It was first in Helsinki, and then in Vienna at the 9th World Congress
of the INTERNATIONAL THEATRE INSTITUTE 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.
Set up in 1948, by UNESCO and world-renowned theatre personalities,
the International Theatre Institute is the most important international
non-governmental organization in the field of the performing arts
enjoying formal relations (relations of consultation and association)
"to promote international exchange of knowledge and practice
in the domain of the performing arts, to stimulate creation and
increase cooperation between theatre people, to make public opinion
aware of the necessity of taking artistic creation into consideration
in the domain of development, to deepen mutual understanding in
order to participate in strengthening peace and friendship among
peoples, to join in the defence of the ideals and aims of UNESCO."
Jean Cocteau was the author of the first International Message
in 1962. In 1993 the Venezuelan ITI Centre published two anthologies,
one containing all the Messages from 1962 to 1993 in their original
language versions and a second collection in Spanish.
As well as the wide diffusion of the International Message, the
central feature of W.T.D since its inception in 1961, World Theatre
Day has included numerous events in all corners of the world, ranging
from the almost intimate demonstration to the big popular celebration.
The events organized to celebrate World Theatre Day
are attempts to realise these objectives. 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, more than a hundred radio and television
stations transmitting the Message to listeners in all corners of
the five continents.
World Theatre Day is an occasion for theatre people to celebrate
the power of the performing arts to bring people together, it is
an opportunity to share with their audiences a certain vision of
their art and its capacity to contribute to understanding and peace