The Volksbühne was built during the years 1913 to 1914 and was designed by Oskar Kaufmann, with integrated sculpture by Franz Metzner. It opened on December 30, 1914 and has its origin in an organization known as the "Freie Volksbühne" ("Free People's Theater") which sketched out the vision for a theater "of the people" in 1892. The goal of the organization was to promote the naturalistplays of the day at prices accessible to the common worker. The original slogan inscribed on the edifice was "Die Kunst dem Volke" ("Art to the people"). During World War II, the theatre was heavily damaged like much of the rest of Berlin. From 1950 to 1954, it was rebuilt according to the design of architect Hans Richter.
Frank Castorf directed from 1992 till 2015, when he was replaced by Chris Dercon. The theater was named the most exciting stage in Germany („aufregendste Bühne Deutschlands“), attracting much press attention and establishing a reputation as one of the most provocative and experimental major theaters in contemporary Germany.