28 Dec 2015

Directorial styles in Bulgaria’s theatre after WW2

01 May, 2015 – 01 May, 2018

Author: Prof. Kamelia Nikolova, DSc, Theatre Department

The project is the closing, final stage in a general study on director’s theatre in this country starting from 1945 until now. It is a follow-up to the already completed planned project Directors in Bulgarian Theatre 1945–2015: From Socialist Realism to Postmodernism.
My just completed study outlines the key transformation after 1944/5 of Bulgaria’s theatre into a directorial one as well as the stages and turns in its development over the following seven decades from mostly a fact-based point of view. Using enormous documentary material, the study clarifies the regime of making directors, establishes the generations of directors, highlighting the major figures of directors and tracing out their movement across the theatre network of this country and their relation to the socio-political context. In other words, a bigger picture, so to say, is given of the full socio-cultural and fact-based schemes of director’s presence in Bulgarian theatre from 1945 until nowadays.
The new project seeks to fill up the built reference and fundamental frame, typical of such a study, with detailed clarification of the trends setting the development of Bulgarian theatre in the main socio-cultural periods, of the theatre aesthetics and the individual directorial styles of figures, representative of each period, and established generations.
The chosen research strategy for achieving of this goal is a historical-theoretical study and an interdisciplinary analysis of the development of director’s theatre in this country over the said period in the light of the figures, i.e. of the aesthetic biographies of certain significant directors. That’s why the work is structured as a chronological series of 30 or so detailed historical-theoretical portrayals of the emblematic Bulgarian directors of the period from the end of WW2 until now.
Stage of exploration of the research object. There is a number of texts and materials mostly on or by certain directors as well as a good few summaries and treatments in publications on more general issues. Recently, a planned project by Nikolai Yordanov was submitted about the staging and performative practices in Bulgaria after 1989, and a book by Vasil Stefanov, The Path of Directing about directors in Bulgaria in the initial three and a half decades under socialism, from 1944 until 1979. Still, the research project implemented by me (in its already completed Part 1 and the planned second part) is the first comprehensive study on director’s figure and the development of director’s theatre in Bulgaria since the end of WW2 until now. The issue has been a sustainably and comprehensively followed line of research interest in my career. The proposed study uses, continues and builds on my PhD thesis, published in a book, The Other Name of Modern Theatre. Origins and Aesthetic Grounds of Directing (1995, University of Sofia); my study on Expressionist theatre and Geo Milev’s project, Expressionist Theatre and Body Language (2000, University of Sofia); Bulgarian Director as Timeline (1996, European Legacy magazine, NY, v. 1); Bulgarian Theatre after 1989: Reconstructions (2009/4, Art Studies Quarterly); my course of compulsory lectures at NATFA and NBU on the History of Directing (of European Theatre), which I have been conducting ever since 1993 without a break as well as a number of individual publications on the subject, building on and developing further the just completed first stage in my exploration of Bulgaria’s director’s theatre.
Goals of the research project. That said, the explanations could be grouped into five major ones: 1) Present and analyse the individual directorial styles and the major figures of directors from the end of WW2 until now. 2) Analyse the aesthetics of Socialist Realism as compulsory for the directors until the late 1980s and explore both emblematic events and representatives and the attempts to expand it with new elements or depart from it. 3) Trace out the changes and transformations in the position and status of directors following 1989, the collapse of the theatrical aesthetics of the communist era and the advent of new theatrical aesthetics and directorial styles over the last two decades and a half. 4) Trace out and analyse the major influences of the European and the Soviet theatres on the theatrical aesthetics and the individual styles of Bulgarian directors until 1989 and following that year until now, of the contemporary European theatre. 5) Using the conducted study, come up with an assumption of the state of director’s theatre in Bulgaria now and the possible ways of its actualisation and adaptation to the new developments of contemporary theatrical art following the turn of the millennium.
Form: A comparative theoretical-historical study.
Thematic research line: As far as the proposed research project seeks to explain first of all the phenomena, trends and problems of contemporary Bulgarian theatre in the light of director’s figure, reconstructing, studying and summing up this figure’s recent past of the communist era, this research projects fits rather in the line of Globalisation, Arts, Identity. Arts and Post-totalitarianism. At the same time, those of its parts that deal with directing and director’s figure during the previous periods could be a good both contextual and fact-based basis for the composition of the respective chapters on directing in the next volumes of the History of Bulgarian Theatre, prepared by the Department.