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Willem Dafoe named Artistic Director of Venice Biennale Theatre Department

Willem Dafoe named Artistic Director of Venice Biennale Theatre Department
Willem Dafoe named Artistic Director of Venice Biennale Theatre Department Copyright La Biennale di Venezia
Copyright La Biennale di Venezia
By David Mouriquand
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Willem Dafoe said of his appointment: “I realize that I am known as a film actor, but I was born in the theatre, the theatre trained me and galvanized me. I am a stage animal."

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American actor Willem Dafoe has been appointed the Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale theatre department for 2025 and 2026. 

The appointment was confirmed by the chairman of the Biennale board of directors, Pietrangelo Buttafuoco.  

“It is an honor to announce the appointment of Willem Dafoe as the Director of Biennale Teatro,” said Buttafuoco, adding: “I can’t wait, like everyone else, to be a spectator at the festival he will build as artistic director and – from his lectern as an absolute maestro – to watch the young men and women of the Theatre College grow in their art.” 

The Biennale’s theatre department was founded in 1934 as an independent department of La Biennale di Venezia, following its departments for art (1895), music (1930) and cinema (1932). 

Its previous directors include Renato Simoni, Luca Ronconi, Franco Quadri, Carmelo Bene and Lluís Pasqual, and it is programmed yearly alongside major cultural events like the Venice Film Festival

“I was first surprised then happy to receive Pietrangelo Buttafuoco’s invitation to be the Director of the International Theatre Festival of La Biennale di Venezia 2025-2026,” Dafoe said. “I realize that I am known as a film actor, but I was born in the theatre, the theatre trained me and galvanized me. I am a stage animal. I am an actor."

He added: "Theatre taught me about 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 charted by my personal development. A sort of exploration of the essence of the body.”

Dafoe has been nominated for four Oscars - the last time in 2019 for At Eternity’s Gate by Julian Schnabel, for which he won the Coppa Volpi at the Venice International Film Festival - and for four Golden Globes - the last time this year for Poor Things, the film that won the Golden Lion at 2023’s Venice Film Festival

The actor has recently been seen in Yórgos Lánthimos’ Kinds of Kindness.  

This year, he will be on the Lido for the opening of the 81st Venice Film Festival (28 August – 7 September), with Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice Beetlejuice – the sequel to the director’s 1988 hit Beetlejuice

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