About theatre | NUKU

About theatre

Situated in the historical Old Town of Tallinn, Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences is a theatre for the young viewer that shapes young people’s cultural space, broadens their senses, reflects their perception of the world, and helps them to get to know themselves and the world. The Theatre also comprises the museum of puppetry arts and the international visual theatre festival Tallinn Treff, which form a synergistic whole with the theatre.

The main target group of Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences is viewers aged 5-15, but the content, theatrical language and artistic quality of productions aimed at young viewers also speak to adult theatre enthusiasts. Alongside shows created for the main target group, the repertory always includes productions for adults and smaller children.

In its creative work, Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences follows the belief that theatre can help young people understand their place in the world or inspire them to change themselves and/or the world. Through theatre, young people can see and value relationships with all that is around them – family, friends, the society, nature and different cultures – but also see what is unhealthy or dangerous about these relationships. Growing up in the sphere of influence of such a theatre, they will hopefully enter adulthood as empathetic, open-minded and inspired individuals.

Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences is the only theatre in Estonia that consistently includes puppet and visual theatre productions in its repertory. When creating productions, we look for a dialogue of the goals of content and visual forms of expression.

Short history

Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences (formerly known as Estonian State Puppet Theatre, Estonian Puppet and Youth Theatre and NUKU Theatre) was founded in 1952 and is to date the only professional puppet and visual theatre in Estonia. It was founded on the initiative of puppeteer and director Ferdinand Veike, who steered its artistic course for nearly three decades.

Rein Agur, who had a puppetry degree from the Leningrad Institute of Theatre, joined the Puppet Theatre in 1963 and at the end of 1960s proved to be a fundamental reformer of the puppetry genre, bringing actors on stage alongside traditional performances with glove and rod puppets. In 1981, Rein Agur became the artistic director. The theatre was constantly experimenting. Adaptations of Shakespeare and Estonian folklore were added to its repertoire, which consistently offered something for adults as well. Eero Spriit, who took over as the artistic director in 1993, tried to unite the elements of drama and puppetry. This line was continued by Evald Hermaküla in 1999.

In 2000, Meelis Pai became the head of the Puppet Theatre and Andres Dvinjaninov its artistic director. Their goal was a theatre for children and youth that would offer both puppet as well as drama performances. In the autumn of 2002, the fi rst class of master’s level puppetry students started their studies at the Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. The creative as well as the administrative personnel went through a change, the theatre building was renovated and the Puppet Theatre began once again gaining recognition at international festivals.

In 2006, a new venue was opened – the courtyard was covered with a roof, thus creating a hall that seated more than 600 spectators. In those years, the theatre was renamed Estonian Puppet and Youth Theatre, which reflected its goal to commit more to staging puppet plays for adults and musicals popular among teens. In 2007, the theatre sent seven young men and women to the Turku Arts Academy in Finland to acquire higher education in puppetry. In 2011 when the artistic director was Vahur Keller, they joined the theatre as actors and directors. In 2010, a puppetry museum was opened in the neighbouring building in Nunne 8 and joined with the theatre under the name NUKU.

NUKU Foundation was established at the beginning of 2013 and since May of that year, the head of NUKU Theatre and Museum is Joonas Tartu. Led by the new artistic directors – Taavi Tõnisson from 2013 to 2017 and Mirko Rajas since May 2017 – the theatre is committed to telling moving tales with contemporary means of expression of puppet, object, visual and drama theatre. In November 2016, a new extension was opened between the theatre and museum buildings; at the heart of it is the 400-seat Ferdinand’s Hall. The theatre, which had waited for a grand hall for decades, and the museum, which introduces the world behind the curtains and offers numerous educational programmes, were thereby united into a unique and versatile ensemble that offers fi rstrate puppet and visual theatre experiences for audiences of all ages. From season 2020/2021 the theatre uses the name Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences. 

Learn more about the history of the theatre's buildings on Lai street 1 & 3.