The Hungarian Theatre of Cluj was founded in 1792 and was the first Hungarian theatre company in Transylvania. Transylvania is now part of modern day Romania, and the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj functions as a repertory theatre, entirely subsidized by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Performances are presented in Hungarian, with surtitles in Romanian or English usually available.
The defining periods of the theatre were shaped by directors of international fame who are considered key figures of Hungarian and European theatre, including Gyula E. Kovács, the initiator of the Shakespeare-series, Jenő Janovics, founder of the first Hungarian film studio, and György Harag, a great Maestro of the theatre in Romania.
In 1990 Gábor Tompa was appointed artistic director of the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj. Under his leadership, the theatre has continued Harag's tradition of innovation, based on a repertoire that includes classic masterpieces as well as contemporary plays. During this last period the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj has aligned with the new trends of contemporary theatre and taken its place in the circuit of European theatres. This has been largely due to international co-productions and collaborations with world renowned professionals: directors such as Vlad Mugur, Silviu Purcărete, Andrei Şerban, Mihai Măniuţiu, Victor Ioan Frunză, David Zinder, Dragoş Galgoţiu, Patrick Le Mauff, Elie Malka, Matthias Langhoff, Robert Woodruff, Alain Timar, Michal Dočekal and Yuri Kordonsky; set and costume designers such as Carmencita Brojboiu, Andrei Both, Doina Levintza, Lia Manţoc, Helmut Stürmer, Dragoș Buhagiar and Martin Chocholousek; and composers such as Vasile Şirli and Iosif Herţea.
Productions of the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj have received significant national and international recognition. In 1993, "The Bald Prima Donna", directed by Gábor Tompa, won the "Best Foreign Performance of the Year Award" when it toured England; it also went to Finland, France, the Republic of Moldova and Hungary. In 2007, Tompa's production of “Long Friday” was presented at the 16th Festival of the Union of European Theatres in Turin. In 2008, UNITER, the Union of Romanian Theatres, gave three awards to the Hungarian Theatre's “Uncle Vanya”, directed by Andrei Şerban. András Hatházi received the Award for Best Actor for his performance in the title role, and Andrei Şerban the Award for Best Director of the Year, while the production as a whole won the award for Best Performance of the Year. In 2009 UNITER, the Union of Romanian Theatres, also gave two awards Gábor Tompa won the Award for Best Director of the Year, while the production “Three Sisters” won the award for Best Performance of the Year. In 2014 the performance Victor or Power to the Children directed by Silviu Purcărete was awarded with the Award for Best Performance of the Year 2013. This was the seventh time the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj had won the UNITER Award for Best Performance of the Year. Previously, “The Bus Stop” in 1990, “The Venetian Twins” in 1998, “The Cherry Orchard” in 1999, and “Woyzeck” in 2005, were all distinguished by this honor.
Its outstanding internationally acclaimed performances and its organization of important theatrical events combine to make the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj not only an important institution for the Hungarian community in Romania, but one of the most important theatrical institutions for the country as a whole.