The first artistic group at the SND Drama Company was made up of members of The Bedřich Jerábek East Bohemian Theatre. The ensemble included Czech actors who played largely in Czech when performing in Bratislava. The first première at the SND Drama Company was the play Maryša by the Mrštík brothers that opened in March 1920. By May that year, the theatre staged the first Slovak productions, two single-act plays Sin and In Service by the writer Jozef Gregor Tajovský. 1921 brought in the first group of Slovak actors, Andrej Bagar, Ján Borodáč, Oľga Országhová-Borodáčová, Jozef Kello, Gašpar Arbét, soon to be joined by Hana Meličková. Following the arrival of the first Slovak professional stage director Ján Borodáč in 1924, the number of Slovak premières kept on increasing. After 1932 the group split in two: the Slovak ensemble was led by Janko Borodáč and its Czech counterpart by the stage director Viktor Šulc. The creative dialogue between the two proved instrumental to further development of the art of theatre in Slovakia.
The Czech acting group disintegrated at the dawn of World War 2. The playhouse became home to such influential figures as the stage director and dramaturge Ferdinand Hoffman, director and actor Ján Jamnický, as well as Jozef Budský. Despite the Fascist ideology of the Slovak state in the period of 1939 and 1945, the SND Drama Company became home to artistic and political confrontation, while catching up with developments across the landscape of European theatre. The SND was staging major dramatic works critical of the then political establishment. Playwrights as Ivan Stodola, Július Barč-Ivan, Peter Zvon, Mária Rázusová-Martáková paved the way to further development of Slovak drama.
Facilitated by the SND Drama Company, the post-war period brought comprehensive backing to original texts and authors, and gave rise to such figures as Štefan Králik, Peter Karvaš, Leopold Lahola. The artistic profile of the theatre was then largely shaped by stage directors Jozef Budský, Tibor Rakovský and Karol L. Zachar, working alongside the dramaturges Peter Karvaš and Jozef Felix. The era also proved to be the onset of a new generation of actors, including Mária Prechovská, Gustáv Valach, Mária Kráľovičová, Ctibor Filčík, Karol Machata, and Eva Kristínová.
The period of 1949 to 1956 was defined by totalitarian power and the effect it had on artistic expression of the Drama Company. 1950s proved to be a difficult, thorny and, at the same time, peculiar chapter in the history of Slovakia’s national theatre. Normativity and razing on the one hand, with selectiveness, marginalisation of critical thinking on the other hand, temporarily halted the encouraging development and progress of Slovak theatre. Meanwhile, however, the situation stimulated theatre makers to further develop and expand dramatic methods to a degree that became fully manifested in the 1960s: metaphor, allusion, parallels, parabola, travesty, and grotesque. Creative dialogue continued among stage directors Jozef Budský, Karol L. Zachar, Tibor Rakovský and Ivan Lichardus together with dramaturges Ivan Teren, Viera Mikulášová-Škridlová and Kveta Dibarborová-Ilavská.
Along with the first lessening of Stalinism shortly after 1956, the SND Drama Company embarked anew on the quest for independent dramatic arts. It was the dawn of dramaturgy of major opuses, reflection of hitherto disregarded playwrights, the time of opening the theatre wide to the outside world. The creative dialogue between the stage directors Jozef Budský, Tibor Rakovský and Karol L. Zachar, who were by then at their prime, defined the second half of the 1950s, as well as the 1960s. The period brought to the theatre a number of foremost actors, namely Zdena Grúberová, Elo Romančík, Jozef Kroner, Božidara Turzonovová, Emília Vášáryová, Juraj Slezáček, Eva Poláková, Ivan Mistrík, Štefan Kvietik, Ivan Rajniak, and Michal Dočolomanský. The late 1960s gave rise to a new generation of stage directors such as Peter Mikulík and Pavol Haspra; throughout the 1970s they were joined by Miloš Pietor, Ľubomír Vajdička and Vladimír Strnisko. The actors’ company welcomed, in the 1980s and 1990s, further major talents within the then middle and younger generation: Anna Javorková, Martin Huba, Juraj Kukura, Pavol Mikulík, Emil Horváth Jr, Dušan Jamrich, Milan Kňažko, Dušan Tarageľ, Zdena Studenková, Kamila Magálová, Maroš Kramár, Stano Dančiak, Marián Labuda, František Kovár, Ingrid Timková, Richard Stanke, and Diana Mórová.
The quartet of the foremost directors of the time – Pavol Haspra, Peter Mikulík, Ľubomír Vajdička and Vladimír Strnisko left a major imprint on the shape of the SND Drama Company in the 1990s. The theatre owes its balanced dramaturgy to Martin Porubjak, Darina Abrahámová and later Peter Pavlac. The endeavour to develop balanced repertoire continued and marked the period when the SND Drama Company caught up, and at times even surpassed European trends.
The recent decade and half saw the SND Drama Company open itself more methodically to associate collaboration with Slovakia’s talented young directors (Dodo Gombár, Patrik Lančarič, Martin Čičvák, Silvester Lavrík, Ondro Spišák, Michal Vajdička, Lukáš Brutovský). Dramaturgy focused more penetratingly on contemporary world drama, as well as on exploring new Slovak plays (Viliam Klimáček, Roman Olekšák and Valeria Schulczová, Eva Maliti-Fraňová, Ján Uličiansky, Daniel Majling, Pavol Weiss, Jana Juráňová). The quest also involved spotting new acting talents, bringing to the theatre members of the then youngest generation of actors (Zuzana Fialová, Monika Hilmerová, Tomáš Maštalír, Ľuboš Kostelný, Ondrej Kovaľ, Ivana Kuxová, Ján Koleník, Dano Heriban, Daniel Fishcer, Dominika Kavaschová).
Comprehensive opening of the theatre facilitated guest collaboration with foremost international directors, such as Enikö Eszényi (Hungary), Patrice Kerbrat (France), Ján Antonín Pitinský and Vladimír Morávek (Czech Republic), Diego de Brea (Slovenia), Dino Mustafić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Brit Bartkoviak (Germany), David Jařab (Czech Republic), Jiří Havelka (Czech Republic), and Tilmann Köhler (Germany).
The yet penultimate director of SND Drama Company, the stage director Roman Polák defined his tenure with dramaturgical vision of an open, socially and politically engaged theatre. Over the previous five seasons, he focused on productions of original texts, prose adaptations, and mapping white spots in Slovak history. January 2018 saw the appointment of his successor, the stage director Michal Vajdička as the director of the SND Drama Company.
SND Drama Company stages eight premières each season (four on Drama Stage and four in the Studio). The repertoire contains 30 productions in average, whilst the theatre gives annually some 430 performances. The new stage, the Blue Salon, is a platform for discussion on themes of society-wide concern, current issues, as well as for staged readings, theatre of poetry, as well as original Slovak plays.
In 2000 the SND Drama Company joined the prestigious European Theatre Convention (ETC) that brings together thirty-six European theatres. In conjunction with the ETC, the SND participated in or convened a number of international projects, such as the ETC Refugees (2004), Learning Europe (2008), Spring Theatre Tour (2012), and Art of Ageing (2015).
The recent years saw SND Drama Company feature regularly at international theatre festivals in Torun, Hradec Králové, Zlín, Brno, Olomouc, Pilsen, and Nitra, and guest perform in Prague (The National Theatre), Brno, Budapest, Bucharest, Ljubljana, and Vienna.
From 2015, the Drama Company, together with the SND Opera and Ballet, convenes the International Theatre Festival Eurokontext.sk. The event enables the SND to host such distinguished theatres as the Burgtheater Vienna, Staatstheater Dresden, Katona Jószef Szinház Budapest, Vígszínház Budapest, The Ivan frank Academic Theatre from Kiev, or The Kote Marjanishvilli Theatre of Tbilisi, Stary Teatr Krakow, or the National Theatre of Iceland.