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Willem Dafoe, renowned for his versatility in film and theatre, has been appointed as the artistic director of the Venice Biennale’s theatre department. This role will see the actor infusing his extensive experience into the Biennale’s celebrated platform for contemporary theatre over the 2025-2026 period.

US actor Willem Dafoe has been appointed artistic director of the Venice Biennale’s theatre department, according to a statement released by the organizers on Monday, July 8. The 68-year-old actor, known for his extensive film career, emphasized his deep roots in theatre: “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. Theatre taught me about art and life,” said Willem Dafoe, who co-founded the New York-based experimental theatre group, the Wooster Group.

Willem Dafoe, who first gained Oscar recognition for his role in the 1986 war film Platoon, will oversee the theatre department for the 2025-2026 period. Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, head of the Biennale’s board of directors, praised Dafoe’s “perfect control of his body on stage,” attributing this to his discipline, knowledge, passion, and profound understanding of theatre.

Willem Dafoe began his theatre career at 19 with an experimental group in Milwaukee before training in New York. Over two decades, he performed extensively with the Wooster Group, gaining prominence in films such as Mississippi Burning. He received further Oscar nominations for his roles in Shadow of the Vampire and At Eternity’s Gate. In total, Willem Dafoe has been nominated for four Oscars and four Golden Globes, with his latest nomination in 2024 for Poor Things. He also appears in the cast of this year’s Venice Film Festival opening film, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.

Founded in 1934, the “Biennale Teatro” is the fourth category added to the Venice Biennale after Art, Music, and Cinema. The annual festival showcases daily events that celebrate contemporary theatre, providing a platform for innovative and visionary works.

With AFP