The International Theatre Institute (ITI) was formally established in its first World Congress in Prague in 1948, organised at the initiative of UNESCO and a group of international theatre experts.
Just after the Second World War, there was a growing feeling that peace needed to be constructed above all in the minds of people through exchange, international cooperation and dialogue between cultures in different parts of the world. The very first General Conference of UNESCO, established in 1946 unanimously passed a resolution to call an international meeting of theatre experts for the purpose of founding an International Theatre Institute. The experts meeting held in Paris in 1947 did the groundwork for setting up the Institute which included a draft charter ready for adoption in the first congress of the Institute.
Twelve countries – Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA – attended the first World Congress of ITI in Prague on 28 June 1948 and their representatives signed the charter of the organisation on 1 July 1948.
The first President of the Executive Committee was Armand Salacrou of France and Maurice Kurtz, a member of the UNESCO secretariat was made the Secretary General. The ITI Secretariat was set up at the UNESCO building in Paris.
Since 1948, the number of national centres has grown steadily and while at the beginning the European countries tended to predominate, as the years went by, strenuous efforts were made to encourage the setting up of national centres in all regions of the world, and especially in the developing countries. Today there are almost 100 ITI centres (national and associate) representing all continents making it the world’s largest organisation of performing arts.
The Mission of ITI is to advance UNESCO’s goals of mutualunderstanding and peace and advocates the protection and promotion of cultural expression, regardless of age, gender, creed, or ethnicity. It works to these ends internationally and nationally in the areas of performing arts education, international exchange and collaboration, and youth training.
The International Theatre Institute envisions a world that puts strong value and importance on the Performing Arts.
- It is a world in which performing artists are able to work and present their creative ideas to the audiences.
- It is aworld in which local, regional, and national authorities, as well as sponsors and donors, invest in the Performing Arts and fund organizations, institutions, and artists in the fields of theatre, dance, and music theatre in all their diverse forms.
- It is a world in which education in the techniques of the Performing Arts and related subjects are offered on all levels of education – from primary to high school and university.
- It is aworld in which the Performing Arts – especially Theatre– are used in communities, for development, for mutual understanding and for building peace in conflict zones and all over the world.
The purpose of the International Theatre Institute is to promote international exchange of knowledge and practice in theatre arts in order to consolidate peace and friendship between peoples, to deepen mutual understanding and increase creative co-operation between all people in the theatre arts. To achieve this purpose, the ITI shall:
- Encourage activities and creation in the field of the live performing arts, Drama, Dance, Music theatre;
- Aim at an enlargement of the existing collaboration between performing arts disciplines and organizations, both national and international;
- Establish international offices and foster the establishment of National Centres of the ITI in all countries;
- Collect documents, disseminate all types of information and issue publications in the realm of the performing arts;
- Co-operate actively in the development of the “Theatre of Nations” festival and encourage and co-ordinate the organization of theatrical congresses, workshops and meetings of experts, as well as festivals, exhibitions and competitions, both on regional and interregional levels, in co-operation with its members;
- Defend the free development of the performing arts and contribute to the protection of the rights of performing arts professionals.
To achieve these goals ITI works through a 20 member Executive Council, Permanent Committees / Project Groups / Forums / Networks, Regional Councils and most importantly the national centres.
The Committees, Networks and Forums are:
International Dance Committee, ITI Publications Committee, the Young Practitioners’ Committee, International Festival Forum, International Monodrama Forum, International Playwrights Forum, Music Theatre NOW Network, International Stage Directors Network, Traditional Performing Arts Forum, Action Committee for Artist Rights, Theatre in Conflict Zone Network, Social Change Network, Network for Heritage, Indigenous Cultures and Migration and International Stage Art Network.
The main activities of ITI include:
The ITI World Congress held every two/three years, Theatre of Nations, World Performing Arts Academy, World Theatre Day (27 March), International Dance Day (29 April), the World Theatre Training Library, the World of Theatre publication, Network of Theatre Schools etc.
The ITI headquarters moved from Paris to Shanghai, China in 2015. There is an additional office in Fujairah, UAE and a liaison office at UNESCO, Paris. Through the generous support of Chinese authorities, ITI headquarters is now housed in a three storied independent building with adequate staff in Shanghai.
Bangladesh Centre of the International Theatre Institute was established in 1982 with Prof. Kabir Chowdhury and RamenduMajumdar as President and General Secretary respectively. Soon Bangladesh became one of the active centres in the network with the participation of mainstream theatre workers of the country. So far Bangladesh ITI has organised 11 international seminars, theatre festivals, a good number of international workshops, two theatre productions (the Tempest and Man Equals Man), publication of 11 volumes of the World of Theatre, publication of World Theatre Day messages, celebrations of World TheatreDay and International Dance Day, several Exhibitions, video documentation of Palagan etc.
Bangladesh delegates played important roles in the international committees. RamenduMajumdar was a member of the ITI Executive Council from 1991 to 2014 during which he acted as Vice President for three terms and President for six years. Ataur Rahman and MofidulHoque were Presidents of the New Theatre Committeeand theCommunication Committee respectively. Many Bangladesh delegates served in the Board of different ITI Committees.
Several young theatre practitioners from Bangladesh participated in the theatre workshops abroad. A large number of Bangladesh ITI members had the opportunity to join the ITI World Congresses and other international seminars around the world.
Bangladesh ITI has been working as the bridge between Bangladesh theatre and the world theatre.