World Theatre Day is celebrated every year on March 27. Designated by the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in 1961, this day celebrates the essence, beauty, and importance of theatre arts, their significant role in entertainment, and the symbolic impact that theatre has on life. This day also serves to inform governments, politicians, institutions, and stakeholders around the world who have not yet realized the value of theatre to the people and its potential for economic growth.
History of World Theatre Day
Since ancient Greece, theatre has been a popular form of art and entertainment — thrilling its audiences and leaving them in awe. Not only does it entertain and educate, but theatre also combines various art forms to give its live audience a real stage experience, which they can’t find anywhere else.
World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27, promoted by the ITI through its centers, and supported by theatre communities all over the world. The day was initiated by ITI, following President Arvi Kivimaa’s June 1961 proposal at the ninth World Congress of the ITI in Vienna — on behalf of the ITI’s Finnish Centre — for a World Theatre Day to be instituted. The proposal was supported by the Scandinavian centers of the ITI and publicized with enthusiasm.
The next year — on March 27, 1962, World Theatre Day was celebrated by ITI centers, ITI Cooperating Members, theatre professionals, and theatre organizations. Today, the day is celebrated in the 90+ ITI centers throughout the world, with theatre universities, academies, schools, and theatre lovers all around the globe joining in the day’s observance.
Different events are organized to mark World Theatre Day every year. A prominent feature of these annual events is the World Theatre Day International Message, presented by a famous art figure, reflecting on the history of theatre and a culture of peace in today’s world. The first World Theatre Day International Message was written by French poet and playwright Jean Cocteau in 1962. In 2021, the Message of the World Theatre Day was authored by Helen Mirren, a multi-award-winning British actress reputed for winning the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in “The Queen.”
World Theatre Day timeline
Poet, tragedian, and author Thespis arrives in Athens with his troupe, and performs in the marketplace.
Pompey the Great builds the first permanent stone theatre in Rome.
Widely regarded as the world’s oldest theatre in the world, the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy, is inaugurated with a performance of Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King.”
For the first time, World Theatre Day is celebrated by ITI centers, ITI Cooperating Members, theatre professionals and organizations, theatre academies, and theatre lovers all over the world on March 27.
World Theatre Day FAQs
Why do we celebrate World Theatre Day?
The day is celebrated to raise awareness about the importance of theatre arts and their important role in entertainment, and to highlight how they can be used to foster peace and economic development.
Does ITI designate a theme for each year?
ITI doesn’t designate any specific theme for World Theatre Day every year. Every year, the theme for World Theatre Day is “Theatre and a Culture of Peace.”
Who can celebrate World Theatre Day?
ITI and theatre communities around the world organize special events to mark World Theatre Day on March 27 every year. The celebrations are open to everyone around the world — from theatre practitioners, to government institutions, ministries of cultures, arts universities, and colleges, to theatre enthusiasts and fans — who love the stage and appreciate its beauty.
World Theatre Day Activities
Visit your local theatre
Pay a visit to your local theatre; they usually hold World Theatre Day events every year. You could support the ancient art form by buying tickets to see some of their performances, or by donating to their affiliated organizations. If you feel adventurous enough, you can even sign up for a theatre program to learn music and acting. Additionally, you can make it a group activity by encouraging your friends to sign up, too!
Join a World Theatre Day event
Many of the celebrations happen at ITI centers and designated locations around the world, and ITI encourages everyone celebrating this day to use their creativity for its promotion. You could search for theatre associations or organizations in your locality in advance, and make plans to join the event in your community. Can’t do any of the above? Read/hear the World Theatre Day International Message and share it on social media with the hashtag #WorldTheaterDay.
Involve your children
Young or old — regardless of gender — theatre is for everyone to enjoy. World Theatre Day is a great opportunity to get your children into the theatre. There are many shows for them to enjoy: “The Lion King,” “The Tiger Who Came to Tea,” and the two-part “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” amongst others. They’d definitely be thrilled, entertained, and educated!
5 Interesting Facts About Theatre
World’s oldest theatre
Widely accepted as the oldest theatre in the world, the Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre) in Vicenza, Italy, hosted its first performance in March 1585.
Smallest operating theatre
Seating just eight people, the Kremlhoftheater in Austria is the world’s smallest regularly-operating theatre.
Longest-running Broadway show
Running since 1988 with an estimated gross of $6 billion, ‘’The Phantom of the Opera’’ is the longest-running Broadway show in history, having been performed in 15 languages to over 140 million people in 35 countries, and 166 cities around the world.
Most theatre-crazy city
New York City is first amongst the theatre-crazy cities in the world, boasting 420 theatres, topping Paris, which has 353 theatres, Tokyo, with 230, and London with 214 theatres.
Women acting in England
Up until 1660 when King Charles II ordered that all female roles should be played by women, it was illegal for women to act in England.
Why We Love World Theatre Day
It promotes the beauty of theatre in all forms
According to ITI, one of the goals of the day is to make people aware of the value and beauty of theatre in all its forms. This is why the international theatre community plans performances, lectures, and award presentations each year to promote the ancient craft of drama and music.
It raises global awareness about forms of theatre
World Theatre Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the various forms of theatre, and appreciate their significance in our society. Many of these forms of theatre have survived for centuries, while some have evolved into new ones over time. While some are more famous than others, all of these art forms are essential for education, entertainment, stimulation, and relaxation.
It enables theatre communities to promote their work on a bigger scale
For the ITI and international theatre communities, World Theatre Day allows them to showcase many obscure potentials and prospects in the field. It’s a day to celebrate the creative minds in theatre, and highlight their best efforts for the world to see. More importantly, it’s a day to draw the attention of government officials, politicians, institutions, and opinion leaders to the value and importance of theatre in all its forms and advocate support for it.
World Theatre Day dates