Bulgarian stage designer. Ivan Tzonev’s name is associated with the research of new trends in visual theatre of the 1960s, a field that was particularly fertile in Bulgaria. An Architecture graduate in 1954, he quickly became interested in puppet theatre.

Tzonev began his career in puppetry in 1957 with the Durzhaven kuklen teatur Varna (State Puppet Theatre Varna), and in 1960 he started working with the Stolichen kuklen teatur (Sofia Central Puppet Theatre). He created impressive stage designs, notably for Petya i Vulkat (Peter and the Wolf), directed by Nikolina Georgieva and Atanas Ilkov, and Sukrovishteto na Silvester (Silvester’s Treasure, 1962), directed by Atanas Ilkov, one of the most popular productions for adult audiences in the country.

With Georgieva and Ilkov, Ivan Tzonev is one of the founders of the Department of Puppetry at the National Academy of Theatre and Film (VITIZ/NATFIZ), today the Natsionalna akademia za teatralni i filmovi izkustva (NATFA), (National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts) in Sofia. Tzonev also participated in the creation of the Bulgarian Centre of UNIMA in 1963.

Ivan Tzonev’s most notable achievement as a designer and co-director (with Ivan Teofilov) is Krali Marko (King Marko) in 1967. He also did the stage and set designs of Molière’s Mizantrop (The Misanthrope) in 1968.

From 1972, he again worked with the State Puppet Theatre Varna for ten years, during which time he worked closely with the director Zlati Zlatev. His principal works during this period include: Dama Pika (The Queen of Spades, 1973), based on the short story by Alexander Pushkin; Slunchogledcheto (The Sunflower, 1976); Liubov, Liubov (Love, Love, 1980), adapted from Boccaccio’s The Decameron. All these productions involved the inclusion on stage of giant visual installations. In 1982, he returned to the Central Puppet Theatre in Sofia.

Ivan Tzonev designed more than three hundred productions. He also worked in Germany, Poland, USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine, participated in many scenographic installations, and designed several variations of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Malkiat princ (The Little Prince). He is the recipient of many awards, including the Edinburgh Festival award and the Zlatnia Delfin (Golden Dolphin) award of the Varna International Puppet Theatre Festival.

(See Bulgaria.)