The first record of actors in town was in 1746. In 1753 the town administration authorizes performances held by a touring German theatre company. Later on, the German theatre activity was supported by companies coming on tour, and it became one of the town’s attractions. In 1758, a hall designed for theatrical performances was arranged in the former building of the Serbian magistracy, where today stands the "Nikolaus Lenau" Theoretical High School. In the period between 1852 and 1870, the touring shows, especially those from Vienna, often extended for entire seasons.
In 1875 the "Franz Joseph" Theatre was inaugurated – today known as the Palace of Culture. In 1899, the theatre activity in German language was interrupted as a result of an administrative decision, but singular shows still took place, held by Viennese companies, up to the second decade of the 20th century, included.
After 1920, the professional theatre activity in the German language was resumed – with variable consistency – temporarily with the authorization of the German Cultural Office in Sibiu, and afterwards through the German National Theatre in Sibiu, which produced shows that were later performed in all areas where Germans lived. In 1940, this theatre was monopolized by the national and socialist ideology, and it ended up by being closed before the end of Second World War.
On 1 January 1953, the Department in German language of the State Theatre in Timişoara was founded, and the inaugural show was performed on 27 June 1953 with the play Die Karlsschüler [The Students of Karl School], by Heinrich Laube. Three years later, the German department separated from the administrative structure of the State Theatre and became the German State Theatre Timișoara, following the Decision no. 1530/31.07.1956 of the Council of Ministers of the Romanian People’s Republic. The performance hall was the old Reduta hall of the building of the former Franz Joseph Theatre – currently the Palace of Culture – a building that now hosts, apart from the Romanian National Opera in Timișoara, theatre companies that perform in three languages: Romanian, German and Hungarian, which is unique in the world.
Since it was founded, the theatre has produced over 400 shows and held performances before over 2.5 million spectators. It has held performances in almost all Romanian towns with German communities, but also in the former German Democratic Republic.
In the communist period, the German State Theatre Timişoara was forced to divide its interests in two directions: on the one hand, to serve the ideology of the party-state that coordinated its existence – the theatre had to create shows that would please the communist authorities – on the other hand, to contribute to preserving the German language and the identity consciousness of the Germans living in Romania, whose number was constantly decreasing, especially starting with the 70s. The emigration of a large number of Germans from Romania – which became a large-scale phenomenon in the decades 70s-90s – would affect the functional activity of the institution, and the number of spectators and actors dropped dramatically.
In the second half of the 90s, the theatre had to redefine its path. After difficult years of reconstruction – especially following the 90s’ emigrations – under the management of actress Ildikó Jarcsek-Zamfirescu, the search and find for a new style materialized in an aesthetic reorientation that was to constantly draw the attention of the audience and of professional critics to the activity of the institution.
Therefore, the professional trainings of the company and the attracting of some of the most appreciated creators from Romania and from abroad were the main reasons that recommended the German State Theatre as one of the most dynamic and interesting theatres in the country. In the recent years, this team has worked with important creators such as directors Radu Afrim, Clemens Bechtel, László Bocsárdi, Alexandru Dabija, Alexander Hausvater, Yuri Kordonsky, Radu Alexandru Nica, Silviu Purcărete, Niky Wolcz, scenographers Dragoș Buhagiar, Velica Panduru and Helmut Stürmer, actors Miklós Bács and Sorin Leoveanu, choreographers Florin Fieroiu and Răzvan Mazilu.
The current target-groups are comprised of the Germanophile audience within the majority population, the members of the German community and the foreigners from the German-speaking territories. Also, the non-German-speaking audience watching the shows benefit from simultaneous translation. An important place in the theatre’s strategy is held by children and youth shows, as well as by the activity of theatrical pedagogy. Every year, the theatre hosts the International Youth Theatre Festival in German language, organized in collaboration with the "Nikolaus Lenau" Theoretical High School in Timișoara.
Apart from the activity at its headquarters, the theatre is regularly on tour or at festivals across the country and abroad. After 1990, its shows have been staged in Austria, Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, Poland, Serbia and Hungary. Since 2009, the German State Theatre has been organizing the European Theatre Festival “Eurothalia”, which brings to Timișoara, each autumn, some of the most interesting shows in Romania and other European countries.
The German State Theatre Timișoara is a public Romanian performance institution, financed by the Municipality of Timișoara. With a total number of 108 employees and a considerable number of collaborators, the theatre produces between 5 and 7 premieres every season, performing before an average number of 10,000 spectators each year. In the recent years, the performance hall occupancy has been around 80%.