The International Small Scene Theatre Festival was founded in Rijeka in 1994 as a Croatian festival. Under the guidance of its founder, the actor Nenad Šegvic and its first selector – the theatre critic Dalibor Foretic, its aim was to assemble the best and most progressive performances of chamber theatre, most often produced by independent theatre groups.

Since 1999, when the Festival selector becomes the theatre critic and dramaturge Jasen Boko, The SmallScene Theatre Festival has officially changed into an international event, in spite of the fact that it had up till then also included some international shows in its programme. The Festival, however, has never abandoned its basic goal – that of presenting contemporary theatre, first-class acting and performances which offer close contact between artists and audiences. As a competitive festival (with awards in thirteen categories), relying on substantial concepts and ideas (the selection of shows is based on one or more previously defined themes or subjects), taking place in a lively atmosphere (excellent attendance of round-table discussions after the shows), the Festival has in no time grown into one of the most prestigious theatre events in the region.

During the period in which the selectors were dramaturge and writer Darko Lukic (2002-2003) and theatre critic and dramaturge Hrvoje Ivankovic (since 2004), the concept of broadening and profiling the Festival as a meeting place of Croatian and foreign theatres where different cultures and traditions meet and merge, has remained valid. Equally open to first-class mainstream theatre and unconventional, experimental projects, the Small Scene Theatre Festival pays special attention to setting up the visiting performances on attractive locations and a variety of stages; therefore, besides running on the stage of the Croatian House of Culture and in its atrium, plays have been performed in the theatre of Filodrammatica, the Croatian National Theatre "Ivan Zajc", in the former movie-house "Kvarner", in the abandoned factories "Rade Koncar", "Rikard Bencic", and the paper factory, in painters' ateliers, etc. Alongside with the most famous theatres from all the countries offormer Yugoslavia, so far the Festival has hosted theatres from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Rumania, Russia, the USA, Switzerland, and Great Britain.

In spite of the fact that the organisers and the founders of the Festival are the Croatian House of Culture and the Government of Rijeka which generously subsidizes the Festival, partial financial support also comes from the Croatian Ministry of Culture, from numerous sponsors, from box-office revenue, as well as occasionally from foreign cultural centres based in Croatia.