The international first took place in Erlangen in 1979. Nürnberg joined in 1981, followed by the city of Fürth in 1983 and finally Schwabach in 1989. Every two years, the festival is planned and carried out jointly by the cultural offices of the four festival cities. The main venues are the Markgrafentheater, the Redoutensaal, the Theater in der Garage, the Glocken-Lichtspiele, the Experimentiertheater and the Kulturzentrum E-Werk in Erlangen, the Tafelhalle, the Künstlerhaus and the Theater Salz+Pfeffer in Nürnberg, the Kulturforum and the Stadttheater in Fürth and the Stadtmuseum in Schwabach. With over 150 performances by approximately 70 different theatre companies, the international is now one of the largest theatre festivals of its kind in Germany.

From the very beginning, the festival has aimed to present contemporary puppet theatre and to encourage artistic encounters between different genres. Today, our understanding of Figurentheater includes many forms of puppet, visual, object and physical theatre, dance and new media. Almost anything can act as a ‘Figur’ – puppets, objects and materials, the human body, video projections, machines, robots, artificial intelligence – even a beam of light, a sound or an image that emerges in one’s mind. This cross-genre approach has been widely embraced and can also be found in university programmes focusing on Figurentheater.

In recent years, as part of a process of cultural democratisation, the international has evolved and expanded to also include interventions in public spaces and participatory formats. Creative interaction between Figurentheater, performance and visual arts as well as new media has come into focus. Interest in digital theatre formats has grown since the pandemic. And so, the festival continues to change and reinvent itself, questioning popular genre traditions, differing perspectives and ingrained views.