Latvian playwrights and dramaturges: current vibes


The list of professionals selected for this guide covers not only a variety of content, provided by the different approaches, scenic vocabularies and styles of the authors, but also some more formal aspects that shed light on the overall situation in Latvian playwriting and dramaturge’s practice and the commonalities and differences of our authors.

First, the creative efforts of these authors are undeniably linked by the fact that their works, in one way or another, are a mirror of contemporary society and its phenomena. Regardless of whether a particular playwright or dramaturge chooses to contemplate historical events or to create a fantasised image of the future, the context and realities of today are inescapable factors that dramaturgy can often reflect in a sharper, more vivid, precise and immediate way than any other art form – and in this, the theatrical landscape of Latvia is no exception.

The role of a playwright and dramaturge in the context of contemporary theatre is extremely variable and diverse. They are no longer simply the author of a play; they are an equal player on the creative team and often help to dismantle boundaries between the people involved in the production, or indeed themselves take on different roles in its creation. This has largely not been by the choice of these professionals. Rather, it has been determined by wider socio political events under the influence of the local educational system, historical traditions, cultural policies in Latvia and worldwide, the time and location of the project, and so on. Therefore, the signature styles of Latvian playwrights and dramaturges are as varied as their paths to their profession.


Education is a vital component with three main variations: 1) professionals who have specialised in playwriting in Latvia; 2) professionals who have specialised in dramaturgy abroad; 3) professionals who have acquired education in a different field of the performing arts.

Since 1995, a BA in playwriting in Latvia can be achieved at the Latvian Academy of Culture (LAC). The programme’s name, content and frequency of admission has changed several times in response to demand and the actualities of the field. Since 2018, a BA programme for Drama and Text Studies has been offered to train others in creating dramatic texts and studying theatre theory for professionals. For their four-year studies, the students choose to specialise in theory and text analysis or creative writing for dramatic works. This guide includes several alumni of the LAC theatre programme – Jānis Balodis, Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce, Justīne Kļava, Matīss Gricmanis and Linda Rudene. The most recent class of eight young playwrights graduated from LAC in summer 2022; among them was Diāna Kondraša, who is also included in this booklet. Studies may be continued at the MA level with the LAC Audiovisual and Performing Art programme, which offers a specialisation in drama, or the University of Liepāja’s Writing Studies programme. It is important to note that several courses on these study programmes are taught by practising playwrights, including some of the playwrights listed in this overview – Balodis, Bugavičute-Pēce, Gricmanis and Kārlis Krūmiņš.

Another group of practising Latvian dramaturgs are professionals who have acquired or continued their education abroad – like Jānis Balodis, who earned his degree from the DAS Theatre MA programme in Amsterdam, and Evarts Melnalksnis, who completed his MA studies in music theatre dramaturgy at the Hamburg University of Music and Theatre. All the playwrights and dramaturges published in the guide are also devoted to their professional development, regularly attending various performing arts master classes in Latvia and elsewhere in Europe, and widen their professional horizons by frequenting festivals, showcases and other professional events.

A third notable group of professionals are the playwrights who have come to the field of dramaturgy from another performing art specialty or are still active in several creative fields, for instance, directors who also create the material for the productions they stage. This brochure includes a few of the most prominent examples, whose one-time experiments in playwriting have turned into a fully-fledged career choice – Krista Burāne, Klāvs Mellis, Artūrs Dīcis, Kārlis Krūmiņš and Ance Muižniece.


Original playwriting has always been an integral part of Latvian theatre. Its role has been closely linked to national identity and local socio-political aspects. Although these issues are also present at the core of the work of contemporary Latvian theatre works, the language of drama (in both the literal and broader sense), is increasingly stepping over the geographical and contextual constraints that would only make it comprehensible and relevant locally. An important role in developing diversity in Latvian playwriting has been played by a generation of directors who arrived on the scene and chose to create new and contemporary theatre, telling new stories about the people of today instead of interpreting the classics. Such successful long-standing creative relationships were formed by director Valters Sīlis and playwright Jānis Balodis, director Elmārs Seņkovs and playwright Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce, director Paula Pļavniece and playwright Justīne Kļava, director Mārtiņš Eihe and playwright Krista Burāne, among others. These days, the works of Latvian playwrights form a significant part of theatre repertoires, on both smaller and larger playing fields. Moreover – both state and non-governmental theatres prioritise the staging and promotion of Latvian original playwriting as one of their most important missions. Most Latvian playwrights and dramaturges have long worked in freelance mode, being brought in on making a project, or, themselves, pulling together a team to stage a particular work under the auspices of a theatre or a specific project. Significant incentives and financial support initiatives for Latvian playwriting and the dramatists’ creative efforts is provided by the State Culture Capital Foundation (SCCF). The institution’s regular project open calls, held three times a year, are the only chance to receive an individual grant to write a play or to develop a dramatic concept. However, there is also a very noticeable need for the presence and involvement of dramaturges and playwrights in the reorganisation of theatre management structures. Currently, there is a trend to return dramaturges to permanent staff positions, where they work with the management on planning the repertoire while also creating dramatisations and new works. Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce has served as the institutional dramaturge of the Liepāja Theatre since 2015. Since 2022, Matīss Gricmanis has been the senior dramatist of the Dailes Theatre.  As of autumn 2023, Ance Muižniece has taken the post of institutional dramaturge in the Latvian Puppet Theatre, but Artūrs Dīcis has now taken the same post in the Mikhail Chekhov Riga Russian Theatre.

Independent theatre companies have long been the cradle of young playwrights in Latvia. Since its very beginnings in 2007, Dirty Deal Teatro has based its activities on the enthusiastic support of original Latvian playwriting, providing a space both for classically-staged plays and dramaturgical experiments. Most of the professionals in this guide started their professional lives in non-governmental theatres like the Ģertrūdes ielas Theatre and Dirty Deal Teatro. These theatres staged diploma work plays, organised master classes, created various interdisciplinary projects in support of young authors. One such example is the project “10 Minutes of Fame”, which, for a time, twice every theatre season, gathered practising dramaturges and playwrights-to-be for an opportunity to give short, concise summaries of their ideas for original works, afterwards giving the audience a chance to vote for the idea they found the most exciting. In 2019, a similar goal – the opportunity to present young playwrights to a wider audience and support the rise of original playwriting – led the Latvian National Theatre (LNT) to announce a “play concept fishing competition”, in which first place was awarded to Linda Rudene’s idea for her play “Riests” (The Rut), which was then staged in 2021. More than a hundred ideas were submitted to the competition, with both recognized professionals and beginners taking part. The Liepāja Theatre followed suit with its own event, but in 2022 the LNT announced the return of its play idea competition. In 2022, the LNT also organised readings of young playwright diploma work plays: each playwright, aided by one of the theatre’s directors and the necessary number of actors, took a couple of rehearsals to create a reading with some performative elements, which then served as an introduction of these young professionals to their audience.

An important cornerstone of the evolution of Latvian contemporary theatre and, therefore, also modern playwriting, is the Homo Novus International Contemporary Theatre Festival. Started in 1995, it is still the leading contemporary performing arts festival in Latvia, and one of the largest in the Baltic region. Since 2016, the festival has been an annual event that brings together the most prominent theatre creators and collaborates with local artists – including playwrights and dramaturges. The festival’s characteristic inter-disciplinarity and its directed attempt to remove the boundaries between the spectator and the artist, the theatre and the performance, the stage space and the real environment has also promoted and inspired the creative efforts of local playwrights and dramaturges. For this reason, the Homo Novus festival programme increasingly includes not only guest performances from abroad but also home-grown projects. This is a reaffirmation of Latvian theatre’s trend towards becoming ever more international – and internationally competitive. Next to various interdisciplinary projects involving visual and performing arts as well as dance and movement artists, the 2023 festival programme also includes contemporary performing art pieces with playwright-created stories. One such example is “Visi putni skaisti dzied” (All Birds Sing Beautifully), a site-specific music theatre performance created by the team led by Krista Burāne, who has been participating in the festival since 2008. In this performance director and playwright K. Burāne – as is characteristic of her work – emphasizes the importance of location and involves the local community in the proceedings, bringing the spectators into the performance and making them a part of the theatre event. The 2023 programme also includes an original work by Klāvs Mellis (stage direction, text, space design), the lyrical horror story “Kad gulošais mostas” (The Sleeper Awakes).

Since 2016, the Latvian theatre event calendar includes the Valmiera Summer Theatre Festival. It is an annual event, with every other year devoted to children and young adults audiences. Each year, several original works are created specifically for the festival, which brings together theatre artists from all Latvian theatres and creates new productions within the city environment. The programme includes dance performances, and drama, mostly based on new works of original playwriting. The experimental and dynamic atmosphere of the festival has become fertile ground for lasting, successful original playwriting and provides a path to a new section of the audience that has never been reached before.

Alongside their work in theatre, the authors also turn their efforts to film and TV scriptwriting, and get involved in various interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with visual artists, musicians, writers etc. Such collaborations also broaden the creative practice of dramaturgy and the understanding of what it is and what it entails. As the dominance of text over other elements of stage production subsides, dramatic works acquire an increasingly interdisciplinary character, which is also confirmed by the fact that since 2010 dramatic works are no longer judged for the annual Latvian Literary Award. One of the platforms where playwrights are still featured and recognized is the Best New Dramatic Work category of the Latvian Theatre Awards (Spēlmaņu nakts), the highest prize in Latvian professional theatre. For a long time, achievements in playwriting were marked by awarding a prize for best production of original playwriting. Over the past few years, however, the focus has shifted to the dramatic material and its creator, in recognition of playwriting as a distinct and separate art form. The jury examines the new works and analyses it independently from their productions. Interestingly, this quite often brings to the forefront some dramatic texts whose productions are not nominated in the other categories. For example, in the 2021/22 theatre season, the playwriting prize – for Dirty Deal Teatro’s “Frankenšteina komplekss” (Frankenstein Complex) – was awarded to the tandem of dramatist Kārlis Krūmiņš and AI.


In today’s reality, it is almost impossible to imagine a situation where a dramatist would agree to create a work that is in direct conflict with their own views, personality or interests. Language, genre, structure, subject matter – all these elements shape the author’s characteristic hand and make playwriting relevant and interesting to the contemporary spectator, who is not only a consumer of this new dramatic work, but, more often than not, also its protagonist.

Today’s playwrights have brought to the stage a representation of the young contemporary individual and continuously keep this at the forefront of the Latvian theatre space. However modern the interpretation of well-known plays by the directors who stage them, and however seemingly current the theme of the play, there is no escaping the stale language of the characters, the glaring social inequalities, the traditional conservative morals and other carriers from the breath of history. Therefore, it is the playwrights that build the portrait of a real, recognizably contemporary human being whom any audience member may find relatable. “Ordinary people” and the issues that surround their lives have now found their place on the Latvian stage and appear on it with increasing frequency. Dramatists craft stories about events that are relevant to us all, and centre them on the variable, imperfect nature of the human being, eliminating character worship and instead making characters similar to the people around us, people who are us. This can be seen in Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce’s works with their characteristic sensitivity and detailed depictions of human relationships that bring out the emotional intonation of each situation. Or also in the playwriting of Klāvs Mellis, whose effortless, often commonplace dialogues and settings leave an aftertaste of aching sadness in their wake, prompting us to ponder the great significance of small things.

The language and form of a dramatic work reflects not only the voice of the individual author but also their entire generation, and the ways in which society communicates in general. Playwright Diāna Kondraša often uses documentary events and characters alongside more personal stories, to emphasize certain social issues that in some way affect the lives of her chosen protagonists. Today’s authors often give their protagonists a commonplace, mundane vocabulary, bringing the protagonist closer to the spectator without diminishing the importance of the conflict. Clashes between the characters are neatly outlined through lively dialogue which conveys a faithful image of our time with all its diversity and paradoxes. The works of playwright Justīne Kļava are an excellent example of how a meticulous approach to character construction can bring out the individual essence of each protagonist and facilitate the dynamic, brisk pace of the play by confronting differing points of view.

No less important is the tackling of individual, addressing deeply personal and essential issues to emphasize the process of personal development and to potentially facilitate a new or deeper search for the self. Playwright Artūrs Dīcis most often addresses issues of existential importance within the confines of a closed community – by focusing on the individual crises that affect his protagonists. Reflections that lead to mostly tragicomic actions, provoked by helplessness, with the characters considering the path that led them into this existential vacuum and, after a sudden realisation, trying to escape it. The protagonists of Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce’s works, meanwhile, are often linked together by unbreakable ties; rather than focusing on their individual problems, they turn to the crises of their relationships, trying to find a solution and, more often than not, finding at least a distant glimmer of it.

The contemporary protagonist is usually inextricable from the social reality in which he or she exists. This is dramaturgy based in a social or political situation, and not on a dramatic text or play. Therefore, global issues are often combined with personal experiences within the framework of a single play. As, for example, in Krista Burāne’s works, whose subject matter often has a sociopolitical twist. They explore our civic and human responsibility towards the processes around us, towards the ecosystem in which we live, and of which we are a part. Meanwhile, Evarts Melnalksnis’ dramaturgical techniques possess the particular quality of grafting together a pragmatic backdrop of social issues and a conceptual, formally striking frame, without diminishing the importance of either element. Kārlis Krūmiņš likewise chooses to reflect on socially relevant topics, building his works on specific questions whose answers his characters are forced to seek by examining their own values. Compared to preceding generations, the authors of today are less inclined to hide behind vague metaphors or ambiguous remarks. Quite the opposite: they not only dare to express their views through dialogue, character portraits and choice of topic, but also often make themselves one of the protagonists, readily admitting to the autobiographical nature of the play, or even participating in the production as one of the performers. Thus, for example, Jānis Balodis has written a representation of his own personality into several of his plays, and has also taken part in the process of staging his dramatic works by becoming a performer. In his play “Būt nacionālistam” (Being a Nationalist), Matīss Gricmanis reflects on his own experience on the political stage and also plays the principal character of Matīss in the Dirty Deal Teatro production. Playwright Linda Rudene in her BA diploma play “Armastus”, tackles her complicated relationship with her grandmother without disguising the biographical aspects of the work. Sharing a personal experience is a vital component of contemporary drama. Obviously, in one way or another, each of the authors writes or otherwise encodes their own prototype, character, views etc. into their work. The only difference is the individual level of each artist’s openness and self-reflection.

Today’s world, while offering seemingly unlimited opportunities for self-improvement, also demands unceasing efforts to fit in, to define oneself and compare oneself to others in a multitude of contexts. This particularly affects the younger generation, children and teenagers who are finding their way in this questionable reality. One of the authors who has created many performances for children and teenager audiences is Krista Burāne, who remains faithful to the active engagement of the viewer, which captivates the young theatre audience. Playwright Ance Muižniece is consistently able to build a solid bridge of communication with the youngest generation of theatregoers. Her plays for children and young adults address issues that are relevant to her target audience, framing them in an attractive, engaging way and using the right approach to educate the young people without them even noticing. Klāvs Mellis, meanwhile, has been particularly effective in demonstrating an understanding of the younger generation’s way of thinking and style of communication, showing a markedly contemporary version of the timeless struggle of growing up.

One of the most relevant topics today is the subject of nature and ecology, and Latvian drama is no exception to this rule. In Latvia, nature has long been viewed as a national treasure, and as such, has always also been present in our dramatic works. In the theatre space of today, the theme of ecology covers a vast and varied body of dramatic material created for various target audiences. Krista Burāne in particular makes a concerted effort to tackle matters of ecology in her work, focusing not just on the environmental threats but also on the malignant influence of the bureaucratic system, and urges the spectator (participant of the performance) to take up the role of an activist – or at least to open their eyes to the harsh reality around us. Environmental issues are also addressed by Jānis Balodis, who uses the presence of nature by inserting it into his works and, increasingly, choosing to create site-specific plays. In the works of Linda Rudene, nature becomes a poetic means of expression to interpret human actions through the vocabulary of flora and fauna and they remind us of the perpetual interaction of man and nature.

Another always relevant and widely addressed topic in playwriting is history, and the relationship the authors of today have with the past and its heritage. Therefore, the authors’ own experiences, reflections and historical interpretations are also an inextricable part of the todays’ drama. Since the restoration of independence, historical themes and characters, a forbidden subject during the Soviet occupation, have slowly found their way into the work of playwrights. Now and again this trend sees a renewed surge in Latvian playwriting. The focus is placed on personalities whose life stories, decisions and other actions have left an indelible mark on the following generations and the nation in its entirety. The re-evaluation of history, putting aside the glorification of particular figures, still continues to this day. Looking at the past from the perspective of today, from the eyes of a young person, is a way to bring the importance of historical literacy and critical thinking to the attention of younger audiences. Hence, among the most often used writing aids and sources of inspiration for playwrights and dramaturges are archives and periodicals, which help bring to life previously hidden facts, personalities and events. As time passes and generations of authors change from one to the next, a reflection on these topics becomes ever more incisive, losing the national pathos often characteristic of its predecessors, and casting light not only on the victories and seemingly correct choices but also on the challenges and unflattering facts. A re-evaluation of historical figures and politically significant events is present in several works by Jānis Balodis, Krista Burāne, Matīss Gricmanis, Kārlis Krūmiņš, Justīne Kļava. 

A separate mention should be made of authors who choose to work with historical sources and focus on cultural heritage instead of true events and personalities. This approach is mostly used for the adaptions of classic works that are being localised or changed in a new interpretation, but contemporary drama will also quite often include characters, events, quotes or other intertextual techniques which help the author to link the heritage of the past to the reality of today. Examples of this method are increasingly frequent on Latvian theatre stages. Dramaturge Evarts Melnalksnis is one of the professionals who often use these elements. Moreover – often without dismantling the original content or form of the source, Melnalksnis imbues it with new conceptual meaning, carefully selecting the most important accents that make the work relevant and allow it to be reborn as a distinct work of art. Keenly observed, nimble and witty flirting with literary heritage is also characteristic of works by Ance Muižniece and Justīne Kļava.

Intertextuality is an important component of contemporary drama. No process in theatre takes place in a vacuum, and the direction and style of the evolution of contemporary dramaturgy is determined not only by personal and subjective choice but also by general theatre innovations, art actualities, socio political situations and other aspects. Of course, it is simply impossible to create a work of art without accidental or intentional quotes and references – even less so a dramatic work which presents a story. Perhaps it is for this reason that this technique is evident in the work of all playwrights and dramaturges – but the most interesting aspect is the form and purpose of its use. In their works, authors include real historical figures, archetypical characters, well-known quotations, literary references, allusions, pop culture characters and storylines etc., thus encouraging the audience to look for connections, create personal associative networks, use their erudition to decode additional meanings, solve intellectual puzzles – or simply submit to the rich flow of information.


Jānis Balodis’ playwriting features not only former presidents of Latvia but also a historical rock band. There are deeply personal stories from the community and courageous critiques of political powers. Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce’s works are a full-bodied bouquet of characters – from Shakespeare’s creations to weirdos loitering in a queue, - direct, provocative views alongside fragile, pure, softly spoken words. In Krista Burāne’s plays, we hear poetry, we hear personal stories of people who live next to us and we even hear the voice of a tree, and they all ask questions that make us listen to what is within ourselves. Artūrs Dīcis takes the world we see every day and puts it on the stage; suddenly it is sliced open and it feels like we’re seeing for the first time. Matīss Gricmanis dives deep into historical archives to reach beyond the yellowed sheets of reports and find what is most human – fear, doubt, regret. Justīne Kļava builds a rich polyphony of voices, without devaluing any opinion, and often immersing historical characters into the reality of our century, just to demonstrate and remind us how questionable it is. Diāna Kondraša hears the whispers of real people among the oppressive everyday shouts and noises and gives them the stage. Kārlis Krūmiņš uses his playwriting to engage with the founders of our state, a hundred years in the past – and with an artificial intelligence from the future. Klāvs Mellis makes us believe the characters of classic works of literature eat, drink and live as close to him as lovesick teenagers or system-weary teachers: instead of texts, these are imprints of life. Evarts Melnalksnis is unafraid to build a dialogue with great characters, legendary names, to spin his yarns further than would have been possible to imagine before, or to unravel now. Ance Muižniece speaks to the young, and it has nothing to do with age. She reawakens half-forgotten characters – ones that live in books, and ones that have crystallised within us over the years. Linda Rudene allows ordinary people to become grand heroes, small happenings to become great events, to encourage us to view life as a series of surprising moments instead of an evenly uneventful curve.

This bright collage is just a brief overview to show the multi layered essence of Latvian dramaturgy, and also a reminder of what is most important – the courageous efforts to perceive and shape dramatic writing as a game, a three-dimensional work of art that is always in motion and never submits to the constraints of a single language or cultural space but strives to expand and reach ever more distant boundaries.

This guide introduces you to historians, activists, journalists, writers, dreamers – and most of all, artists who create new worlds which can be fully explored only through closer acquaintance with their works.

Written by Linda Rudene


This project has been developed by The Latvian Theatre Workers’ Union, as a part of the Baltic Drama Forum 2023. We would like to remind you that all rights are reserved, including the rights of reproduction of the plays in whole or in part in any form. If you are interested, please contact individual authors or The Latvian Theatre Workers’ Union (