Theatre performances, initially included in the Istanbul Festival programme, were separated in 1989 to allow the event to gain an independent identity.
The International Istanbul Theatre Festival includes in its programme the finest examples of classical and experimental theatre, mime, dance/physical theatre, musicals as well as theatrical concerts. Groups and artists of international and national acclaim are the guests of the theatre festival. To name some of them; Japanese Noh Theatre, Attis Theatre, Marcel Marceau, Alla Demidova, Wisnievsky Theatre, Stephane Braunschweig, Wladyslaw Znorko, Traditional Indonesian Theatre, Ute Lemper, Els Comediants participated in the Theatre Festival in the past seven years.
In 1995, workshops were included in the programme of the Theatre Festival and will continue to be a part of it in the future besides conferences, discussions and exhibitions. The Turkish participation gives examples of the best productions of the season from all over Turkey. The aim of the Theatre Festival is not only to introduce to the local audience the latest developments in the field of theatre on international level, but also to give the opportunity to an international audience to see examples of Turkish productions. Furthermore it aims to be a meeting point for theatre professionals, academicians, students and theatre lovers.
Lasting for two weeks in May, the Theatre Festival usually hosts 6-7 productions from abroad and a local participation around 10 Turkish productions. The festival uses the classical venues of the State theatres, the Municipal theatre, the Atatürk Cultural Centre, various private theatres as well as night clubs, discotheques and historical sites like the Rumeli Fortress, the St. Eirene Museum, the Yerebatan Cistern. Each year the International Istanbul Theatre Festival attracts around 20,000 people.