Romanian director. A graduate of DAMU – Divadelní fakulta Akademie muzických umění (Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts) in Prague (1971-1975), Irina Niculescu began directing at Teatrul de păpuși Constanţa (Constanţa Puppet Theatre (see Teatrul pentru copii și tineret Constanța, Constanţa Theatre for Children and Youth) where she staged O poveste oarecare (An Ordinary Tale, 1976) and Povestea Porcului (The Pig Story, 1978), productions which enhanced the idea of theatre as a celebration. She continued at Ţăndărică Puppet Theatre (today, Teatrul de animaţie Ţăndărică) where she worked from 1977 to 1984. Among her productions are: Anotimpurile mânzului (The Seasons of the Foal, 1977) and Frumoasele pasiuni electrice (Electric Passions, 1980), with text by Vladimir Simon. “Electric Passions” was a tragi-comedy about political opportunism, in which miniature puppets left their small stage and performed next to the actors. Other notable productions include: Nocturn Stravinsky (1982), Petrouchka (Petrushka), and the opera Renard. Irina Niculescu explored the dramatic potential of the relationship between puppets and the performance space. She brought together actors, puppets, dancers, singers, and live orchestra, and created new forms of dramaturgy.

In 1985 in Boston, she staged L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) by Igor Stravinsky, addressing the existential condition of a contemporary soldier; the show was produced by the Underground Railway Theatre and the Chamber Orchestra Collage. She directed Le chant des roseaux (The Song of the Reeds, 1985) in Geneva; the show opened the new theatre, Théâtre des Marionnettes de Genève.

From 1990 to 2002, Irina Niculescu worked as an associate director with Marionnettes de Genève, where she brought a new vision to the puppet theatre, initiated puppetry training programmes for actors, and modified the status of the puppeteer “manipulator” to puppeteer-actor. Among her Geneva productions are: L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird), designed by Florica Mălureanu; Montagne de riz (Rice Mountain) designed by Mioara Buescu; Juan Darién by Horacio Quiroga, designed by Guy-Claude François; Le Buisson ardent (The Burning Bush), from the Old Testament, designed by Patrick Maire; La princesse et l’echo (The Princess and the Echo) designed by Mihai Mădescu.

In Norway, Niculescu created a puppetry training programme for Riksteatret (Royal Theatre) of Oslo and staged shows in Hordaland Teater, Agder Teater, and Kattas. Among her Norwegian productions are: Sunniva og Viking Ravn (Sunniva and Raven the Viking, 1995), produced on the island of Moster, designed by Sever Frentiu and Helge Hoff-Monsen; Gilgamesh (2002) at Agder Teater, designed by Guy-Claude François; and Ariel (2005) with Kattas, designed by Patrick Maire.

She taught puppetry performance and directing at: Institutul de Artă Teatrală şi Cinematografică (Institute of Theatre Arts and Cinematography) in Bucharest (1980-1984); Instituto de Teatro (Theatre Institute) in Seville, Spain (1985, 1986, 1988); the O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut, USA (1986-1987); Riksteatret in Oslo, Norway (1987-1988); École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette (ESNAM, National School for Higher Education in Puppetry Arts) in Charleville-Mézières, France (1993); Théâtre du Grutli in Geneva, Switzerland (2003-2005); the contemporary puppet theatre programme at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (Quebec University in Montreal, 2008, 2010, 2012), Canada, as well as in Argentina and Taiwan (2012).

Since 2009, Irina Niculescu has worked as an Associate Director for Madcap Puppets of Cincinnati, United States, where she staged the operas Master Peter’s Puppet Show (2009) by Manuel de Falla, The Dragon (2011), after Evgueni Schwarz (Evgeny Shvarts), and Amahl and the Night Visitors (2012) by Gian Carlo Menotti.

(See Romania.)