Willem Dafoe appointed new Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale Theatre for 2025-2026

Willem Dafoe appointed new Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale Theatre for 2025-2026

Willem Dafoe's appointment as Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale Theatre represents a return to his roots and an exciting new chapter for the festival. With his extensive experience and innovative vision, Dafoe is set to bring new energy and a unique perspective to the Biennale.

Willem Dafoe, renowned actor of cinema and theatre, has been appointed Artistic Director of the Theatre section of the Venice Biennale for the 2025-2026 biennium. The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale, chaired by Pietrangelo Buttafuoco.

Pietrangelo Buttafuoco enthusiastically declared: “It is an honor to announce the appointment of Willem Dafoe as Director of the Biennale Theatre. Theatre is indeed the original home of his illustrious career. As one of the founders of the legendary Wooster Group in 1977, his perfect command of his stage presence has always been characterized by discipline, knowledge, passion, and deep awareness of theatre. I, like everyone else, am eager to be a spectator of the Festival he will build as Artistic Director and, from his position as an absolute master, to see the young talents of the Theatre College grow in the arts.”

Dafoe, primarily known for his film roles, expressed his gratitude for the appointment: “I was first surprised and then happy to receive Pietrangelo Buttafuoco’s invitation to be Director of the International Theatre Festival of the Venice Biennale 2025-2026. I am aware that I am known as a film actor, but I was born in theatre. Theatre shaped me and shook me. I am a stage animal. I am an actor. Theatre has educated me in art and life. I worked with the Wooster Group for twenty-seven years, and I have collaborated with great directors from Richard Foreman to Bob Wilson. The direction of my Theatre program will be guided by my personal formation. A sort of exploration of the essence of the body.

A distinguished career in theatre

Willem Dafoe is best known to the general public for his film career, but his roots run deep in theatre. Born in 1955 in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dafoe began his artistic career in theatre, co-founding the Wooster Group in 1977. This experimental theatre collective based in New York is known for its innovation and for redefining the boundaries of traditional theatre. Working with the Wooster Group allowed Dafoe to develop a unique mastery of his stage presence and an in-depth understanding of theatrical dynamics.

Illustrious collaborations and Innovative approach

Throughout his theatre career, Dafoe has collaborated with high-caliber directors such as Richard Foreman and Bob Wilson, contributing to productions that have explored new frontiers of artistic expression. These experiences have enriched his artistic vision and solidified his innovative approach to theatre performance.

The vision for the Biennale Theatre

Dafoe will bring to the Biennale Theatre a deeply personal vision, rooted in his extensive experience and theatrical training. His direction will focus on the exploration of the essence of the body, a central theme in his artistic work. This approach promises to offer a unique and engaging experience for spectators, as well as providing valuable growth opportunities for the young talents of the Biennale’s Theatre College.

Photo from the official Biennale Teatro Venezia website