Founded on 14 May 1947 by Giorgio Strehler, Paolo Grassi, and Nina Vinchi, the Piccolo was the first Public Italian Theatre to be established and is the most important both in Italy, and abroad.
In 1991, it was recognised as a “Theatre of Europe” after having been among the founding theatres in 1990 of the European Theatre Union, a project created by Giorgio Strehler and Jack Lang. This significant form of recognition was followed in 2014 by the official attribution of the role as “Theatre of Europe” with an Italian Ministerial Decree, granting autonomy and responsibility.
International by vocation, from the beginning of the new millennium and under the guidance of Sergio Escobar (Director of the Theatre from October 1998 to July 2020), the Piccolo opened its horizons to the Southern Mediterranean, to the Middle and Far East, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, in the name of a cultural project aimed at exalting a culture of diversity, the sole foundation for a true European identity.
Every season, its stages host plays from the world’s most important theatres and theatrical schools. In its three auditoriums and abroad, the Piccolo creates and holds Master classes and specialisation courses in collaboration with Italian and international Universities, Italian Cultural Institutes, Embassies and Consulates.
Approximately half its audience, almost 300 000 spectators every season, is made up of people under the age of 26.
The Piccolo manages three auditoriums: the original location, the Piccolo Teatro Grassi, where conversational restoration works “uncovered” and returned to the city the adjacent splendid Renaissance Cloister that attracts multitudes of visitors throughout the day, and which is named after Nina Vinchi; the Teatro Studio experimental space, dedicated to Mariangela Melato, which also houses the School of Theatre; the main theatre, which was inaugurated in 1998 and which carries the name of Strehler.
Over its seventy-four seasons of activity, the Piccolo has produced 401 shows, directed mainly by Giorgio Strehler and Luca Ronconi, the two artistic directors for the institution from 1947 to 1997 and from 1998 to 2015 respectively. Since September 2015, the writer Stefano Massini has held the role of consultant playwright and artistic consultant for the theatre. The most recent seasons have featured productions directed by Italian and international directors such as Robert Wilson, Declan Donnellan, Thomas Ostermeier, Lluís Pasqual, Toni Servillo, Antonio Latella, Federico Tiezzi, Emma Dante, Roberto Latini, Marco Paolini, Damiano Michieletto, Mimmo Borrelli, Carmelo Rifici, Giorgio Sangati, and Jacopo Gassmann.
It has staged productions in 28 different world languages, hosting works by the most important artists worldwide, including Lev Dodin, Fadhel Jaïbi, Valerij Fokin, Ivo van Hove, Robert Lepage, Roger Planchon, Simon Mc Burney, Luk Perceval, Milo Rau, and Gábor Zsámbéki.
It has toured the world, from Russia to the United States, from China to Japan, from Europe to North Africa, to New Zealand.
Since 1987, it has run a School of Theatre − founded by Strehler, named after Ronconi, and currently directed by Carmelo Rifici − which over the years has seen the graduation of 230 actors.