The idea of realizing the festival was born during the Velvet Revolution, in the early 1990s. During this period the Faculty of Theatre of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno was also renewed and Studio Marta was reconstructed. The reopened theatre space Studio Marta then hosted the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU). Representatives of three art colleges (JAMU, DAMU and VŠMU) met to discuss their approaches to teaching and creating theatre, thoughts and ideas. Together, they initiated a new project to create an annual event that could expand into international space in the future. Representatives of these three schools were the first participants of the festival and are still members of the main program to this day. In 1990 preparations were made for the first year, 1991 was the first year and a year later the festival got its name SETKÁNÍ/ENCOUNTER.
The festival has grown from the original three-day event to five-day (1991–1997). Today, the theatre show of students’ works takes place from Tuesday to Saturday. The term of the festival week is variable, however, it can be included in the range of the first to the third week of April. From the original three founding schools, which were also the only participants at the same time, the festival has grown into a form where approximately 12 to 13 schools from all over the world are in the main program. These schools are selected by the Festival Selection Committee, giving rise to prestige. The international standard has thus become an annual standard and currently, over 350 schools are addressed. Brno has hosted ensembles from nearly 40 countries and 4 continents by 2018.
A significant part of the festival program is also formed by side projects that complement the main program (staging of foreign schools). Above all, it is OFF programme, which consists of 5 evening parties, 2 moderated discussions, one-day outdoor music and theatre scene – Open Air Stage (since 2018), OFF programme performances (creation of JAMU students), smaller workshops. A recent novelty is a four-day workshop held throughout the festival week, bringing together students of art colleges from the Visegrad countries. The output of this workshop is presented at the closing ceremony.
The character of the festival is non-competitive, yet a festival jury is established every year, which has two parts (professional and student). The jury has the task to see all the productions from the main program and subsequently to appreciate the most interesting and inspirational performances, whether it be individual actors, groups or significant direction, scenography, dramaturgy, the etc. award for modern and innovative expression. The festival director – Award of the festival director – also presents his award.
The festival cooperates with the Center of Experimental Theatre (CED). CED provides the festival for rent of the theatre scene Goose on a String Theater, Cellar Scene and HaDivadlo. Together with Studio Marta and Divadlo na Orlí, they create all the theatre scenes used by the SETKÁNÍ/ENCOUNTER festival to realize the main program.
The mission of the festival is to create space for a long-term meeting and meeting of theatre schools, their students and teachers and to share their knowledge and experience in the field of theatre creation. The participants of the festival thus enrich each other with new insights into the given issue, they can learn new approaches in their artistic activities, get inspired by their colleagues from all over the world and get a much-appreciated reflection on their work. At the same time, each year, institutions are strengthened, networking of students is encouraged, and future professional contacts are established. The internal goal of the festival is the educational dimension of DF JAMU students who participate in the festival and use the theoretical foundations in practice through the organization of the festival. The uniqueness of the festival lies in this kind of organization, where for 29 years the festival management has been handed over to students of the Studio of Theatre Production and Stage Technology from year to year.