Founded in 1982 by Polish-American theatre scholar and dramaturg Andrzej Wirth at Giessen’s Justus-Liebig University, the Institute of Applied Theatre Studies was the first university program that integrated a study of artistic practice into the study of theatre. Under the leadership of Mr. Wirth and his collaborator Hans-Thies Lehmann, the Institute quickly developed into an alternative to those established theatre schools that understood theatre exclusively as acting based on dramas and prepared their students for a market dominated by the well-established municipal theatres. In addition, the Institute stood in opposition to other academic departments for theatre studies, where there was little interest in practice, and theatre studies were understood primarily as theatre historiography.
Today, there are four chairs at the Instiute for Applied Theatre Studies, three of which are held permanently. Currently, Xavier Le Roy holds the chair in artistic practice, Gerald Siegmund holds the chair in theatre studies, and Bojana Kunst has holds the chair in dance studies. The fourth chair is reserved for guest professorships, and is thus held by different artists and researches over the course of a study year. Whereas in the 1980s and 1990s, the conventional definitions and practices of theatre necessitated more innovative forms of teaching und understanding of theatre, today the decline of the artistic importance of the municipal theatres and the enormous changes in the theatre landscape have brought other discussions to the fore: the ambivalences in the independent theatre scenes, its internationalization, and its working conditions due to the intensification of economic pressures produce new challenges and problems for the production but also for the aesthetics of contemporary theatre.