The first Jornadas de Teatro Clásico Español (Spanish Classical Theatre Conference) were organized in 1978, promoted by Rafael Pérez Sierra, General Director of Theatre and Performances of the Ministry of Culture at that time. During those days of conferences and events, gathered in Almagro relevant figures of various fields of the theatre industry ranging from the critics to the poetic creation. The Conference was created with the aim of easing the gap between the theatre on stage and the academic sector, as well as to give continuity to the summer performances that took place in the Corral de Comedias; but maybe the main reason was to give a new revitalized image to the Spanish Classical Theatre and save it from being rejected by the audiences and the progressive critics.
Furthermore, the discovery of Corral de Comedias - a Golden Age playhouse declared Historical-Artistic Monument in 1955- as well as its restoration between the years 1953 and 1962, were fundamental reasons to celebrate in Almagro the Jornadas de Teatro Clásico Español.
Alongside to the Conferences, three performances were programmed in the emblematic setting of the Corral de Comedias: Medora de Lope de Rueda, by the company of the Royal School of Dramatic Art of Madrid (RESAD), La estrella de Sevilla de Lope de Vega, directed by Alberto González Vergel and El despertar a quien duerme of Lope de Vega, under the direction of Jose Luis Alonso, in addition to the Las danzas españolas of the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries, directed by Gregorio Paniagua.
The Conference and the performances turned out to be so successful that only one year later the Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre was created. The main stage, where the shows were taking place continued to be the Corral de Comedias, but as of 1980, out of the 15 stage-plays programmed, five were presented in other venues.
The celebration of the 300th anniversary of the death of Calderón de la Barca in 1981, gave to the Festival and the Conference greater significance, becoming the backbone of the commemoration and attracting a larger number of spectators.
In 1982 the event started to take the shape it still has today, and it was considered the need of creating an authentic Festival organization, with a legal entity and an international recognition. A Board of Trustees is set up, a professional director is appointed for the first time to manage the Festival - César Oliva - and the event starts to be called the Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre.
In 1984, the Festival eventually received a significant institutional funding with the creation of the INAEM and thanks to the commitment of José Manuel Garrido, the General Director of Music and Theatre at that time, and also thanks to the greater participation of regional and local institutions.
As a result of the backing received by the Festival and of the importance and popularity it was acquiring, the National Classic Theatre Company (CNTC) was established in Almagro, - inspired by the Festival- and with the purpose to continue regulating the staging of the Golden Age authors. From the first moment, the Festival and the CNTC shake hands, share common goals, mutual recognition and complement each other by working together with coherence and cohesion for the sake of the Classics. In 1986 the project initiated by Adolfo Marsillach is consolidated and after two years of shows in the Cloister of the Dominicans and eight more performances in the stage set up in the Plaza of Santo Domingo, the CNTC establishes its summer home in the venue of the Hospital de San Juan in 1994.
Another cultural landmark that takes place thanks to the Festival is the creation of the National Theatre Museum. In 1989 Almagro is designated as the hosting location of a museum dedicated to the history of theatre thanks to the fact that the Festival was taking place in the town. Once the construction of the building located in the Plaza Mayor was completed, the museum opened its doors, coinciding with the 13th Edition of the Festival, under the direction of Andrés Peláez Martín, with a temporary exhibition dedicated to the Golden Age theatre in Spain. Since 2004 the Museum is located in the former buildings of the Palacios Maestrales.
The Festival has progressively acquired an international character until it became a world class showcase for international companies and a wonderful opportunity for the Festival audience to see the finest stage-plays of a diversified map of classical and contemporary views on the Baroque theatre.
The creation of the Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre Foundation in 2010, undoubtedly contributed to pursue this aim. The Foundation, apart from providing the Festival with an essential legal framework- that it never had – it enabled its participation in the international ambit and especially the co-operation with other national and international institutions, through the signing of collaboration agreements. On the other hand, the Foundation has created two international contests that are recognized today around the globe: the International Contest Almagro Off, supporting young directors and contemporary adaptations using new languages and innovative way to approach the Classics and the International Contest Barroco Infantil favouring the creation of stage-plays destined to young and future audiences.
A total of nine prestigious directors have assumed the challenge, the commitment and the responsibility of running the Festival from its beginnings to the present day: César Oliva, Rafael Pérez Sierra, Francisco José Mayans, Juan Pedro de Aguilar, Miguel Amaya, Luciano García Lorenzo, Emilio Hernández and Natalia Menéndez.
Thanks to the awards promoted by the Festival, companies, and artists of international prestige have visited Almagro and have contributed to spreading the beauty and importance of our Baroque heritage. Firstly, they were called Premios Ágora, subsequently, in 2001 they became known as the Premios Festival de Almagro, awarding public figures like Miguel Narros and institutions as the Comédie Française, and the Royal Shakespeare Company among others. Since 2005, these awards have changed their names into Premios Corral de Comedias, and have been presented to international celebrities like Michel Piccoli, Vanessa Redgrave, Norma Aleandro, Declan Donellan, José Carlos Plaza, Francisco Nieva, Nuria Espert, Julia Gutiérrez Caba, José Luis Gómez or Concha Velasco, as well as to world–famous institutions as the Berlin’s Schaübuhne.
In the most recent editions, an average of more than 50,000 people, come to the Festival every year to attend and enjoy performances, exhibitions, events and awards ceremonies or to attend workshops, conferences, meetings, or many other activities.
The Festival has carried out important works of rehabilitation and renovation of emblematic spaces of the city for the valorisation of its Historical-Artistic Heritage. Currently, these 19 different spaces are used for representations, meetings, exhibitions halls, workshops or other events.
Thanks to the International Festival of Classical Theatre, the entire town of Almagro is transformed into a great world theatre stage, where every corner shines with baroque life and light, creating a blend of emotions, culture, wisdom and verses within its walls.
The Festival has been and continues to be a fundamental instrument for the revitalization of Classical Theatre; its strength, its continuity and the upward trend of its history over four decades, converted the Festival into one of the most emblematic and important in the world of its kind. The Festival is an essential reference and meeting point for creators, academics, and audiences of the more diverse range of age groups, nationalities, and profiles.