The Piccolo Teatro was established on the 14th of May 1947 by Giorgio Strehler, Paolo Grassi and Nina Vinchi. It was the first public Italian theatre to be built in Italy, and the most popular on the national and international scene. The vision of the founders was to create an institution, supported by the central government and by local authorities (the Municipality and the Province of Milan, the Region of Lombardy), as a public service essential for the wellbeing of its citizens. The slogan that accompanied the birth of the Piccolo Teatro was “An Arts Theatre for Everyone” and this phrase still sums up the theatre’s mission today: to stage quality shows for the broadest possible audience. Since 1991, the Piccolo Teatro di Milano is also a “Teatro d’Europa” (Theatre of Europe), as reconfirmed by article 48 bis of the Ministerial Decree of 1 July 2014.
The Piccolo Teatro manages three venues: the historic venue (488 seats), renamed Piccolo Teatro Grassi, that in 2009 underwent restoration work that “unveiled” and gave back to the city the splendid Chiostro Rinascimentale Nina VInchi (Renaissance Cloister Nina Vinchi), located adjacent to the theatre; the experimental space of the Teatro Studio, dedicated to the actress Mariangela Melato (368 seats), that also houses the Theatre School; and finally, the main venue, named Piccolo Teatro Strehler (968 seats), that opened in January 1998. In over sixty-seven years of activity, the Piccolo Teatro has produced more than 300 shows (200 of which directed by Strehler), written by playwrights like Shakespeare (King Lear and The Tempest), Goldoni (Squabbles at Chioggia, The Campiello and above all Harlequin Servant of Two Masters), Brecht (The Threepenny Opera, Life of Galileo, The Good Person of Szechwan) and Cechov (The Cherry Orchard).
Since 1998, with the changeover to Sergio Escobar and Luca Ronconi, the Piccolo has expanded its international and interdisciplinary dimension, proposing itself as the ideal cultural centre for the city and for Europe.
At the Piccolo Teatro, dance, prose, festivals, film screenings, round tables and in-depth meetings on cultural matters alternate on stage.
Luca Ronconi has directed numerous productions at the Piccolo Teatro during his research work, classics like Life is a Dream by Calderón de la Barca, Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, The Bacchae by Euripides, The Frogs by Aristophanes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, as well as plays by less-staged authors (Schnitzler, Professor Bernhardi), or by contemporary writers (Jean-Luc Lagarce, It’s Only the End of the World; Edward Bond, In the Company of Men; Rafael Spregelburd, Modesty and Panic, Michel Garneau, Celestina laggiù vicino alle concerie in riva al fiume, from de Rojas), along with stage adaptations of famous novels (for example, Lolita by Nabokov), on top of Infinities, the show based on the five scenarios on infinity by the English mathematician John D. Barrow, an authentic theatrical experiment staged in a warehouse of sets in the outskirts of Milan. His last production in the role of director was Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini (2015).
As far as the theatre’s international dimension is concerned, the Piccolo regularly hosts artists like Peter Brook, Patrice Chéreau, Eimuntas Nekrosius, Robert Lepage, Lev Dodin, Lluís Pasqual, Ingmar Bergman, Declan Donnellan, Simon Mc Burney, and Robert Wilson. The theatre has toured all around the world, in countries like Russia, the United States, China, Japan, Europe, North Africa and New Zealand.
Since 1 September 2015 Stefano Massini has been the artistic consultant of the Piccolo Teatro.
Since 1986 the Piccolo Teatro has also hosted a Theatre School: founded by Giorgio Strehler in 1986, is, from today, named in memory of Luca Ronconi, who directed the school from 1999 until his death on 21 February 2015 and is currently directed by Carmelo Rifici. From the Theatre School 227 professional actors have graduated in the past years.