with the Proton Theatre, Roberto Latini, Kae Tempest, Thomas Ostermeier and Edouard Louis, Danio Manfredini, Francesco Pititto and Maria Federica Maestri of the Lenz Fondazione, Agrupación Señor Serrano, Filippo Andreatta and his Office for Human Theatre, Adrienn Hód and Paolo Costantini.

Some of the invited directors, were joined by other artists and specialists as teachers in the program of masterclasses for the Biennale College: Martin Crimp, Chiara Guidi and Galatea Ranzi, Leo Muscato with Nicole Kehrberger and the maestro Riccardo Frizza, Monica Capuani, Andrea Porcheddu and Davide Carnevali.

The Director’s project for the Biennale College, consolidated the idea of experimentation and the support for new talents. The focus was on directing and dramaturgy, especially in Italy, but also internationally in their call for performers.  which will select an original performance piece for the outdoors, choosing locations; that are significant for the daily life of the lagoon. La Biennale di Venezia, believes it is necessary and important to invite international artists, to take on the challenge of scenic writing, in site-specific performance theatre; that can address the issues of the contemporary age.

The “Call” for Directors, authors and performers, was divided into four sections. For the first three sections, the calls received 415 submissions; leading to selection:

  • Italian Directors under 35. Candidates entered the selection phases and a single director was selected to win a production prize; with which that person will develop, under the mentorship of the Artistic Directors, a play to present at the Biennale Teatro 2022.
  • Italian Authors under 40. Two winning authors were chosen to present their original texts in the form of a stage reading; in collaboration with a recognised centre of theatre education, at the Biennale Teatro 2022.
  • Italian/Foreign Performers under 40. Candidates for site-specific performances, underwent a second selection phase this year, at the conclusion of which, two winners were selected to participate in a phase of development and finally, will present their works at the next Biennale Teatro.
  • Masterclasses. A programme of masterclasses ran for the entire duration of the 49th International Theatre Festival, involving the public and professionals from around the world; in an in-depth exploration of what it means to do theatre today. The intention was that Venice and La Biennale, will become more than just a stage to present plays; but first and foremost a place for meeting, learning, practical training and for the discussion of the theatre arts at the international level. The programme of masterclasses and round tables (about directing lyric opera and about theatre and psychotherapy) complemented and completed the programme of performances and become an essential part of the Festival.



  • Arsenale – Tese dei Soppalchi – Teatro alle Tese – Teatro Piccolo
  • Ca’ Giustinian – Sala delle Colonne (see Award ceremonies below)
  • Teatro Goldoni
  • Parco Albanese (Bissuola – Mestre)
  • Outdoor Locations  Campo Santo Stefano and Riva di Corinto – Lido (College Teatro, site-specific performances)



Krysztof Warlikowsky, who presented the inaugural show, was the winner of the “Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement” Award, for his new work for Italy “We are Leaving”; an adaptation of The Suitcase Packers by Hanoch Levin, one of the major Israeli playwrights.

The award was presented at the Sala delle Colonne – Ca’ Giustinian, on Saturday 3rd July, at 12.00 midday.

We are Leaving is a choral play, tinged with black humour that turns into tragedy, in which the progression towards a hypothetical better world that is constantly becoming entangled in a “false movement”; becomes the symbol of a human condition. On the stage, a small community with its everyday stories of resentment and tensions ready to explode, a mosaic of characters that Warlikowski constrains within a sort of “hypnotichyperrealism” in a choreography of gestures, tics, postures.


Kae Tempest (b.1985), was the winner of the “Silver Lion” for her premiered work “The Book of Traps & Lessons

It was presented at the Sala delle Colonne, Ca’ Giustinian, on Friday 9th July, at 12.00 midday.

Her work transforms the most ancient art of poetry, in its original dimension as oral storytelling, into burning energy, a necessary and authentic narration that merges the metrics of poetry and the rhythms of rap.

Kae Tempest deals bravely with poverty, class and consumerism…… In a way that not only avoids the pitfalls of sounding trite, but manages to be beautiful too, drawing on ancient mythology and sermonic cadence to tell stories of the everyday”; writes “The Guardian”.


Previous Winners

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre: Ferruccio Soleri (2006), Ariane Mnouschkine (2007), Roger Assaf (2008), Irene Papas (2009), Thomas Ostermeier (2011), Luca Ronconi (2012), Romeo Castellucci (2013), Jan Lauwers (2014), Christoph Marthaler (2015), Declan Donnellan (2016), Katrin Brack (2017), Antonio Rezza and Flavia Mastrella (2018), Jens Hillje (2019), Franco Visioli (2020).

Silver Lion, dedicated to promising young artists in the theatre, or to the institutions that have distinguished themselves for cultivating new talents: Rimini Protokoll (2011), Angélica Liddell (2013), Fabrice Murgia (2014), Agrupación Señor Serrano (2015), Babilonia Teatri (2016), Maja Kleczewska (2017), Anagoor (2018), Jetse Batelaan (2019), Alessio Maria Romano (2020).



Detailed History – Director’s Statements – Locations – General Information: The Official Website pages of the “Biennale Teatro-2021” : HERE

2021 Program of Events and Venues – Pdf file: HERE

The Media Partner for the Theatre, Dance and Music Departments was Rai Cultura, which on its web portal and on channel Rai5; followed the events of La Biennale di Venezia for the year 2021.




Please see my other posts in the category “Festivals-Regattas-Events”: HERE


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