At present there are 9 state-funded theatres that represent the traditional repertoire, from drama to opera and ballet and many smaller ones that enrich the image of Estonian theatre with a fresh and alternative approach. Every theatre has its special image, but the Estonian Drama Theatre, Tallinn City Theatre, Rakvere Theatre, Theatre Endla in Pärnu, Vanemuine in Tartu and Ugala in Viljandi represent the orientation towards the classical repertoire. The Russian Drama Theatre performs in Russian, and the Estonian National Opera specialises in opera and ballet, whereas the National Puppet Theatre expresses ideas using puppet artists.
During recent years, Estonian theatre directors have enthusiastically experimented with non-traditional locations and open-air performances. Summer productions on the grounds of manor houses, by picturesque river bends or in ancient castle ruins are now an established part of the Estonian cultural calendar.
The beginning of the Estonian professional theatre dates back to August 1906. It was then that the Vanemuine Music and Theatre Society in Tartu was transformed into a professional theatre under the direction of Karl Menning (1874–1941) and (only a couple of weeks later) the Estonia Music and Theatre Society in Tallinn, the predecessor of the Estonian national opera, went professional on the initiative of Theodor Altermann (1885–1915) and Paul Pinna (1884–1949). This was the period in which the principles of the professional theatre were established.