Bulgarian puppet theatre based in the city of Varna. The theatre, which would become the Durzhaven kuklen teatur Varna (State Puppet Theatre Varna, today generally called Puppet Theatre Varna or Varna Puppet Theatre in English), was established in 1952 at the initiative of the Varna municipality, which then invited Georgi Saravanov and Yordanka Saravanova from Plovdiv to manage the theatre. The first production of the theatre was Patenceto (The Duckling) by Nina Gernet and L. Gurevich, staged in the hall of “The Varna Commune” on August 22, 1952. The official opening of the company’s own auditorium took place on January 1, 1953 with Nikita i drakona (Nikita and the Dragon) by Tudorovska and Metelnikov.

With designer Ivan Tzonev from Sofia, the theatre left behind the style of naturalism that was the prevailing aesthetic at that time. From 1968, artistic director and playwright, Yordan Todorov created productions of a high professional and artistic level. Together with director Zlati Zlatev, artist Ivan Tzonev, and actors P. Mandadjiyska, D. Zhekov, T. Dimitrov and Y. Raykova, they have won international acclaim for the theatre. Yordan Todorov also promoted a new era of Bulgarian playwriting for the puppet theatre through the establishment of an organization of national review of Bulgarian puppet plays. This review developed into an international festival – The Golden Dolphin – which first opened in 1972 and takes place once every three years.

During the period 1978-1996, a large number of directors, set designers and actors from the younger generation joined the theatre, such as directors Slavcho Malenov (b.1950), Kiriakos Argyropoulos (b.1950), St. Moskov, L. Kapon, set designers, M. Kouzova, Maya Petrova (b.1950), and actors V. Kiosev, D. Staykova, D. Tzolevska, among others.

The repertoire of the State Puppet Theatre Varna includes productions utilizing a variety of styles of puppetry aimed at children and young audiences, as well as for adults. Among the most popular productions include: Pepeliashka (Cinderella) after Charles Perrault; Princesata i grahovoto zarno (The Princess and the Pea) after Hans Christian Andersen; Biala prikazka (White Tale) by Valeri Petrov; Igra ha svetlini i senki (A Play of Lights and Shadows) by Nikolina Georgieva.

The State Puppet Theatre Varna has received many festivals awards, including the Golden Dolphin (1978, 1981, 1996, 2005), the Special Prize (2002), the Varna Prize, and also many international awards. Since its founding in 1952, more than 250 productions and 20,000 performances have been staged by the State Puppet Theatre Varna, watched by more than eight million spectators in Bulgaria and abroad.

The theatre has toured in England, Algeria, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, the United States, Cuba, Russia, India, Japan, and other countries abroad.

The puppet museum of the State Puppet Theatre Varna was opened in 1985 and contains more than 130 theatre puppets and sets. After a period of interruption from 1990 to 2002, the artist Tsvetana Vekova reorganized the exhibition. Many of the unique puppets made by Georgi Saravanov (founder of the theatre in 1952) and by his younger colleagues from eighteen representative productions (1952-2000) are special features of the exhibition, including the medals and distinctions received. The various puppetry techniques, production styles and trends of the puppet theatre are also on display, as well as a glimpse into the creativity of leading Bulgarian stage designers such as the architect Ivan Tsonev, Maya Petrova, Lubomir Tsakev, Maya Kuzova, Anna Pulieva, Angel Nedelchev, Kosta Ortodoksov, Petia Stoikova, and others.

(See Bulgaria.)