In the field of performing arts, the General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1) state that:
- the field is diversified both artistically and institutionally. The programmes of performing institutions have a good balance of domestic and world culture. The state supports the commissioning and performing of original Estonian drama works;
- state funding of performing institutions is done through three-year funding agreements. Performing institutions with a continuous programme are supported directly from the state budget on principles previously discussed in the field. Project-based performing institutions and one-time projects are funded from the Cultural Endowment. The state also supports the activities of the more important theatre and dance agencies, the organisation of performing arts festivals, and the internationalisation of performing institutions;
- the importance of professional performing arts targeted at young viewers shall be recognised both through state financing and greater public attention. The activities of amateur and school theatres are also valued;
- state regards it as important to develop the higher education curricula in the field of performing arts in Tallinn, Viljandi, and Tartu.
The performing arts scene contains both theatre and dance. Music is separately, although the Performing Art Institution Act regards all these three sectors.
It is a function of the state to ensure that the theatre arts, in all their diversity, are always accessible for all age groups and for all preferences 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.
Support by the Ministry of Culture is provided for the organisation of various regional and sectoral projects, as well as international theatrical arts festivals.
Grants from the state budget go to the state-owned foundations, local government and private theatre institutions as well as performing arts centres. In total, the Ministry of Culture supports the activities of about 23 performing arts institutions. In accordance with the arms-length-policy, a special Ministry commission will discuss the distribution of money to theatres, which will propose to the Minister of Culture an annual allocation of support to theatres and dance companies.
Project-based institutions and single projects are supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
In Estonia, theatre performances are locally well accessible. All inhabitants have a chance to attend performing arts at a distance of about 50 km from their home. This is supported by the network of theatres throughout Estonia: there are state owned foundation theatres in Pärnu, Viljandi, Rakvere and Kuressaare. Since 2005 there is a state grant programme called Theatre to Rural Areas (“Teater maal“). The programme helps professional performing arts institutions and troupes to hold guest performances in the countryside, including dance performances. Since 2010 a special sub-programme supports children’s and youth theatre, supporting also the young audiences’ trips to performances outside of their own cultural centres. The support programme is run by the Estonian Folk Culture Centre.
Statistics on theatre are collected by the Estonian Theatre Agency (NGO). It also acts as an authors’ right agency in Estonia. The agency is financed by Ministry of Culture.
Main theatre festivals in Estonia are Draama; SAAL Biennale (a two-week-long international performing arts festival in Tallinn, which is the predecessor of Tallinn’s oldest contemporary dance festival August Dance Festival); biennial Baltoscandal (presents the inquisitive theatre of Europe and the rest of the world as well as innovative trends in performing arts); Golden Mask in Estonia (includes the best Russian theatre productions of the last couple of seasons, which are nominees or laureates of the Golden Mask award by the Theatre Union of Russia); Tallinn Treff Festival (an international visual theatre festival, which introduces contemporary puppet theatre and novel formats); Winter Night’s Dream (international theatre festival that brings to Tallinn diverse theatre performances from all over the world, organised by the Tallinn City Theatre); and NoTaFe (a week-long professional training and educational festival taking place annually in Viljandi).