Argentines, especially porteños, are avid theater goers. The tradition dates from late colonial times, when creation of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate gave the capital a certain legitimacy and pretensions, at least, to high culture. Over the 19th century, it developed through institutions like the sainete, a humorous performance dealing with immigrant issues.
Formal theater dates from the late 19th century, thanks to the patronage of the Montevideo-born Podestá family, who built theaters in Buenos Aires  and La Plata. Influential early playwrights included Montevideo-born Florencio Sánchez (1875–1910), who wrote sainetes but drew much of his inspiration from Ibsen; Gregorio de Laferrere (1867–1913), who wrote comic plays; and Roberto Payró (1867–1928).
In the days before jet travel, twentieth-century European dramatists such as Federico García Lorca and Jean Cocteau found the Buenos Aires  theater scene justified the long voyage across the Atlantic and beyond the Equator. Among Argentina’s best-loved 20th-century performers are comedian Luis Sandrini (1905–1980) and Lola Membrives (1888–1969); the best-known contemporary playwright is Juan Carlos Gené (born 1929). Primarily known for her films, Norma Aleandro (born 1936) is also active as a theater director.
Ranging from vulgar burlesque with elaborate stage shows to Shakespearean and avant-garde drama, the Buenos Aires  theater scene is busiest June–August. Avenida Corrientes is the traditional locus of live theater, but it’s worth seeking out “off-Corrientes” alternatives such as La Boca ’s imaginative, politically committed Teatro Catalinas Sur.