Eugenio Barba was born in 1936 in Italy and grew up in the village of Gallipoli. His family's socio-economic situation changed drastically when his father, a military officer, was a victim of World War II.
In 1961 he went to Poland to learn directing at the State Theatre School in Warsaw, but left one year later to join Jerzy Grotowski, who at that time was the director of the Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole. Barba stayed with Grotowski for three years. In 1963 he traveled to India where he studied Kathakali, a theatre form which was unknown in the West at that time. Barba wrote an essay on Kathakali which was immediately published in Italy, France, the USA and Denmark. His first book about Grotowski, In Search of a Lost Theatre, appeared in 1965 in Italy and Hungary.
During the past fiftyfour years Eugenio Barba has directed 77 productions with Odin Teatret and with the intercultural Theatrum Mundi Ensemble, some of which have required up to two years of preparation. Among the best known are Ferai (1969), My Father's House (1972),Brecht's Ashes (1980), The Gospel according to Oxyrhincus (1985), Talabot (1988), Kaosmos(1993), Mythos (1998), Andersen's Dream (2004), Ur-Hamlet (2006), Don Giovanni all'Inferno (2006), The Marriage of Medea (2008), The Chronic Life (2012) and The Tree (2016).
Since 1974, Eugenio Barba and Odin Teatret have devised their own way of being present in diverse social contexts through the practice of the "barter", an exchange of cultural expressions with a community or an institution, structured as a common performance.
In 1979 Eugenio Barba founded ISTA, International School of Theatre Anthropology thus opening a new field of studies: Theatre Anthropology.
Barba is on the advisory boards of scholarly journals such as "The Drama Review", "Performance Research", "New Theatre Quarterly", "Teatro e Storia" and "Urdimento". Among his most recent publications, translated into many languages, are The Paper Canoe (Routledge), Theatre: Solitude, Craft, Revolt (Black Mountain Press), Land of Ashes and Diamonds. My Apprenticeship in Poland, followed by 26 letters from Jerzy Grotowski to Eugenio Barba (Black Mountain Press), Arar el cielo (Casa de las Americas, Havana), La conquista de la diferencia (Yuyachkani/San Marcos Editorial, Lima), On Dramaturgy and Directing. Burning the House (Routledge) and A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology in collaboration with Nicola Savarese (Routledge).
Eugenio Barba has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Århus, Ayacucho, Bologna, Havana, Warsaw, Plymouth, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Tallinn, Cluj-Napoca, Edinburgh and Shanghai as well as the "Reconnaissance de Mérite Scientifique" from the University of Montreal and the Sonning Prize from the University of Copenhagen.
He is also the recipient of the Danish Academy Award, the Mexican Theatre Critics' prize, the Pirandello International Prize and The Thalia Prize from The International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC).