Santarcangelo Festival, dedicated to contemporary theatre, dance and performative arts, is one of the most important Italian festivals, as well as the oldest and most long-lasting, it was founded in 1971. Since 2022, Polish curator, activist, dramaturge and theatre critic Tomasz Kireńczuk is entrusted with the artistic direction of the Festival.

The first edition took place in 1971 with the name Festival Internazionale del Teatro in Piazza (International Festival of Public Theatre), under the roman artistic director Piero Patino, who remained in charge until 1977. The impulse for the creation of this event derived from the 1968 political situation and from local traditions.

Patino claimed that: “theatre pours out of the community in order to go back to it”, thus highlighting the social and political traits of performing arts, in opposition to a commodified type of theatre. Around the Festival new artistic excitement is born, which is proposed and supported by the director and by Flavio Nicolini, Piersilverio Pozzi and Romeo Donati, mayor at the time: they wanted to give the Festival a direction towards preparatory theatre with didactic purposes, by engaging the local population.

During these years celebrities like Dario Fo and Franca Rame, the Club Teatro, Giorgio Gaber, Giovanna Marini, Il Granteatro with Carlo Cecchi, Lina Sastri, Teresa De Sio and Marco Messeri took part to the Festival. In addition to these well-known artists, emerging theatre groups also participated: the Tascabile di Bergamo, the Teatro di Ventura, the Teatro delle Briciole, Attori e Tecnici, Mago Povero, together with international guests from Eastern Europe, Brazil and the US.

In the same period Patino and the Spanish painter and poet Rafael Alberti promoted several political initiatives with the attendance of Isabel Allende and other intellectuals.

Eugenio Barba’s ideas about a Terzo Teatro (Third Theatre) was developed in 1976. Chiefs within this movement were Jerzy Grotowski, the Bread and Puppet and Julian Beck with the Living Theatre, while Antonin Artaud was considered the anchor.

A partnership was born that included the city of Santarcangelo, the theatre companies participating actively to the event and the professors from Dams (faculty of arts in Bologna) who support the Festival. Antonio Attisani’s direction was object of controversies, for his attempt to make the Festival a meeting point for different generations, among other things by opening an area of free camping that for many years represented a distinctive feature of the event.

Among the artists who presented their shows in Santarcangelo from 1978 to 1983 need to be mentioned: El Teatro Campesino, Augusto Boal, Iben Nagel Rasmussen, Yves Lebreton, Boleslav Polivka, and among the Italians the Teatro Potlach Akroama, the Teatro degli Dei, the Tico Teatro with Danio Manfredini. Attisani also invited Katzenmacher from Santagata and Morganti, the Teatro dell’Elfo, the Teatro Valdoca and the Teatro Nucleo.

In 1984 the management was entrusted to Roberto Bacci for five years. The first edition of this period was provocatively named “The last Santarcangelo Festival”. This new phase opens with a major controversy about the identity and the future of the festival. During this year the name “Santarcangelo dei Teatri” (Santarcangelo of the Theatres) is born, with the purpose of giving impetus and strength to a year-long activity, so that it would not remain limited to the summer and new possibilities and projects could arise. The team of intellectuals is thus reinforced: among them Claudio Meldolesi, Ferdinando Taviani, Piero Meldini, Raimondo Guarino, Piergiorgio Giacché.

Several new Italian groups are included in the festival programme, all of which are bearers of new languages: Odin Teatret, Akademia Ruchu, Teatro Potlach, Societas Raffaello Sanzio and the above-mentioned Teatro Valdoca and Albe, Parco Butterfly (Virgilio Sieni Dance Company), Enzo Cosimi, Marcido Marcidoris, Thierry Salmon with his memorable Troiane, the Antonio Neiwiller’s Teatro dei Mutamenti, and then Ariane Mnouchkine, Manoel De Oliveira, Leo de Berardinis, Mario Martone, Zingaro circus, Silvio Castiglioni, Raul Ruiz, Robledo Delbono, Jerzy Stuhr, Judith Malina and Jerzi Grotowski and the Magazzini Criminali, authors of a historical Genet in Tangier, which was performed in the slaughterhouse in Riccione: the killing of a horse destined to slaughter was included in the show.

Antonio Attisani assumed the role of director for the following five years. Due to the debates his first edition provoked, he named the festival “Luoghi d’intesa” (Places of agreement). His approach was more theoretical in comparison with those of his predecessors and allowed to expand what was offered during the festival. The aim was to open research theatre to new contemporary languages. The changings sparked new controversies, however a strong course of action for the following years was determined, with emblematic names like “Lavori in corso” (Work in progress), “Lavoro d’arte comune” (Work of common art), “Teatro per bande e predatori solitari” (Theatre for gangs and loner predators), “Santarcangelo dei teatri d’Europa” (Santarcangelo of the theatres in Europe). The 1989 Festival included in its programme: Kazuo Ohno, Giovanni Testori and Franco Branciaroli with Diamanda Galas, Danio Manfredini at the Laibach, comedy theatre with Daniele Luttazzi and the Archivolto.

In the following years, Théâtre du Radeau and the Tibetan monks, Remondi and Caporossi and César Brie, rap concerts of the 90s Italian “posse”, Leo Bassi, Valére Novarina and the Mutoid Waste Company parades, the cyberpunk of the magazine Decoder, Shake edition, and the Teatro delle Albe, Masque Teatro, Andrea Adriatico, Tam Teatromusica, Kismet, Valter Malosti with the Teatro di Dioniso, Alfieri Mago Povero, Franco Scaldati.

Under Leo de Berardinis’s direction, starting from 1994, Santarcangelo notebooks are born, collecting theoretical events on contemporary theatre from an ethical and aesthetic perspective. In those years an article by the director was issued, with the title “Reopening of Cage’s piano”: it was referred to a concert by John Cage during which he just sat in front of the piano and closed the lid, starting point to highlight the importance of the relationship with the audience.More laboratories, seminars, meetings, conferences were organised, while opening rehearsals and studios became common practice. The attention focused particularly on a people’s public theatre, on textual research through languages and dialects, on the actor-author figure and on dancing theatre.

Main figures of these years: Enzo Moscato, Claudio Morganti, Alfonso Santagata, Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, Moni Ovadia, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Giovanna Marini, Antonello Salis, Steve Lacy, Ivano Marescotti, who performed the first theatrical work by Raffaello Baldini, Marco Baliani, Kismet, Judith Malina, who with Lorenza Zamboni interpreted Doris Lessing for the company Alfieri. At the same time other companies were confirmed: Valdoca, Societas Raffaello Sanzio, and for dance performances Sosta Palmizi, Enzo Pezzella, Enzo Cosimi, Virgilio Sieni, Solari Vanzi. During de Berardinis years, artists from the then new Italian theatre were included too: Motus, Teatrino Clandestino, Fanny & Alexander, La Nuova Complesso Camerata.

Leo de Berardinis left the direction of the festival in 1997 to Silvio Castiglioni, who remained in charge until 2005.

Silvio Castiglioni is an actor and co-founder, together with Merisi, of Teatro della Ventura, in line with the course of action taken up to that point. During the editions he directed, the Festival Newspaper was born, with Gianni Manzella as editor, in partnership with the journalist Massimo Marino.

In these years the artists’ selection included Leo de Berardinis, Giuliano Scabia, Sotigui Kouyaté, Hideo Kanze, Rézo Gabriadzé, Massimo Schuster, Franco Scaldati, Mimmo Cuticchio, Claudio Morganti and Alfonso Santagata, to the Compagnia Pippo Delbono and Marcido Marcidoris. Among the proposals we can find groups from Emilia Romagna, leading edges in the research and essential part of the Festival history. Emerging artists were even more numerous: Spiro Scimone, Libera mente, Babbaluck, Agar, Teatro del Lemming, Accademia degli Artefatti, Domenico Castaldo. In these years the Scenario Prize was also presented during the festival.

2006 was a difficult time for the Festival from a financial point of view. The management was entrusted to Olivier Bouin, who won a contest for ideas and had worked as cultural attaché at the French embassy in Rome. Under his direction, supported by Paolo Ruffini, both dance performances and contemporary drama were included in the programme. For the former we can mention Claudia Dias, Catherine Diverrès, Claudia Triozzi, MK, Kinkaleri, Silvia Rampelli and Roberto Castello, while for the latter Accademia degli Artefatti, Alessandro Berti, Stefano Massini, Forced Entertainment, Rodrigo Garcia and then again Gruppo Nanou, Vincenzo Carta, Luca Nava, Maurizio Camilli, Umpalumpa prodAction.

In 2008, three months prior to the Festival, Olivier Bouin resigned as a consequence of a disagreement with the local administration. After a year of transition, during which artistic direction was handed over to Sandro Pascucci, a 3-year period followed when, with Piergiorgio Giacché as advisor, artistic, critical and organisational functions intertwined with the management of Chiara Guidi (Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio), Enrico Casagrande (Motus) and Ermanna Montanari (Teatro delle Albe). Silvia Bottiroli, Rodolfo Sacchettini and Cristina Ventrucci handled the organisational coordination.

During these three years, the historical name of the festival was reinstated: Festival Internazionale del Teatro in Piazza (International Festival of Public Theatre) and it numbered artists like Richard Maxwell, Arto Lindsay, Alvin Lucier, Burroughs and Fargion, Fanny & Alexander, Kinkaleri, Masque Teatro, Teho Teardo, Zapruder Filmmakersgroup, Roger Bernat, Rabih Mroué, Public Mouvement, Daniel Veronese, Stefano Ricci, Alessandro Sciarroni, Teatro Sotterraneo, Cristina Rizzo, Kornél Mundruczo, Ivo Dimchev, Oriza Hirata, Lucia Calamaro, Mariangela Gualtieri, Leila Marzocchi, Roberto Latini, Menoventi.

Silvia Bottiroli directed the Festival from 2012 to 2016. The tie between the city and the local community was strengthened through special projects, often developed over a span of years. Co-productions were specifically designed for the Festival and close attention was paid to the “square”, public places, the relation with the community and local artists, but always with an international perspective.

As an example we can mention the Azdora project, conceived by Swedish artist Markus Öhrn. This project engaged a group of local women in a ritual of deliverance. These women were committed housewives once, but in a few years became fierce members of an internationally renowned union. Among Italian and foreign artists who participated to the festival in these years: Richard Maxwell, Peter Liversidge, Valter Silis, Marten Spangberg, Zoë Poluch, Christophe Meierhans, Philippe Quesne, Bouchra Ouizguen, Reza Koohestani, ZimmerFrei, César Brie, Virgilio Sieni, Teatro Valdoca, Kinkaleri, Sacchi di Sabbia, Teatro delle Albe, Danio Manfredini, Muta Imago, Cristina Rizzo, MK, Motus, Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio.

Management from 2017 to 2019 is entrusted to Belarus-born Finnish curator Eva Neklyaeva, who resumed Silvia Bottiroli’s work with Lisa Gilardino’s co-direction. They continued reinforcing the tie with the local area and started opening the Festival to a wider audience with a programme that ranges from performance to choreography, from visual arts to music; the body is seen as a political tool, a temporary community is established, the Festival become a captivating experience. A special project by Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson, Museum of Nonhumanity, opened the Festival: it consisted of a city museum, a sort of habitat, an open space that people could visit at any time.

Three artists supported the curators during this 3-year: Francesca Grilli, Motus and Markus Öhrn. Among the names for the first edition: Pony Express, MACAO, Merman Blix, W A U H A U S, Eva Geatti, Dana Michel, Doris Uhlich, Silvia Gribaudi, Chiara Bersani and Marco D’Agostin, Samira Elagoz, Simona Bertozzi, Quim Bigas Bassart, Filippo Michelangelo Ceredi, Stasse, Orthographe, Mara Oscar Cassiani, Cristina Kristal Rizzo and Sir Alice. A vast section of the programme is dedicated to music with free concerts and DJ sets until late at night.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Santarcangelo Festival, Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande of Motus were appointed new artistic directors for the 2020 edition. Their assignment was to build a program capable of reflecting the identity of the Festival and celebrating fifty years of cultural activity. However, due to the pandemic, they had to adapt the program to the restrictions in force. Motus therefore conceived a project divided into three acts, entitled Santarcangelo Festival 2050, which should have developed from the summer of 2020 until the following one. Their assignment was extended for another year. The first part of the Festival took place in July 2020, even if it was forced to give up to its international dimension. The second part, dedicated to emerging companies and performers, was called Winter is Coming. It was supposed to take place in December, but it was canceled due to the second pandemic wave. Motus then organized Winter is Locking Down, an out-of-format happening lasting over 10 hours live on the Festival’s YouTube channel: an opportunity for the invited companies to share and narrate their artistic practices. In July 2021 Futuro Fantastico. Shapeshifting festival of jellyfish, cyborgs and companion species took place, the latest part of Santarcangelo 2050. It was a chance to restore the international dimension of the Fastival, because of the participation of artists from all over the world. Moreover many projects not realized during the previous year have finally been staged. 51 companies participated in the intense program, including 271 artists and over 20.000 attendees in terms of audience, for over 26 venues in Santarcangelo and around the Rimini area.

Among the companies presented in the two years of Santarcangelo Festival 2050: Davide Enia, Zapruder, Virgilio Sieni, El Conde de Torrefiel, Manuela Infante, Gloria Dorliguzzo, Industria Indipendente, Felix Kubin, Ermanna Montanari, Societas. Romeo Castellucci, Cherish Menzo, Betty Apple, Alexia Sarantopoulou, Muta Imago, Paola Stella Minni, Pankaj Tiwari, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, Barbara Berti, Cristina Kristal Rizzo, Amanda Piña, Marie Losier, Lenio Kaklea, Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagilarini, Emilia Verginelli, C.ie Simon Senn, Corps Citoyen, Selamawit Biruk.

Polish curator, activist, dramaturge and theatre critic, Tomasz Kireńczuk is the new artistic director of Santarcangelo Festival for the 2022-2024 triennium. In 2008, together with a group of young artists, he founded the Teatr Nowy in Krakow, a place of theatrical research that in a few years transformed from a temporary organism into an independent centre of theatrical production. For a few years, he has been its project director, curating artistic, educational and social aspects of the theatre. In 2018, he inaugurated the Laboratory of New Theatre, a programme dedicated to the education of young artists, focusing on providing them with means of production and complete creative freedom. Its curatorial practice focused on socio-artistic work with various local communities. He is also the co-creator of Dialog – Wrocław International Theatre Festival, one of the most important theatre festivals in Poland, where he worked from 2011 to 2019. In 2017, facing financial blackmail, Tomasz fought to publicly defend the independence of the festival and its right to free artistic creation. Between 2005 and 2006 he lived in Rome, where he developed a research project dedicated to the Italian Futurist theatre. In 2008, he published an essay in Polish titled From art in action to action in art. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and the theatre of Italian Futurists. He studied and taught at the Faculty of Performing Arts of Jagiellonian University in Krakow.