Bulgarian actor, director, puppet constructor and stage designer. Georgi Saravanov is one of the pioneering legends of Bulgarian puppet theatre. Due to the lack of specific biographical data, his stature as a legendary figure has arisen. It is known that he began as a circus performer and used marionettes in his acts, and that he had established a special theatre where the puppet would be the central character. With several actors from the dramatic theatre, in the autumn of 1946 he founded a company in Plovdiv, which opened with a marionette production for children. This was the founding of what would become the Plovdiv Puppet Theatre (Durzhaven kuklen teatur Plovdiv, State Puppet Theatre Plovdiv), which today is one of the most successful puppet theatres in Bulgaria.

Georgi Saravanov was especially interested in the technical aspect of performing with string marionettes. An enthusiast, he managed his theatre where the actors were encouraged to construct their own puppets under his direction. His productions aimed at resembling the live theatre of the times. The theatre followed the Stanislavski method, and in those early years it created several productions that would be considered ambitious even by today’s standards. In constant search of new forms, Saravanov directed several puppet operas as well, for which purpose an orchestra was employed at the theatre. Between 1946 and 1952, over twenty-five productions opened at the Plovdiv Puppet Theatre under his management, including: Chervenata Shapchitsa (Little Red Riding Hood), Snezhanka (Snow White), Zlatnata Ribka (The Golden Fish), Veselite Mcheta (The Merry Teddy Bears), Tzar Saltan, and Riapata (The Turnip). These are just a few of the many productions during this seven-year period, some of which required as many as one hundred marionettes for a single opera production.

When the Plovdiv Puppet Theatre was well established, Saravanov left for Varna where he founded the Varna Puppet Theatre in 1952 (which would become the Durzhaven kuklen teatur Varna (State Puppet Theatre Varna).

During this period he developed his artistic ideas in the field of the so-called “low marionette” (puppets operated from below, but animated with strings on a special keyboard-operated rod). Once again his goal was to investigate the unplumbed capacities of a puppet’s behaviour. Saravanov claimed that he had managed to create puppets that had four more characteristics than those of live actors. His determined personality led him into ever-newer research.

Georgi Saravanov left Varna only to become founder of the puppet theatre in Kurjali and later, in 1960, he tried to establish a company in Turnovo as well. In his later years he returned to the circus, which drew to an end his career in puppet theatre. Modern trends in the art of puppetry remained alien to him, as also the emergence of contemporary notions of directing and professional training for performers and puppet theatre makers. His name, however, is still recalled with awe and respect by all who remember him.

(See Bulgaria.)