Theaters are among the central institutions of “High Culture” in Germany. This is apparent not only through the highly symbolic, representative and often centrally located buildings, but also through the fact that they receive a significant percentage of public cultural expenditures. Generally, theaters have privileged access to the social classes that supply the majority of the urban elite. At the same time, the dramatic arts enable a direct interaction between stage and audience. Unlike museums, theaters can react with relative rapidity and timeliness to social change via their program planning and educational programs.

City theaters, like city museums, connect their audiences with their cultural past and canonize certain art works and authors as a part of their own cultural heritage. Theaters, however, can take greater narrative and aesthetic liberties, which in the past years have been increasingly put towards new concepts and topics. Here, two parallel strands stand out in particular, both of which will have an influence on future developments. Firstly, the so-called “citizen stages” such as in Dresden, that bring the audience (in many cases a different one than usual) directly onto the stage, where it is able to participate in the development and production of the play. Secondly, various concepts that aim to free issues like migration and diversity from common narratives and patterns of interpretation. Among these, the “post-migrant theater” at the Berlin Maxim-Gorki-Theater, multilingual European productions, or the act of making spaces and resources available for artists in exile (such as the Collective Ma'louba at the Theater an der Ruhr in Mülheim) should be named. At the same time, drama classes and educational outreach are the most important – and most common – instruments for working with children and youths in schools and in neighborhoods, as well as for reaching specific, often disadvantaged target groups.