Romanian producer, stage director and teacher. Margareta Niculescu is considered the most important Romanian puppet theatre personality from the 1950s to the late 1990s. She studied directing at the IACT (Institutul de Artă Teatrală şi Cinematografică, Institute of Theatre Arts and Cinematography) in Bucharest, Faculty of Theatre. As the Artistic Director of Ţăndărică (today, Teatrul de animaţie Ţăndărică) from 1949 to 1986, she turned the theatre into a laboratory of artistic creativity. In 1978, her work was recognized and awarded the European Erasmus Prize along with Peter Schumann, Yves Joly and Fratelli di Napoli (see Natale Napoli).
As an artist, Margareta Niculescu promoted a repertory theatre, determined to renew the aesthetics of the puppetry arts, which resulted in an artistic work of research and experimentation that she shared with her team. As Artistic Director, she brought into the company several important artists such as Ștefan Lenkisch (stage director), Ella Conovici, Mioara Buescu, Ioana Constantinescu, Ștefan Hablinski (theatre designers), and Radu Valter (literary director).
She introduced into the theatre practice of the company all the techniques of performance. Due to her new theatre vision and the creativity of the designers Ella Conovici, Mioara Buescu, Ioana Constantinescu and Ștefan Hablinski, new theatre forms were born, opening the way to a poetic theatre of the metaphor.
Her most important productions are: Umor pe sfori (Humour in Strings, 1954), a satirical and poetic revue where, for the first time, she introduced into the representation of the characters diverse materials – metallic springs, woven fabric, objects – thus moving away from a purely figurative theatre; Mâna cu cinci degete (The Hand with Five Fingers, 1958), a parody of an action film considered revolutionary at the time; Cartea cu Apolodor (The Book of Apollodorus, 1962), by the surrealist poet, Gellu Naum; Cele trei neveste ale lui Don Cristobal (The Three Wives of Don Cristobal, 1965) of Federico García Lorca; Cabarettissimo (The Small Cabaret, 1969), with Ștefan Lenkisch; Ninigra și Aligru (Ninigra and Aligru, 1971), written by Nina Cassian; Pisica de una singură (The Cat that Walked by Himself, 1976), after Rudyard Kipling; Făt-Frumos din lacrimă (Prince Charming Born of Tears, 1982), based on a story by Mihai Eminescu.
In Norway, Margareta Niculescu staged several productions among which are: Østenfor sol og vestenfor mane (East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1976), a Norwegian folk tale, and Peer Gynt (1978) by Henrik Ibsen, both at the Riksteatret; The Snow Queen, based on Hans Christian Andersen, at Det Norske Teatret (The Norwegian Theatre) in Oslo. She directed other productions in Magdeburg, Belgrade, Brussels, Namur, Sofia, Cairo, and Lübeck.
A well-known personality on the Romanian cultural scene, Margareta Niculescu created the series of productions “Nocturne 9 ½” in 1969, launching the manifesto as a polemical response to the “all-institutional” system favoured by the authorities. The programme continued until 1984, presenting to the larger public contemporary artists in the fields of modern dance, abstract mime, opera with puppets and singers, and the works of actor-poets.
The three festivals she produced in Bucharest (1958, 1960, 1965) established Romania as a country that transformed the art of puppetry.
Margareta Niculescu contributed towards setting up a collection of glove puppets and string puppets. She established the “Puppeteer’s Studio” (1972-1976), where she organized training courses in puppetry over a period of four years in order to enrich and diversify the technical and vocal skills of the artists. This intensive training, much like the one followed by actors, led her to abandon the term “manipulator” in favour of the more expressive term, “actor-puppeteer”.
Elected in 1957 a member of the Executive Committee (formerly Presidium) of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA, the International Union of Puppetry), Margareta Niculescu was re-elected every subsequent year until 2000 when she became President of the organization. In 2004, she was nominated President Emeritus and President of the Publication Commission at the Rijeka Congress held in Croatia.
From 1976 to 2000, Margareta Niculescu presided over the International Commission for Professional Training that she had proposed and established. Backed by the logistical and financial resources of Ţăndărică Puppet Theatre, she proposed a system of professional training scholarships that would be offered by a consortium of puppet theatres of Budapest, Sofia, Bucharest, and Stockholm.
In 1981, she supported the initiative taken by Jacques Félix, who had established the Institut International de la Marionnette (IIM, International Institute of Puppetry) in Charleville-Mézières, France, and which she took over as Director in 1985. In 1987, she founded the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette (ESNAM, National School for Higher Education in Puppetry Arts) in Charleville-Mézières.
Her other international activities, such as the creation of two puppet theatre periodical publications, Puck and E pur si muove – La marionnette aujourd’hui, training workshops and conferences, and her own writings on puppetry, enabled her to promote the artistic and institutional development of puppetry arts.
Distinguished with many prizes and medals she has been awarded in Romania and France, Margareta Niculescu has through her many activities, innovations, and stage directing contributed to the creation of a modern aesthetic and education for the arts of puppetry.