The Theatre Department was established as an autonomous section of the Biennale di Venezia in 1934. The basic idea was to perform classic works of a Venetian subject in the scenery of Venice. Among the very first performances was Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, performed in the little Venetian square of Campo San Trovaso. The Festival became an annual event in 1936.
Recents directors of the Theatre Department include Maurizio Scaparro, from February 2006 to March 2009. In May 2010, the Spanish director Àlex Rigola was appointed Director and kept the responsibility until 2016. In August 2016, the director Antonio Latella was appointed as Director of the Theatre Department for the four-year term 2017-2020.