Performing arts

The Estonian people love theatre. When we consider our population and the number of theatre visits, which total far over a million (1.2 million theatre visits in 2019), we have been at the top of Europe and the world for years. The Estonian theatrical landscape is exceptionally rich in both form and content.

The task of the state is to ensure that the theatrical arts in all their diversity are available to anyone who wishes at all times – for every age group, every taste and everywhere in Estonia. To ensure this, the state maintains larger and smaller theatres. Whether they have a permanent staff and age-old traditions, or an opportunity to provide ‘empty space’ to various avid creative people from here and abroad.

The state supports the performing arts regardless of their form of ownership. Twenty theatres receive operating grants from the state. The largest of these, both in terms of the number of employees and the volume of performance activities, are the Estonian National Opera and the Vanemuine Theatre Foundation. In addition, support is provided for various regional and sectoral projects and the organisation of international performing arts festivals. The performance arts are also supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and other funds.

In Estonia, the theatre is very accessible regionally. All Estonian residents can enjoy the performing arts within a radius of approximately 50 km from their homes. This is made possible by the distribution of theatres throughout Estonia as well as the state support programme called Bringing Theatre to the Countryside ("Teater maal"). This programme promotes theatre attendance by children and young people as well as contemporary dance performances throughout Estonia.

Theatre statistics are collected by the Estonian Theatre Agency. Regular surveys of Estonia’s theatre arts are provided by the Drama Festival. Prizes in the performing arts are awarded by the Estonian Theatre Union.


  • More than 1,700 people work in theatre companies.
  • In 2019, more than 1.2 million visits were made to performance institutions.
  • In 2019, 610 productions were performed in Estonian theatres.
  • There were 222 new productions in 2019

Important partners

Estonian Theatre Union
Brings together the associations, societies, etc. of theatre professionals. Operates simultaneously as an umbrella and a trade union organisation.

Estonian Association of Performing Arts Institutions (EETEAL)
Unites Estonia’s theatrical directors and develops activities and initiatives important for all the performing arts as well as communicates with other cultural organisations.

Estonian Association of Small and Project-based Theatres
Represents and defends small theatres and creates better opportunities for project-based activities.

Estonian Dance Council
Develops the joint activities of the institutions and organisations in the field of dance in Estonia, defends the common interests of the members and the field, and promotes and values Estonian dance art in all its forms.

Estonian Theatre Agency
Deals with copyright issues related to theatres, promotes Estonian playwriting, gathers and distributes theatre-related information, introduces Estonian theatre abroad and collects and publishes Estonian theatre statistics.


Laur Kaunissaare

Adviser (Theatre)

Last updated: 23.11.2021