Theatre of Estonia dates to 1784 when August von Kotzebue founded an amateur theatre company in Tallinn. Most of the plays at the time were comedies for the amusement for local Baltic German nobility. In 1809 a professional theatre company was established, with its own building in Tallinn. The repertoire was mostly in German but plays in Estonian and Russian were also performed.
After centuries of serfdom that was abolished in Estonia in 1816, the first native Estonian musical society, Vanemuine, was established in 1865. The Vanemuine society's staging of Lydia Koidula's The Cousin from Saaremaa in 1870 marks the birth of Estonian theater.