Performing arts

The Estonian people love the theatre. If we consider the size of the population and the number of theatre visits, which total more than a million (1.19 million visits in 2018), then Estonia has topped Europe and the entire world for years. The theatre scene in Estonia is unusually rich in both form and content.

It is a function of the state to ensure that the theatre arts, in all their diversity, are always available to all theatre lovers – for all age groups and for all tastes throughout Estonia.  In order to guarantee this, the state maintains both large and small theatres – from ones with permanent staffs and long-ranging traditions to ‘empty spaces’ providing performance opportunities for various creative people from home and abroad.
The largest of theatres – in regard to both the number of employees and performances – are the Estonia National Opera and the Vanemuine Theatre. In addition, support is provided for the organisation of various regional and sectoral projects, as well as international theatrical arts festivals. The Cultural Endowment of Estonia and other foundations provide grants for performance activities.
In Estonia, theatre performances are locally well accessible. All inhabitants have a chance to enjoy performing arts at a distance of about 50 km from their home. This is supported by the network of theatres throughout Estonia, as well as the state grant programme called “Theatre into the Countryside”. This programme provides support for children’s and young people’s theatregoing and for modern dance performances throughout Estonia.
Statistics on theatre is collected by the Estonian Theatre AgencyA regular overview of Estonian theatre performances is provided by the theatre festival Draama. Prizes in the field of performance arts are awarded by the Estonian Theatre Union.  




  • There are more than 1,700 people employed as permanent staff in the theatres.
  • In 2018, 1 192 042 visits were made to performance venues
  • There are about 580 performances in total in Estonian theatres per year. 
  • There are over 200 premiers a year.



The activities of theatrical institutions are primarily governed by the Performing Arts Institutions Act and National Opera Act. 

The Performing Arts Institutions Act defines the performing arts institution and provides for the organisation, financing and reporting of its activities. A performing arts institution is an institution,
  • which organises regularly public presentations of the creative work of authors and performers;
  • which is in employment relations with persons engaged in creative activities;
  • which has an artistic director and an artistic council;
  • which informs the public of performances or concerts. 
This Act regulates the activity of performing arts institutions, which operate as a foundation founded by the state or with the participation of the state  or as a local government agency. The Act regulates the activities of the performing arts institutions operating as legal persons in private law only insofar as it is specified in the Act.
The Ministry of Culture has initiated the updating of the Performing Arts Institutions Act. It has received significant feedback from the coordination round along with supplementary proposals from its partners. The ministry is planning to draw up the amendments to the law in 2020.
The National Opera Act defines the Estonian National Opera as a legal person in public law.

Main partners


Estonian Theatre Union
unites the associations, unions, societies and so on of professional theatre artists. It acts at the same time both as an umbrella organisation and as a trade union.

Estonian Union of Performing Arts Institutions (EETEAL)
unites Estonian theatre directors and generates policies and initiatives that are common to all the institutions, for instance the design and implementation of a financing scheme, ordering of the labour market by collective  agreements, communication with other cultural organisations, and legislative initiatives.

Estonian Union of Small and Project Theatres
represents and protects small theatres and facilitates theatre projects.

Estonian Dance Council
enhances joint activities by Estonian dance institutions and organisations, protects the interests of its members and the whole field, promotes and appreciates Estonian dance art in all its manifestations.

Estonian Theatre Agency
handles copyrights in the field of theatre, promotes Estonian  playwriting, gathers and forwards theatre-related information, introduces Estonian theatre abroad, collects and publishes Estonian theatre statistics. It also holds playwriting contests.


Katre Väli
Adviser (Theatre)

Phone +372 628 22212


Last updated: 1 July 2020