World theatre day and why the UK don´t celebrate it

Now, here we are today, celebrating the 58th annual World Theatre Day and you’d hardly know it. Decades in, you’d think that World Theatre Day would be a big thing, right? Properly established. But, at least on these shores, it’s fair to say the folks at the International Theatre Institute (ITI) haven’t got to grips very well with social media. This lead to Word Theatre Day not being acknowledged by everyone.

Besides that it’s because the ITI is based in Paris, and they often have European theatre titans as their annual ambassadors, and that makes folks from the land of Shakespeare’s birth not want to celebrate the day.

From the World Theatre Day international map of events, there’s nothing of official significance happening here in the UK today. They are lagging behind swathes of Africa and quite a lot happening in Italy as well as in Spain.

What is World Theatre Day you ask?

It was started by The International Theatre Institute. This was when a  Non-Governmental Organisation in formal associate relations with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, was officially inaugurated during the meeting of its first World Congress in Prague in 1948. It was organised on the initiative of UNESCO and a group of international theatre experts.

World Theatre Day was launched by the ITI in 1961. It’s celebrated annually on 27 March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Therefore various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion where lots of people get together to celebrate.

One of the most important of these is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message. 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 in 1962. Others over the years have included Arthur Miller, Pablo Neruda, Wole Soyinka, Vaclav Havel and Eugene Ionesco. As well as Robert Lepage, Edward Albee, Dario Fo and John Malkovich. Including a few British people such as Judi Dench, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and Peter Brook (twice – from Paris).

One of the quotes said by Krzysztof Warlikowski says;

“The true masters of theatre are most easily found far from the stage. And they generally have no interest in theatre as a machine for replicating conventions and reproducing clichés. They search out the pulsing source, the living currents that tend to bypass performances halls and the throngs of people bent on copying some world or another.

We copy, instead of create, worlds that are focused or even reliant on debate with an audience, on emotions that swell below the surface. And actually there is nothing that can reveal hidden passions better than the theatre.

Most often I turn to prose for guidance. Day in and day out, I find myself thinking about writers who, nearly one hundred years ago, described prophetically but also restrainedly the decline of the European gods. The twilight that plunged our civilization into a darkness that has yet to be illumined. I am thinking of Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust. Today, I would also count John Maxwell Coetzee among that group of prophets.”