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Actor Dafoe named Venice Biennale’s theatre director

By AFP - Jul 10,2024 - Last updated at Jul 10,2024

ROME — US actor Willem Dafoe has been appointed artistic director of Venice Biennale’s theatre department, organisers said in a statement on Monday.

“I realise that I am known as a film actor, but I was born in the theatre, the theatre trained me and galvanised me,” Dafoe was quoted as saying in the statement.

“I am a stage animal. I am an actor. Theatre taught me about art and life,” said the 68-year-old, who was one of the founders of the Wooster Group, a New-York based experimental theatre outfit.

Dafoe, who earned his first Oscar nomination for the 1986 war film “Platoon”, will direct the department for the two-year 2025-2026 period.

The head of the Biennale’s board of directors, Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, said Dafoe’s “perfect control of his body on stage has always stemmed from discipline, knowledge, passion and a profound awareness of theatre”.

Dafoe joined an experimental theatre group in Milwaukee aged 19 before training in New York and spending over 20 years performing on stage with the Wooster Group.

He made his name with films including “Mississippi Burning”, with Oscar nominations following for his performances in “Shadow of the Vampire” and Vincent van Gogh biopic “At Eternity’s Gate”.

Dafoe has been nominated for a total of four Oscars and four Golden Globes — the last in 2024 for “Poor Things” — and is in the cast of the opening film at Venice this year, Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice”.

The so-called “Biennale Teatro” was founded in 1934, the fourth category added to the festival after Art, Music and Cinema.

Its yearly festival features daily events highlighting works from the contemporary theatre scene.

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